Omega’s new president, Raynald Aeschlimann, asked me to join him and a surprise dinner guest “who plays an amazing James Bond.” I torpedoed back my R.S.V.P. Ian Fleming’s secret agent, known for his exquisite taste, has been associated with fine replica watches ever since his Rolex wristwatch was described in the 1954 novel Live and Let Die. He has worn Rolexes, a Breitling, and even quartz Seiko watches when quartz was all the rage.
However, as a Royal Navy reserve commander and since Fleming himself spent time in the British Naval Intelligence Division it makes sense that Bond would wear a diving watch. In 1995’s GoldenEye film, Bond for the first time sported an cheap Omega Seamaster 300 diving watch, and perhaps it’s no coincidence that a massive turnaround at Omega started at about the same time.
The guest at the Omega-sponsored dinner was, of course, British actor Daniel Craig, who has been playing Bond since 2006’s Casino Royale. In lower Manhattan’s Beekman Hotel, the room sparkling with vintage Omega replica watches under glass, I sat down at a candlelit table, just opposite Craig. He seemed genuinely excited to be among other watch geeks, and as we sipped Billecart-Salmon Champagne, he explained how he bought his first fine watch, a Breitling, when he started earning money. But his passion for replica watches began in earnest with the James Bond role, when he bought his first Omega replica, a vintage Seamaster 300. His most emotionally significant timepiece is an Omega Seamaster engraved for him and given by the producers of Casino Royale. When ordering custom-made shirts for his Bond wardrobe, Craig has the “left cuff made slightly larger so I can wear the watch, and the sleeve sits over the watch.”
Now, that’s a sign of a serious watch guy.
BUT THE REAL STAR of the evening was arguably the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean “Big Blue,” just released at watch fair Baselworld 2017. Originally introduced in 1957, the Seamaster traces its roots to the Omega Marine from 1932, the world’s first production wristwatch made specifically for diving. Exactly 60 years later, at the dinner, we got to handle the new Seamaster Big Blue—the first fake Omega watch with a case made entirely of blue ceramic. Its name comes from a Seamaster from 1972 that Omega devotees call Big Blue. Oversize, with a blue dial, it was the world’s first diver’s chronograph in which the stopwatch functions could be fully operated underwater.
The new watch is, in fact, an evolution of 2013’s black ceramic Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon. The full case, dial, bezel, and even the strap’s folding buckle are made of ceramic and scratch- and fade-resistant. Creating the blue ceramic color was no easy feat. It’s fabricated in-house using high pressures, hours-long plasma treatments, and sintering at 2,550 degrees.
Made for world travelers, an orange hour hand indicates time in a second time zone on the blue ceramic dial’s orange 24-hour ring. Water resistant to 2,000 feet, the helium escape valve is designed for saturation dives and prevents the watch from exploding upon resurfacing. There is no denying that Big Blue is a serious divers’ watch.
SOME MIGHT FIND the colors garish, but the dial’s and bezel’s blue and orange colors are highly functional. Infused into the blue ceramic bezel, orange rubber highlights the critical, zero-to-15 minute region that is used to alert divers to their last 15 minutes of oxygen supply. Colors change the deeper you plunge into the sea. Orange quickly converts to a light olive tone, while blue is the last color to remain visible, until a depth of 275 meters. Combined with the luminescent “broad arrow” hands and hour markers, the orange and blue colors result in the best possible contrast for divers’ visibility and safety.
Inside the massive, 45.5-millimeter case ticks Omega’s caliber 8906, a state-of-the-art self-winding movement providing 60 hours of timekeeping. Antimagnetic up to 15,000 Gauss, you could wear the watch without damage while getting, say, an MRI, and it’s based on the first movement ever to receive the Swiss government’s new Master Chronometer certification. It remains highly accurate and water resistant during eight rigorous tests conducted in magnetic environments. The fake watch isn’t cheap at $11,700, but that’s because ceramic production is costly.
Bookies are taking bets on who will be the next James Bond, and the second-longest-serving Bond was asked if he would continue to play the famous spy. Craig declined to comment. Whoever steps into the role, my bet is he’ll be wearing a Big Blue.