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The late 1960′s was a competitive time for diving watches. Deep sea oil exploration was well underway and sport diving was just getting started. Until this time, Rolex had the field to themselves with the Submariner. Since its launch in 1954, it had been the default option for the military, professionals and adventurous civilians. In 1966 Doxa recognised the new sports diving market with the launch of the Sub; the massive steel case, distinctive orange dial, and in 1969 the innovative helium escape valve announced that diving watches were starting to get serious.
Battle was joined in 1970 when, after 4 years of development, Omega launched the PloProf. The name derives from ‘PLOngeur PROFessionnel’, (professional diver) and PloProf was the name that the French-speaking developers christened it with. Compared to the Submariner, two more different approaches to dive watches could not be imagined. While the Submariner was all smooth lines, (relative) understatement and convention – the PloProf was large, brutal and radical.
Eschewing the uni-directional bezel that almost defines a dive watch, Omega allowed users the convenience of a bi-directional bezel which could only move when the bright red button was pressed. The unique crown mechanism created a superior seal and its position on the left of the watch protected it in use. The watch was rated to 600m, doubling the performance of its rivals, and in tests functioned down to 1370m – only stopping because the crystal had deformed to the point that it touched the hands. This design was popular with professional divers; COMEX, or ‘Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises’ a French commercial deep diving company, worked with Omega on its development at the same time that they worked with Rolex on the Submariner, but the higher price of the PloProf meant it was not a popular choice for the amateur.
In 1971 Rolex matched the depth rating of the PloProf with their Sea Dweller but crucially added the helium escape valve co-developed with Doxa. Helium build-up inside watches was a continuing concern for COMEX and so, despite no evidence that a PloProf crystal had ever been forced off, COMEX chose to continue their work with Rolex and not Omega. With a high retail price and a relatively short production span, the original PloProf has become quite a rarity today.
In 2009 Omega decided to bring back this iconic watch; the PloProf 1200 keeps the same characteristic shape, although slightly larger. The details have changed; the case is conventional rather than mono-block construction, the movement benefits from the co-axial escapement, an independently set hour hand and, significantly, there is a helium escape valve. The depth rating is modest by today’s standards at 1200m but remember the deepest recorded scuba dive is 330m and COMEX have only been down to 534m in open sea, so most of these highly rated watches exist for the horological equivalent of ‘pub bragging rights’ and are largely irrelevant in the real world. More important is that this watch, with its idiosyncratic looks, is back – bigger and bolder than ever! sale longchamp bag and handbag 2012
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