Modern Vintage: Omega Seamaster Professional 2531.80 "Bond" Watch
An Omega Seamaster Professional Reference 2531.80 “Bond” model was my first good modern watch. I’ve owned mine since 2003. I’ll never forget the rush I got from opening that big white Omega outer box, to reveal the smaller red leather box inside, way back then.
My bride-to-be gave me my Seamaster Pro (or SMP to watch people) at our rehearsal dinner. I wore it every day for five years before my watch obsession kicked in again and I began casting a roving eye around for something else…which turned out to be a Rolex Submariner. But that’s another story.
My SMP still looked pretty good five years in...
My SMP has always been a great timekeeper. For most of the first ten years the watch was a second-a-day watch, but that has opened up more now that it’s well past due for a service. The 21 jewel ETA 2892 movement, re-worked by Omega as their 23 jewel calibre 1120, is almost universally admired and has been called a joy to work on by watchmakers for years.
There’s a ton of decent reviews of the original 2531.80 SMP—and later Seamasters— available online, so I won’t go that route with this short piece. The review that made me really lust for an SMP was this one from 2000 by Robert-Jan Broer of Fratellowatches, and it’s still a good overview. If you want to know stuff like the case is 41mm and the watch weighs 128 grams and how bright the lume is, start there. (The lume is still quite bright, by the way.)
The SMP was introduced in 1993 and became “standard issue” for Q Branch starting in 1995 when Pierce Brosnan wore one in Goldeneye, hence the “Bond” Seamaster moniker.
I wore mine on the heavy, excellent OEM bracelet until last year, when I decided to change things up a bit and go with a strap for a change of pace. I opted for an inexpensive Maratac black nylon job from Broad Arrow and I think it looks decent enough.
It completely changes the look of the watch…which is what I wanted after over a decade of living with the bracelet. Remember this tip if nothing else: the easiest way to give an old watch a new lease on life is a strap change. It’s a lot cheaper than buying a new watch.
Where does this watch fit into my collection after almost fifteen years and with many watches having come and gone in that time? I still like the ice blue bezel and that blue dial. It’s handsome, and the subtle wave pattern is still cool. Even though I generally prefer vintage watches these days, the SMP is old enough—and in fact, is now discontinued in favor of newer Co-Axial Seamasters—to have a certain “modern vintage” vibe going for it.
The SMP and other high-end "dive" watches are no longer really tool watches as they once were in the 196os and 70s. I have dived with my vintage Submariner, but few would do that these days. The watches are getting pretty pricey for that role, and we have dive computers today that far outperform anything a mechanical watch with a rotating dive bezel can do.
What the dive computers can't do is stir the soul and fire the imagination of watch lovers and would-be Double O's everywhere. For that, old school watches like the SMP will still do the trick quite nicely—and never stop working because a battery died.
A few real world modern special forces types we know can still be found occasionally sporting mechanical dive watch dinosaurs like the SMP and Rolex Sub on their wrists.
Possibly this is because watch connoisseurs can be found in all walks of life; or possibly it's because expensive tool watches were once considered indispensable tools of their trade, before the advent of quartz watches and G-Shocks and Suuntos. I've been told there is still that mechanical tool watch connection with the past in some SF quarters, at least in the minds of some of the older hands.
For the rest of us, the Walter Mittys and would-be Double Os out there...you could do a lot worse than the SMP. They are currently a bargain on the used market, with nice examples with boxes and papers still plentiful at good prices.
Honestly, the bezel is too slippery to be used for diving, and is almost vestigial. But the watch makes a great everyday watch you can swim with and not fuss over and it still looks good.