Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Book Review: ‘PloProf’ by Jon Wallis

***From Apprentice Corner

This week I’m reviewing ‘PloProf’, a book about the Omega Seamaster Professional 600 written by Jon Wallis, custodian of the horological site and contributor to the Omega Lifetime magazine.

I should say from the onset that I’d never really given this watch the time of day it deserves. I’d seen it before, of course, but in my arrogance I’d simply dismissed it as something of a novelty hidden in the ranks of Omega’s diverse Seamaster range.

I usually choose all the books I review, but it was Nick who recommended this one, perhaps wanting to shake things up a bit. I hesitantly agreed, not quite knowing if I’d be able to focus on this book for more than a minute or two - getting through a book with over 150 pages solely devoted to one watch seemed like an exercise in tedium.

By chance alone, the very first page that I opened the book onto just happened to feature one of Omega’s advertising pieces that accompanied the watch when it first launched. It read:  “It may not look pretty on the surface, but deep down it’s beautiful”. As I was to find out, this description is an apt one.

Launched over 40 years ago, the PloProf was developed in tandem by French offshore salvage company COMEX and the legendary explorer, conservationist, filmmaker, innovator, photographer, author, naval officer, oceanographer and hero of mine (phew!) Jacques Cousteau.

Omega had already been to the moon and back, but the underwater world - an environment far more hostile to timepieces - remained to be conquered. Divers of the day had their own specific needs and no watch existed that was up to the task. The PloProf was born purely out of necessity. The book explores, in great detail, these requirements and how they helped to form the PloProf.

That it was made for a very specific purpose should be immediately clear. The PloProf is perhaps the most distinguishable watch of all - it simply can’t be mistaken for any other. Its features immediately capture the eye, but require explanation. Justification, even.

When I first saw the red button I thought it was a helium escape valve, similar to those found on the Rolex Sea-Dwellers and Omega Seamasters. In fact, when pressed it unlocks the bezel, allowing it to be rotated. It turns out the watch has no need for an escape valve - its integrated insulation easily able to protect the watch from harm when plunging into and coming back from the deep dark depths. This, along with the bright orange minute hand, dial colour, strap, winding crown and other features are all explained and rationalised by the author. There are even disassembly guides for any watchmaker brave enough to try and pull it apart.

On paper, the PloProf should be an absolute winner: it’s a watch with a unique shape, great movement, incredibly tough, limited in quantity and it has a story behind that’s hard to beat. It still, however, remains a watch possessed by a brave few - those that are actually divers. Anyone confident enough to take a plunge to such depths surely pays no mind to others, but it hasn’t yet found a strong following ashore. Many people, like my former self, cast it off as an oddity. It wasn’t made to be worn above the surface, they say. But who’s to say it can’t be? If you’ve got a wrist large enough to wear it comfortably, the author of ‘PloProf’ with his enthusiastic and persuasive manner, has convinced me that it’s a very fine choice.

The book is lavishly illustrated and covers almost every conceivable topic related to the watch. 

Even if you never intend on owning a PloProf, a true watch fanatic might still find value in this book. The story of its development, the competing designs and the impact it had on the watch world is one that would surely interest them. It’s a watch worth knowing about.

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