Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces

Geneva, Nov 08, 2020

LOT 59

OMEGA, REF. 166.077, SEAMASTER, PLOPROF PROTOTYPE

A very fine, historically important and extremely rare, self- winding, stainless steel prototype diver’s wristwatch.

Brand Omega

Model Seamaster Ploprof Prototype

Reference 166.077

Year Circa 1970

Movement No. 29027899 (movement delivered seperately)

Case No. 4-100

Caliber 1002

Dimensions 55 mm

Signature Dial, case and movement

Accessories Original Omega letter detailing instruction use, and dive log

CHF 20,000 - 40,000

HKD 160,000 - 320,000 / USD 20,000 - 40,000

Sold: CHF 131,250


Grading System
Grade:
Case: 3-8

Good

Slightly scratched

Movement: 3*

Good

Overhaul recommended, at buyer's expense

Dial: 3-6-01

Good

Slightly oxidized

HANDS Original


Notes

Property of Christian Bonnici, member of the original Jacques Cousteau team.
Christian Bonnici was born December 16, 1935 in Constantine, Algeria. Very quickly, his parents moved to Bône in France, where he spent his childhood and adolescence, gets his BEPC, then continues up to the Baccalaureat which he fails. At age of 18, he signed a commitment for the french Army and spent 3 years at the BETAP and at 1st RCP Phillipeville in Algeria.

At the end of his commitment, he started his professional life as a clerk in Algeria. At the same period he started diving in the “Club de la Mer” in Bône, then went to Niolon to become a diving monitor. But he was rejected due to
a narcosis during a dive at -45m. So he continued diving with the local club
in Bône where he participated to archaeological excavations and brought
his help to identify some sites underwater. In july1962, when occurred the independence of Algeria, he leaves Algeria to return to France where he faced some problems of rehabilitation like most of the Algeria returnees. Being single, he was offered a job in northern France, which he refused to stay close to the sea. He then started to look forward professional diver jobs. Thus in the summer of 1962 he went to Paris to visit the SOGETRAM company of Andre Galerne, who couldn’t offer him an immediate job.

The opening door to Jacques Cousteau’s crew occurred during a family gathering, thanks to a cousin of his future wife, Raymond Vaissière, Scientific Director of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. Vaissière told him that Cousteau was recruiting new divers to take part to oceanographic cruises.
He then came to OFRS, in Marseille, the Cousteau’s underwater development office in charge of diving equipment development. At this time the Cousteau team had just completed the first diving saturation project “Diogenes” at -10
m deep in a small cove on the island of Frioul in Bay of Marseilles. He made a test under the control of Albert Falco and he got the job at the OFRS on the 1st October 1962.

From 1962 to 1975, he took part to many Calypso expeditions and saturation diving experiments. Among these : the Fontaine of Vaucluse, the film “World Without Sun”. He was chief diver on Truk lagoon in 1970, led by Philippe Cousteau, where they explored the Japanese shipwrecks of World War II, doing air dives up to -70 m deep. He also participated in a long Calypso mission in Antarctica and in an expedition to Inuit land in the Bering Strait for a movie about the walrus with Philippe Cousteau again. The diving technology evolved quickly and Cousteau and his team came to deep diving with heliox gas mix. They tried heliox during a film made about coral fishermen who reached 100 m with air. The Calypso divers learned to dive with 17/83 heliox mixture which was prepared by Christian Bonnici under the supervision of Jean Alinat who defined the decompression tables. Cousteau selected
six divers for being oceanauts on the Precontinent 3 experiment : Heliox saturation dive to 100m during 3 weeks. Christian Bonnici was one of those. Thus Christian spent four years (1968/1972) at the subsea department base of CEMA (new name for the Cousteau OFRS), alongside Professor Chouteau, to take part on various deep diving experiences. Christian did a fictive air dive and heliox saturation dive at -400 m.
After CEMA closing in 1972, Christian worked for the company Seal Petroleum until he joined Comex in July 1975 to work with another Cousteau engineer Guy Fleury. He stayed 17 years, serving as operation manager, R & D engineer, and project manager. (source cousteaudivers.org)
The current prototype Ploprof, as inscribed on the caseback, is part of the initial series given to members of the Cousteau team to be tested during their dives. According to research in the Omega archives, we were amazed to find that these prototypes all had a batch number (in this case these Seamaster 600 prototypes were part of batch 4, and then followed by the watch issue number starting at 100, making this example inscribed 4-100, the first one ever made in this batch.
Amazingly the watch still comes with its Omega Life book inscribed: Life Book, Ploprof No. 4-100, Serie 0, which gives instructions on how to use the watch and has a dive log book at the back that details each dive with comments on issues, defects to report back to Omega (some comments read: “ hard to read at -100m, bracelet breaking before dive, hard to use the crown under water, until its last entry on February 10, 1972 where it is commented movement
no longer running”). Fitted with an early dial featuring the word Professional above Seamaster 600 and a graining on the case, typical of the very early versions as well as the large lume hour hand, it has all the characteristics just like the day it was delivered in July 1971. Consigned directly from the family of Mr Bonnici, an almost unique opportunity to acquire a prototype Ploprof from the best provenance one could ever wish for.
For the screen shot please write beneath:
Screen shot from the movie, Recco, Le Corrailleur, where the Cousteau team filmed in summer 1971, Toussaint Recco, one of the last Coral hunters and where you can see the Omega Prototype Ploprof being tested for the first time.