Hands-On With The Omega Aqua Terra 38mm — A Capable Do-It-All Powerhouse
The Omega Aqua Terra 38mm has been out for a while. It has also been slightly overshadowed by its bigger brother in terms of attention. So I reckoned it was about time to put one on my wrist and see whether this is the perfect everyday watch. I mean, all the ingredients are there. On paper, this is the only watch you will ever need. Time to find out whether it works out that way in real life. You may know that this is just my style of watch. I have declared my love of small do-it-all watches on Fratello on numerous occasions. The Omega Aqua Terra was one with which I had not yet spent significant time. So let’s dive in and see if it is as good in the steel as it is on paper.
The official name of this watch is the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M Co-Axial Master Chronometer 38mm Ref. 18.104.22.168.02.001. That is a bit too much of a mouthful for me so I will refer to this watch simply as the Aqua Terra 38mm. Note that there is a 2022 release by that name too. These are fitted with colorful dial options and a rounded bracelet.
A proper spec sheet
When I say the Omega Aqua Terra 38mm is good on paper, I am referring to its impressive specs. The Aqua Terra 38mm comes with the very capable caliber 8800. This movement is fitted with a Co-Axial escapement under a full balance bridge. It is resistant to magnetic fields up to 15,000 gauss. It is also METAS certified, making it a Master Chronometer. The nicely finished caliber is visible through a sapphire case back.
The 38mm case is fitted with a screw-down crown and a double-AR-coated sapphire crystal. The water resistance rating of 150 meters is plenty for any sort of real-life use and abuse. As you may have come to expect, the characteristic lyre lugs are present here. They connect the case to a solid three-link bracelet with a dual-deployant clasp. The removable links are held in place with substantial screws.
These specs combine to make the Omega Aqua Terra 38mm a strong contender in terms of value. It is going head-to-head with some heavy hitters in the market. This is one of the more technically capable choices at this price level, though.
Design of the Omega Aqua Terra 38mm
The Omega Aqua Terra has a very distinct look all of its own. From a distance, you will certainly not mistake this for anything else. The most characteristic design elements are the lyre lugs, arrow minute hand, and cut-off triangular indices. This version comes with the equally recognizable teak-deck striping on the dial.
The design is very well done. It is cohesive and functional. The details are well thought-out. The crown, for instance, follows the same inward taper as the indices. The same goes for the date aperture at six. It is all very neat and congruent.
If anything, it is a tad over-designed. Every element has some sort of detail to it — an extra angle, a facet, a cut-off, and so on. Put side by side with a Rolex Oyster Perpetual (or a Datejust, for that matter), the AT looks a bit over-complicated. It gives the watch a kind of nerdy vibe in my eyes, and I say that in the kindest way possible. It is not a classical beauty, but it does somehow work very well. The Aqua Terra is more “technical-looking”. I guess that’s the right term.
The Omega Aqua Terra 38mm on the wrist
When I put the Aqua Terra 38mm on, I immediately liked it. To put that into perspective for you, I once sold a Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39mm because I felt it was too large for me. Naturally, I doubted up front whether the Aqua Terra 38mm would be okay for me. Well, I am happy to report that it certainly is!
The dimensions work extremely well. When you combine the 38mm diameter with a short lug-to-lug of less than 45mm, you get a great wearing experience. The female end links help a lot in this case. The bracelet immediately follows the contour of your wrist, which just looks right. This watch looks neither large nor small. It is just a very nice and versatile size.
The Aqua Terra 38mm is a little over 13mm thick. This makes it just ever-so-slightly tubby. The AT pulls it off, though. The technical, sporty aesthetic is further emphasized by the girth. Do not get me wrong, this is not a thick watch by any means. It just has a sports watch’s stance on the wrist. Still, it will smoothly slide under any but the tightest of cuffs.
Points of criticism
Like any watch, the Aqua Terra 38mm is not perfect. Although the bracelet is well made, I am not a fan of the polished center links. They are absolute smudge and scratch magnets. I found myself constantly wiping the watch down. And even when perfectly clean, the look is just a bit too blingy. This might sound blasphemous, but if I ever buy one, I might get the bracelet brushed by a good watchmaker. I think a fully matted bracelet suits the subdued, sporty look of the Aqua Terra 38mm much better.
A second gripe I have with this version is the feel of the crown. I applaud the aesthetic side of this design choice, as previously described. In this case, however, it results in a rather sharp ridge right where you operate the crown. I found unscrewing it to be quite uncomfortable. No crown should leave you with a sore thumb and index finger. Especially on an everyday watch in this segment.
Interestingly, both these issues were introduced in later generations of the Aqua Terra. The previous generation featured a straight crown, and older versions also had a brushed bracelet. It seems Omega tried to add some more formal sophistication to the Aqua Terra 38mm. When it comes at the expense of functionality like this, I cannot really applaud it. Not all change is progress.
Is the Aqua Terra 38mm the perfect everyday watch?
Well, we already noted that the perfect watch does not exist. So let’s lower our standards just a bit. The Omega Aqua Terra 38mm is most certainly a fantastic everyday watch. It feels super solid, ready for anything you can throw at it. It exudes ruggedness, which is very reassuring.
The Aqua Terra 38mm is also very versatile from an aesthetic point of view. Unless you are going black tie, I do not think you will run into issues pairing this with any outfit. That being said, it is certainly leaning towards the sporty side of the do-it-all-watch spectrum.
There is a subtlety to the Aqua Terra 38mm that I enjoy in an everyday watch. It is clearly and obviously a very nice watch, but it is never offensive or brash. Both from a stylistic and technical point of view, you could strap this watch on and not take it off until it needs its first service. It will survive and it will be appropriate. That is the essence of an everyday watch.
The issue of positioning
There is one elephant in the room that I feel I must address. The market positioning of the Aqua Terra 38mm is… well… odd. Admittedly, it does depend on how you look at it. If we were to look at the competitive landscape of Rolex, Grand Seiko, and IWC, for instance, the pricing for the Aqua Terra seems very reasonable.
Where it gets weird is when you look at Omega’s own catalog. The Seamaster 300M is similar to the Aqua Terra, but with a ceramic rotating bezel, 300 meters of water resistance, a ceramic dial, and a helium escape valve added. That is a lot more, built on the same concept of a stainless steel Omega on steel bracelet, powered by caliber 8800. Still, it is priced €400 lower than the Aqua Terra 38mm. That seems bonkers. Omega takes “less is more” to the next level here.
The thing is, if you are in the market for an Aqua Terra 38mm, you are not likely interested in a 300M.
The thing is, if you are in the market for an Aqua Terra 38mm, you are not likely interested in a 300M. So if you just compare the AT to its rivals from other brands, it makes a whole lot of sense. It might be odd to say about a wristwatch costing six grand, but it is good value. There is so much advanced, proprietary watchmaking tech on board. You will not easily find that elsewhere in this segment.
Closing thoughts on the Aqua Terra 38mm
I really enjoyed my time with the Omega Aqua Terra 38mm. It is extremely well made, it is quite handsome, and it is most certainly super versatile. It is also a bit of an original choice. If someone shows up with an Aqua Terra, you know they have given it some thought. You know they have had a close look at the options, and they went down the road less traveled.
It seems like it suits me better than I care to admit.
Sure, its appearance is more “techy” than “high fashion”, but it looks cool nonetheless. And that is a matter of taste anyway. The bracelet and the crown are potential deal breakers for me, though. Especially on a watch that is almost clinically serious and close to perfection, I want such details to be just right. It is particularly frustrating to see that they were better on previous iterations.
My “Fratella” Sofia shot some video of me wearing the Aqua Terra 38mm for Fratello’s TikTok. When I saw that footage, I sort of fell in love with this watch. It was different than when I look down at it or see myself in the mirror. I just liked what the watch does for me. It seems like it suits me better than I care to admit. I would not have picked this white-ish silver version, but seeing it on myself in the third person changed that. I could very happily wear this Omega Aqua Terra 38mm daily. How about you?
The Omega Aqua Terra 38mm is available now and has an RRP of €6,100.