Hands-On: Trying The Entire Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Shades 38mm Collection
When Omega introduced the Aqua Terra Shades in 2022, the response was… Well, lukewarm at best. The range of colors was considered a little too on-trend after Rolex’s colorful Oyster Perpetual models. And the frameless date window certainly caught some flack. Availability was also compromised. Now, though, Omega has fixed the date window and supply issues. And the colored dials hype has quietened down a bit. So how does the new Aqua Terra Shades collection fare in 2023?
I have spent time with all five of the 38mm variants. After my encounter with the white-dialed regular Omega Aqua Terra last year, I was eager to see if the Shades can resolve my few remaining doubts. Let’s jump in and find out!
Nine Shades of Aqua Terra
The Omega Aqua Terra Shades in 38mm come in five colorways. You can have your pick of blue, taupe, green, saffron, and red. The 34mm version adds a different shade of blue, a lagoon green, purple, and pink variant. That makes a total of nine shades. The lagoon green 34mm can also be had in a Moonshine yellow gold case. If you want your 38mm AT in precious metal, there is a diamond-set version with the sandstone (taupe) dial, in Sedna rose gold. All, except for the 34mm gold model, come on steel bracelets.
All in all, there are twelve references in the Aqua Terra Shades collection. Fun fact: that makes up barely over 5% of the entire Seamaster Aqua Terra collection! Don’t say Omega doesn’t give you options!
Lex covered the red version—or Terracotta, as Omega calls it—in a separate article. He had some exciting ideas about what the new Aqua Terra Shades is meant to be. Let’s see if I come to the same conclusion after wearing all five colors.
What is the Aqua Terra Shades, technically?
Let’s start with the basics. The Aqua Terra Shades is a 38mm stainless steel watch in the GADA (go anywhere, do anything) style. The fully polished case measures 44.9mm from lug tip to lug tip and 19mm between the lugs. You get a slightly domed sapphire crystal up top and a flat one on the case back, putting the movement on display. The tapered crown is of the screw-down variety. Water resistance is rated at 150 meters. Contrary to what Lex suggests, that is overkill for this style of watch.
The new bracelet is somewhere in the middle between an old Omega Flat Link and a Rolex President. It has the short links and shallow depth of a Flat Link, with the curved top surface of a President. The bracelet tapers from 19mm at the watch to 17mm at the butterfly clasp. The clasp has to be closed in the correct order and features no micro-adjust. The center links are polished, while the outer links are brushed.
Inside, we find the automatic Omega Caliber 8800, a three-hander with a date at six. As you may expect, this is a METAS-certified co-axial caliber, with Omega’s recognizable rifled striping. You get a 55-hour power reserve and a beat rate of 3.5Hz. It is also capable of resisting magnetic fields up to 15,000 Gauss.
A closer look at the Aqua Terra Shades dials
The Aqua Terra Shades models all feature sunburst dials with applied logos and indices. It shares the pointy indices and arrow handset with the majority of the rest of the AT collection. The 34mm versions feature softer, oval markers. The 38mm versions have a printed minute track with numerals at five-minute intervals just beyond the applied markers. And, of course, there is the date at six. It is black printed on a white date wheel. This is the right choice, as it mirrors the white lume-filled indices elsewhere. Personally, I only like color-matched date wheels if they do not take the place of an index, i.e., at four-thirty.
The indices and handset are faceted and partly brushed. This works well with the bracelet, as the case is fully polished. It also aids with legibility, so two birds with one stone. As always with modern Omega, the brushing is nice and deep, with great texture. The lume glows a very bright blue.
I always felt the colors were a bit dull and uninspired until I saw them in real life. They are actually well-chosen and have great depth to them. The different colors fundamentally change the watch’s overall character. The terracotta version that Lex prefers is a very different watch from the blue and sandstone versions I lean towards. If you have a chance, it is worth seeing them in real life before making a choice.
What is the Aqua Terra Shades?
Describing what the Aqua Terra Shades is technically differs entirely from speaking of what it is conceptually. The Aqua Terra has always been the Omega do-it-all watch with a sporty disposition. It is over-engineered and has a slightly convoluted design. For instance, the white version I reviewed last year felt slightly technical and geeky to me for that exact reason. I prefer older Aqua Terra models, with their fully brushed bracelets. They lean into the sporty vibe a little more than the current generation. I think it comes down to that polished center link that gives the regular AT a bit of an identity crisis.
In its Shades guise, however, the Aqua Terra finally shows its true colors, both literally and figuratively. This is a much more glamorous iteration of the GADA theme. While technically just as capable, this one sheds much of the sports watch DNA. It is unapologetically shiny and glamorous. And, as a concept, it is now much more cohesive and relatable. It felt much more luxurious than the version I tried last year. Whether that is to my taste or not is beside the point; it is at least a clear identity.
Lex questioned whether it was still a Seamaster as a result. I think it is. There have always been quite formal and luxurious versions. Sure, it is more “captain at a soiree” than “sailor scrubbing the deck,” but it is still very much a Seamaster at heart. Soirees do sometimes end in the pool, you know?
Wearing the Seamaster Aqua Terra Shades
I really like the way the 38mm Aqua Terra wears on my 17cm wrist. It isn’t quite as classically proportioned as a 36mm watch, but it isn’t too large, either. I see people complain about the 12mm height. It is, indeed, a bit tubby, but I cannot say it stood out or bothered me during my time with them.
The bracelet stood out to me as particularly good. It is supremely comfortable and supple. I would rather see a one-sided clasp with micro adjust, or even a fully hidden clasp (Rolex Day-Date style). The current system does not quite offer the most significant benefits of either style. The curved links solve the issue of the center link being a bit of a smudge magnet on the regular AT. I had no such issues here.
If you follow my writing, you may know I primarily wear vintage and slightly under-the-radar watches. The Aqua Terra Shades was a significant step away from that style for me. It is blingy in the good sense, as in a bit glamorous and noticeable. I found that it lifted a simple jeans and T-shirt outfit into something fashionable with its sheer presence and shininess. Wearing it felt like I was wearing something very expensive and luxurious, which it is. And that did not feel bad; I have to say.
Closing thoughts on the Omega Aqua Terra Shades
I will put it plain and simple: I really like the Aqua Terra Shades. It is the AT I would buy from the current Omega catalog. I was already tempted by the regular Aqua Terra last year, and this one solves some of the reservations I had.
What remains is some discomfort regarding the price. It is more expensive than the technically superior 300M. I don’t think it is a coincidence that there is a mere 2% price gap between the AT Shades and a steel bezel 36mm Datejust on Oyster bracelet. This was offset against the crowned one rather than the brand’s catalog, and I am unsure whether that is a smart move. However, we know that brands like Omega still see increased revenue when they raise prices. So, clearly, the few clients they may lose due to the policy don’t outweigh the upside as of yet.
It will be interesting to see what a potential future non-Shades Aqua Terra might look like. I feel that with the Shades handling the glamorous side, the normal AT could return to a more sporty aesthetic. The partly brushed case paired with a slightly more rugged-looking fully brushed bracelet would make a perfect counterpoint to the Shades. As it stands, I think this is a well-made watch with a very attractive design. If you are looking for that one-watch collection, this really is a watch that is worth trying on at your AD or boutique.
What do you think of the new Omega Aqua Terra Shades collection? Let us know in the comments below!