Hands-On Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 2017 Review
This year, Omega not only introduced the 60th anniversary ‘Trilogy’ and the ‘Speedy Tuesday’, they also brought us the Seamaster Aqua Terra 2017 models. Not too long ago, we published an article on the 15th anniversary of the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra (you can find it here), showing you an overview of these models since the start.
Every year, the number of new references that Omega introduces in Basel is just mind-boggling. I wouldn’t mind if they would take it a notch down, but I guess that there’s a market for each and anyone of them. Most people think I am a ‘Speedmaster’-guy, which is surely true, but I also have a weak spot for the Constellation and some of the Seamaster models. Owning and having owned a couple of Seamaster models, they were either vintage or part of the 300M collection. I never actually owned a Seamaster Aqua Terra, while I’ve more than once showing interest in them.
Seamaster Aqua Terra 188.8.131.52.06.001
So this year, Omega introduced to us a new line-up of Aqua Terra watches. The dial changed (horizontal teak deck pattern) and the case shape is become different: symmetrical instead of a-symmetrical. I requested Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra reference 184.108.40.206.06.001 already before summer, but it took a while before it was delivered. It seems to be the main problem for some watch brands these days, including Omega, to have their watches hit the market in a timely manner after its introduction during one of the big shows. Anyway, these are first world problems and no lives depend on these kind of things. So in the end, I received the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 220.127.116.11.06.001. This model is part of the Aqua Terra 2017 collection and is actually one of the configurations I liked best when I saw them for the first time in Basel. It has a grey dial with blue hands and hour markers give a wonderful contrast and comes on the stainless steel bracelet with polished center links. Inside, we’ll find the in-house developed caliber 8900 movement. Without further ado, let’s have a closer look.
The new 41mm Aqua Terra 2017 Case
As you can read in my reviews on the previous Aqua Terra design (here for example), I had little to complain about the design of the Aqua Terra. The design of the Aqua Terra was influenced by the 1957 Railmaster model, a watch that has been ‘relaunched’ this year as part of a Trilogy set and as a ‘stand alone’ of 3557 pieces. Also, a contemporary Railmaster was brought back to life in the regular collection as well, as part of the Seamaster collection. Anyway, the 41mm symmetrical case is very handsome and feels great on the wrist. I have fairly large wrists, and I am very comfortable with the 41mm case diameter of this Aqua Terra 2017 model. The lugs have this polished finish on top, and a satin finish on the sides. The watch is quite ‘flat’, so it sits nicely on the wrist. The crown shows the same patter as the case back, as you can see on the picture below.
On top, you will find the smooth stainless steel bezel around the sapphire crystal. It gives again a nice contrast with the brushed inside of the lugs.
The Seamaster Aqua Terra really plays nicely with the (sun)light, the grey dial and blue hands and indexes really add some extra to that. The symmetrical case is in my opinion an improvement over the previous version, as now the crown doesn’t have that ‘sunken’ look. The crown has a brushed surface with a polished Omega logo in bas relief. The crown is screw-down of course, as it should be on a Seamaster.
What attracts most people (and me I guess) to the Aqua Terra is the teak deck dial. It emphasizes on the use near and on the water and with its 150 meters of WR, it can be used in and around the water for sure. The Aqua Terra dials – with the exception of some special or limited editions – used to have a vertical teak deck pattern. With the new Aqua Terra 2017 collection all patterns are now horizontal. It required a bit of adjustment I have to admit, as I was used to the vertical pattern. For me personally, it also works better for some models than for others. The black dial versions for example, I prefer them somehow with the vertical pattern. This grey dial, a bit fancy looking, is very nice with its horizontal pattern and especially with the blue markers and hands on there. The Omega logo and wording are also in blue while ‘Seamaster’ is printed in white. Also the ‘Co-Axial Master Chronometer’ indication is printed in white.
I did notice that when I am wearing this Aqua Terra in low-light conditions, just not enough to have the Super-LumiNova kick in, the time becomes very difficult to read. Especially in the shade for example, the dial turns a bit too dark and the dark blue hands also won’t catch any (sun)light. As soon as you move your wrist a bit, it will easily become readable again, but I had a few times that I was sincerely amazed by how dark the dial and hands can turn in low-light condition.
At 6 o’clock you will find the date aperture, with a trapezoid shape. The white date disc gives enough contrast with the grey dial and the printing on the date disc is in black. One of the disadvantages of the caliber 8900 movement – in my opinion – is the lack of a quickset for the date. By turning the independent hour hand with the crown in first position, you can quickly advance the date of course, but not as quick as a dedicated crown position for the date feature. It is a matter of getting used to I guess, but I – for instance – swap watches regularly and each time I take my personal watch with this caliber 8900 it kinda annoys me.
Then, last but not least, there’s the minute track on the dial. Printing of the indexes and numerals is in white, except for the 60, 15, 30 and 45. Also, this track has no pattern but instead an all flat and smooth surface. The second hand and minute hand are long enough to give an exact reading of the time. This also applies for the hour hand and indexes.
The Aqua Terra Bracelet
Some of my colleagues here on Fratello have difficulties to deal with my criticism towards bracelets, but since I feel it is about ‘half’ of the watch its appearance and ‘feel’, I find it an important part. In another article I gave you a run down of what I think are the Top 10 best bracelets when it comes to watches. Where brands like Rolex and Audemars Piguet have mastered the skill of creating a wonderful bracelet, Omega is still lacking to have an outstanding one to be honest. There’s always ‘something’ that I feel can (or should) be done differently. Their recent bracelets on the 60th Anniversary Trilogy of Speedmaster, Seamaster 300 and Railmaster is nice, but slightly too thick and especially the clasp is way too bulky. This Seamaster Aqua Terra 2017 has a bracelet with a PCL (polished center link) as you can see. At first sight, a solid bracelet with a nice finish. Whether you like a PCL or not, is up to you (in the past the Aqua Terra had an all brushed bracelet). I do think a PCL fits the style of the Aqua Terra, but it will show some hairlines quite easily after a bit of wearing. The double clasp can be released by pushing the buttons. That is, by pushing them it releases one part of the clasp, the other part can then be pulled open with your fingers. The bracelet does add some weight to the watch, which I like a lot. The links are screwed, using two small screws that ‘lock’ a little pin in the center. If you don’t have the right tools, please have it done by a watchmaker or at the Omega dealer. I really dislike seeing damaged screw heads on a watch. The bracelet connects nicely to the case of the Aqua Terra, no annoying gaps (this used to be the case in the past with certain Omega watches).
In all fairness, I think this bracelet is pretty well done. However. I prefer the look of the blue rubber strap with the center metal piece a bit over the all stainless steel bracelet I have here. Then, the watch is also available on an alligator strap. The rubber strap emphasized the sportive character of the watch and make it suitable for almost all conditions.
So why isn’t this stainless steel bracelet ‘rated’ outstanding by me? Well, it doesn’t have an easy micro-adjustment, so you need to replace a full-link by a half-link or vice versa when the bracelet is too tight or too loose. It is kind of a hassle. Especially when the weather changes, you will find yourself replacing links two times a year. Also, the bracelet doesn’t taper. It is 20mm over the full length of the bracelet, while I prefer to have my bracelets taper a bit, this would look more elegant in my opinion.
Below, an image of another Aqua Terra 2017 model (bi-color) on the rubber strap.
Omega Caliber 8900 Movement
The Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra is equipped with the Master Chronometer caliber 8900 movement, with Co-Axial escapement. The Co-Axial escapement ensures less friction (and less oil consumption) and prolongs the service interval. Caliber 8900 has a silicon balance spring, 60 hours of power reserve and rhodium plated finished bridges and rotor. The Geneva waves in arabesque finishing makes this movement a pleasure to look at. Due to the use of a silicon balance-spring and Co-Axial escapement, Omega gives a four-years warranty on this watch. The movement is regulated and certified for a performance between 0 and +5 seconds average daily deviation. A third party organization (METAS) ensures that all these movements are performing according to a framework of high-standards (regarding accuracy, anti-magnetism and power reserve). This certification results in the use of ‘Master Chronometer’. This also means that this watch is able to withstand magnetism up to 15,000 gauss.
Besides all that, the movement has a date feature and an independent moveable hour-hand, as you perhaps know from some GMT watches. It is very easy to correct the time when traveling to different time zones, but it also means that there is no real quick-set function on this Aqua Terra. It is not a sin not to have one and the independent hour hand certainly make it only a little effort to correct the date, but if you are like me, and have a couple of different watches in your rotation program, it can be a bit of a hassle to correct the date. For me, this results in just leaving it as-is and only set the time. I don’t feel the need for a date feature anyway on a watch, as I am using my smartphone a lot and see the date first thing in the morning on there. I can remember it for the rest of the day.
The caliber 8900 is a wonderful performer and very nicely finished. A true work-horse movement, but one that can be seen! Gold models are equipped with the caliber 8901 movement, that has a gold balance bridge and gold rotor.
Some Thoughts on the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 2017
For me, the Seamaster Aqua Terra is something I needed to learn to love. How often didn’t I try one on in a boutique or at a retailer, countless times. I always felt that the black dial PGA version with green second hand would be my pick (and there’s one in the team for a review soon), but I have to say that this grey dial with blue accents has quickly stole my heart. The only thing I would pick different is the bracelet, I would definitely choose for the rubber strap version with deployant clasp although I feel that this bracelet is very good. I just have a different taste – or preference – regarding bracelets.
The retail price on this Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 18.104.22.168.06.001 is €5100,-. The versions on alligator strap (reference 22.214.171.124.06.001) and rubber (reference 126.96.36.199.06.001) have a retail price of €5000,-. This seems to be the price for any of the Aqua Terra 2017 models (without specific complication) in 41mm, as the black dialed PGA version (reference 188.8.131.52.01.002) on a NATO strap is also €5000,-.
Despite the price increase for the Aqua Terra watches over the last few years, the Aqua Terra 2017 collection is definitely worth considering if you’re looking for a great all-rounder (or daily) watch for €5000,-. The current collection is packed with innovation (Master Chronometer movement) and has been revamped with a new case and dial design, which should make up for the current price tag. Other brands in this segment are hardly able to deliver a watch with either an in-house movement (IWC Ingenieur IW357002 lists for €6200) and the ones who do are priced much higher (a Datejust 41 lists for €6800). One of the few watch that holds a case to this caliber 8900 Aqua Terra is perhaps a mechanical Grand Seiko, but these have a weird pricing policy/strategy that will make you pay well over €7000 in Europe (and around €5000 in Japan).
Anyway, if you like the 1950’s style of the Seamaster Aqua Terra and the teak deck dial and you want a watch you can basically wear all the time, give this watch a try at the Omega boutique or an Omega dealer.
More information via Omega Watches on-line.