The Rolex Explorer, with its stainless steel Oyster case, glossy black dial, and mix of applied indexes and numerals, is one of the most iconic sports watches out there. Recently, Omega launched a new version of its Seamaster Aqua Terra, which, in terms of design, comes quite close to the iconic Explorer. It has a sporty stainless steel case, applied indexes, and now also comes with a glossy black lacquered dial. However, looking similar to an iconic watch is one thing; beating it in a new episode of our Sunday Morning Showdown is a whole different story.

Daan, who owns a 2005 Rolex Explorer ref. 114270, will defend the Explorer. RJ will do the same in the other corner for the new Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra. But before they share their arguments with you, let’s look at what happened during last week’s installment of our Sunday Morning Showdown.

Last week, on Sunday Morning Showdown…

Thomas and Mike fought a very peculiar battle with each other. It wasn’t a showdown between two watches. No, it was a confrontation between two of the most famous watch bracelets — the Oyster and the Jubilee. The Oyster bracelet is the more rugged one and has the more efficient construction of the two. The Jubilee bracelet is more elegant but can become looser and more jangly over time. In the comments, people mentioned that the choice sometimes depends on the watch or the occasion. That might be why the two finished very close to each other, with 54% of the votes for the Oyster and 46% for the Jubilee. Let’s see if this week’s showdown is a close one too.

Daan: Rolex Explorer

I think my Rolex Explorer is the ultimate no-nonsense stainless steel sports watch. Honestly, I don’t think I’d change anything about it. I even prefer my older 114270 over the current 124270. Its brushed and polished Oyster case with the beveled and plain bezel hits just the right note between sporty and elegant. Although mine has an Oyster bracelet with hollow center links, it’s still one of the best and sturdiest bracelets I have ever tried. Finally, we get to that iconic glossy black dial with the signature 3, 6, and 9 at the quarters. It’s sporty without overdoing it and never looks or feels out of place.

That’s why I wore my Explorer for an entire summer last year and didn’t worry about it for a second. I guess Morgan had a point when he chose his Explorer as his favorite GADA watch. I also really like the fact that it has no date. It makes it very easy to wind and set the watch and get it on my wrist quickly. Some people say this is a boring watch, but that hasn’t been my experience at all. This watch excites me every time I put it on, and the fact that its design hasn’t changed much over time is a sign of how timeless and strong it is.


A (not so) strong identity

All I’m trying to say here is that I feel the Rolex Explorer is a watch with a very strong identity. I can’t say the same about the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra. It starts with the “Seamaster Aqua Terra” name, which already sounds contradictory. Then, when you take a look at the full Aqua Terra collection, it starts to become clear that the model is in some kind of identity crisis. There are no less than 130 different references to choose from. These different references come in various sizes, starting from 28mm and going up to the 43mm Worldtimer.

A Watch Catalog With Fewer References

You can also get just about any color on the Aqua Terra’s dial. Do you feel like you need some gold on the wrist? Don’t worry; Omega has got you covered there with several options in two-tone or even full white Canopus, yellow Moonshine, or rose Sedna Gold. And if that’s not enough, you can also add some diamonds on the dial and/or bezel. I have to admit, Rolex’s offering of only four Explorer references might be a bit tight. On the other hand, Omega might be overdoing it a little, pushing you directly toward the famous paradox of choice with way too many references to choose from.

A great watch, but…

Don’t get me wrong; I do feel the new Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra is a great watch. The 8800 and 8900 movements inside are impressive little Co-Axial machines. With its three different sizes, there’s bound to be one that fits your wrist, and they all look very clean with their glossy black dials without horizontal lines. In addition, the finishing on these watches might be just as perfect as it is on most Rolex watches. And finally, that ingenious comfort setting on the butterfly clasp is a nice addition. However, there are still some things that bother me a little bit.

For example, the arrow on the minute hand seems a little gimmicky, especially because there’s no matching arrow on the hour hand. I also don’t understand why Omega polishes the center links on these new models. I get that it looks nice on the more elegant references among the 130 options, but this sportier version could’ve looked even better with an all-brushed bracelet. And then there’s the elephant in the room — that date window. Sure, it’s executed and positioned well, but I prefer the look of the time-only dial on the Aqua Terra Ultra Light.

I guess I’m still waiting for Omega to come up with a model in between the ultra-specialized Ultra Light and the regular Aqua Terra. Until then, I’ll let RJ try to change my mind on the current Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra.

RJ: Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra

Daan, you have spent a lot of time trying to explain to me and our readers why you think the Seamaster Aqua Terra is not on the same level as the Explorer. While you only try to get away with “The Explorer is the ultimate no-nonsense stainless steel sports watch,” I think you skip or refuse to acknowledge a few things here. First of all, I don’t think it’s the ultimate no-nonsense stainless steel sports watch. I think the Explorer is a nice watch, and it’s the one I gifted to my wife long ago. But the fact that it only has three hands and is made of stainless steel doesn’t make it the ultimate sports watch.

There’s nothing much sporty about it, and it’s rather old. Sure, with the current Explorer ref. 124270, Rolex updated the movement and made a few design tweaks (not for the better, in my opinion), but it’s the same ol’ same ol’. It’s certainly a classic, but for €7,450, I expect a bit more of a watch, and I am not even touching “specifications” here. Just to be complete, there’s also a 36mm steel and gold version for €12,700 and a 40mm steel version for €7,900. I guess the extra steel must account for that €450.

The Aqua Terra has been here since 2002

Omega’s Seamaster Aqua Terra isn’t new. It was introduced in 2002 and was never meant to be a one-model collection, just like the Rolex Datejust. That’s a conscious choice by Omega to offer a watch that comes in many flavors for a broad audience.

In this Sunday Morning Showdown, we’re comparing the 36mm Rolex Explorer (Daan’s ref. 114270 or the current ref. 124270) to the recently introduced 38mm Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra with a black dial (ref. It’s also available in 34mm and 41mm sizes, but let’s focus on the 38mm version as it will hit the sweet spot for many.

A worry-free movement

As written above, the Aqua Terra has been here for over 20 years and has become an important pillar in the Omega collection. It’s a very versatile watch that can be worn both during sports activities and on occasions requiring a bit more formal attire. This new 38mm Aqua Terra with a black dial doesn’t look very different from the very first Aqua Terra models. But Omega kept innovating and improving the Aqua Terra watch. The brand went from using the ETA-based caliber 2500 to the in-house-developed caliber 8800 and from COSC-certified chronometer movements to METAS-certified Master Chronometer watches (including the cases). Even if you don’t care about the watch’s movement and specifications, rest assured that this watch will perform wonderfully and give you a worry-free life with it.

A stunning-looking bracelet for the new Aqua Terra

The new bracelet is one of the massive improvements of this new Aqua Terra for me. Our climate here in the Netherlands doesn’t require me to have a bracelet that can be adjusted without using any tools. Still, this new Aqua Terra has an upgraded bracelet with a comfort setting in the clasp that allows for effortless on-the-fly adjustment for those who want or need it. I like the style of the bracelet, and although not identical, it reminds me of one of the best bracelets out there, the President.

Diamond-polished indexes and hands

The lacquered dial has a glossy black finish with all rhodium-plated and diamond-polished “hardware.” Even the frame on the date aperture (okay, Omega, this took a bit too long to implement) looks awesome. I also like the date position at 6 o’clock, which gives a nod to the very first Omega Seamaster Calendar watches from the 1950s.

This new Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra ref. has a 38mm diameter, a 45.1mm lug-to-lug, and a 12.3mm thickness. The Rolex Explorer 36 is not that different with its 12mm thickness and 44mm lug-to-lug. But, as always, it’s best to try a watch on before you buy it; I found the Explorer 114270 felt and looked a bit too small. Even though it has the same diameter as my Day-Date, the black dial makes it look smaller.

Will it help improve my golf game? One can hope

I am not here to change your mind, Daan. If you want a Rolex, buy a Rolex. That’s often the reason people buy a Rolex in the first place. If you don’t want to buy a Rolex for whatever reason, several brands offer similar-styled watches that could scratch the itch for a new watch. In many regards, but especially regarding the product, Rolex only has one serious competitor — Omega. The Aqua Terra lineup has a lot to offer.

I’m not sure about the 130 references as Omega also seems to keep discontinued references on the website for a while, but we can agree that there are plenty to choose from. The new 34mm, 38mm, and 41mm Seamaster Aqua Terra models are worth checking out if you want something versatile with a black dial and want to enjoy all the perks of a modern mechanical watch. All three sizes of the steel model have the same retail price of €7,300.

In the past, I looked at several of the Aqua Terra PGA models, not because I thought they would lower my EGA handicap (although I aim to go below HCP 20 this year; any tips are welcome in the comments) but just because they looked good. The problem was that I preferred some elements of the older models but the movement of the new ones. This new Aqua Terra seems to have fixed much of that, especially due to the new bracelet. And I also happen to like the luxurious-looking black lacquered dial. Aside from this Sunday Morning Showdown, this new Aqua Terra is on my list of future purchases.

Cast your vote

That’s all, folks! Do you prefer the classic and iconic 36mm Rolex Explorer, or do you want the modernity of the new black-dial Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra? Vote for the one you like best, and leave a comment below if you care to explain why.

Rolex Explorer Vs. Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra