Omega Aqua Terra: Is it TOO Good?
by Raman Kalra
Raman Kalra is the founder of The Watch Muse blog and has kindly agreed to share some of his articles with us here on Quill & Pad.
It is no question that Omega is a global household name. When discussing Omega, everyone will have their mental image of what defines the brand for them and how they came across it. This could be the Seamaster association with James Bond or the Speedmaster with the moon landings. And it doesn’t stop there with well-known watch models. In the Omega catalogue there is also the Planet Ocean, Railmaster, Globemaster, De Ville – the list goes on.
However, it is the Aqua Terra I want to focus on today, specifically the standard model as opposed to the Small Seconds from 2021.
When considering watches worth their value, the Aqua Terra is up there with the best of them. It boasts an exceptional movement, interesting dial variations, and solid finishing, backed up by one of the most respected watch brands. So why then do we not hear about it more? Is this the watch you have been looking for all along?
What does the Aqua Terra offer?
The Aqua Terra 150M has been a part of the Seamaster lineup since 2002, and since then has had a multitude of dial, strap, size and movement updates. It is one of the newer collections from Omega and draws inspiration from the earlier Seamaster models, leaning towards simplicity while managing water resistance up to 150m.
The watch differs from others in the Seamaster collection as it lacks a rotating bezel making it decidedly more wearable in many situations. In that sense, versatility has become as big a feature as its water resistance.
This versatility is self-proclaimed in its name – ‘Aqua’ meaning water and ‘Terra’ meaning land. This is without mentioning the vast number of options Omega gives you when choosing your Aqua Terra. Forget just picking a case size, dial color and strap, there are also precious metals versions, complications such as a Worldtimer and Small Seconds, and even colorful models from 2022 that don’t have the teak pattern.
Oh, and if you have $49,000 and a special love for the Aqua Terra, then there is the Ultra Light made from ceramized titanium. Something for everyone is an understatement.
Aqua Terra 2017 Onwards
It was the latest big refresh to the Aqua Terra that made the difference and got me noticing it. The update came in 2017, making this the third generation since its inception. This saw the watch updated with a redesigned case, as well as changes to the dial aesthetics.
First and foremost, the dial became more interesting and began to make sense to me. The teak pattern, which has become synonymous with the Aqua Terra, was retained but changed from vertical to horizontal lines.
This small change made a large difference. The teak pattern somehow feels more natural and refined, and a large reason is that the horizontal pattern now has a combination of thicker and thinner lines. It does not just give the dial more depth and subtly, it makes it feel more purposeful and closer to the boat decking it is meant to resemble.
On top of this, the horizontal lines capture the light beautifully and it is worth seeing in person if you can. Given the grooves in the dial and the sunburst colors, the light is reflected so that the dial is constantly changing – sometimes the lines are darker from shadows, and other times the lines are lit up. The previous vertical pattern did not manage this as the lines followed the path of your wrist so the light was not broken by them, making the watch feel flatter.
Then there is everything else about the dial. The stepped date window was moved to 6 o’clock bringing about better overall symmetry. The indices are brushed, sharp and filled with lume. The hands are the same and the minute hand has only the arrow tip filled with lume, which has become a signature of the Aqua Terra. Look closer and you find that the applied logo is also brushed, but vertically to create a contrast to the horizontal dial. There are satisfyingly precise cutouts for the Seamaster name and dial text.
Finally, the teak pattern does not fill the dial; there is an outer ring for the second indices that helps the watch feel more compact than the 38 mm/41 mm case diameters on offer.
All of this is behind an AR-coated, slightly domed sapphire crystal. The complexity is there when you look for it.It was not just the aesthetics that were updated in 2017, but the Aqua Terra also received mechanical updates. There are three different movements found in the time-only Aqua Terra, all of them Master Chronometer Co-Axial movements. The caliber 8900 is found in the 41mm versions, while the caliber 8901 is finished to a higher standard reserved for precious metal models.
They both have 60 hour power reserves and a jumping hour hand, allowing the user to change the hours efficiently; perfect for traveling.
Then there is the 8800 used in the smaller 38mm model, although this has a slightly shorter power reserve at 55h. All movements are extremely non-magnetic, resisting up to 15,000 Gauss, making them some of the best in the industry.
Are there any problems with the Aqua Terra? Well, yes. There is always room to improve! These are all minor details. The date wheel is recessed from the dial, making it look slightly too deep and hard to read. The lume is not the brightest, although this is only really a point considering Omega push the fact it has 150m water resistance. It is on the thick side – this is down to the movement and can be seen across several Omegas. It is more noticeable on the 38 mm version, but it’s not so thick that I wouldn’t recommend it.
Then there is the price
When considering just the Aqua Terra the price $5,900 (with bracelet) seems fair. But taking into context the Seamaster 300M it doesn’t make sense. The 300M is £4,840 (with bracelet) and comes with a rotating bezel, higher water resistance, the whole James Bond association (if you like that) and a METAS-certified 8800 movement. These are all small areas that Omega could improve on for the next big Aqua Terra update. I must stress though that this does take much away from the complete package on offer here.
Why is the Aqua Terra overlooked?
On paper the Aqua Terra is great and in person it is equally compelling. There is variation, versatility and, most importantly, availability. Yet it is not a watch that receives much attention. I understand that the heritage of the Speedmaster and Seamaster Diver 300M can’t be matched, but even when comparing the Aqua Terra to other watches, the recognition is relatively low. Just consider how much awareness the Rolex Oyster Perpetual commands, and it has a similar offering on paper.
I have two main theories of why this is.
Firstly, emotion and heritage. I have alluded to this in the post about the IWC Mark XVIII, but buying a luxury watch is, unsurprisingly, a luxury. There are many reasons for buying one including marking a special occasion, buying into brand recognition for status, wearing it as jewelry for men, or the story resonates. A watch is an emotive item in a world where we can check our phones for the time. Some people have an interest in the sport or profession a watch is associated with, or maybe a model that reminds them of a special someone.
Despite all the Aqua Terra brings to the table, there is not much else that can be said about the model. There is a link with golf somewhere, as well as the teak pattern reflecting yachts, but this is very minor next to other models. You might be saying “how could it achieve any heritage in only 20 years?”, but other new Omega models such as the Planet Ocean have managed. The Planet Ocean, for example, has been used as the basis for Omegas’ partnership with the GoodPlanet Foundation. This led to a documentary called Planet Ocean to raise awareness about the bond between humanity and the sea.
Omega also engineered the Ultra-Deep, taking a Planet Ocean to the deepest point on Earth. The Aqua Terra, on the other hand, does not have these talking points. I don’t need to bring up the stories behind the Speedmaster, Seamaster 300M, Rolex Oyster Perpetual, Rolex Datejust, Zenith El Primero…the list goes on.
The second theory I have is that the watch is just too good. It is a watch that I would recommend to anyone. It is hard not to! It would be an especially great recommendation to someone who wanted one luxury timepiece that could go anywhere as it’s great looking and well-made. You’re buying into the Omega brand recognition, which whether we like it or not, is a big reason for a luxury purchase like a wristwatch.
The movement is well engineered, extremely accurate and with the superb given the Co-Axial escapement, it does not need servicing as frequently as the competition. It all works. But if you have a watch that works in all situations, then how do you justify the next purchase? Similarly, if you have a collection on the go with something you wear to work, another for the weekend, and potentially a dress watch as well, then where would the Aqua Terra fit in?
The Aqua Terra should be demanding more attention. It would be a fantastic purchase and has moved considerably up my wish list over the last year. My choice would be the white dial, 38 mm, on the grey rubber strap. Usually, it is advisable to buy something with the bracelet, but I love the texturized rubber strap option.
In my eyes, it complements the watch perfectly, especially as the rubber strap has a stainless steel end link giving an integrated look. Maybe this is because I feel the next watch in my collection should be more sporty and this is how I see the Aqua Terra fitting in. What would yours be?
The Aqua Terra from Omega has been consistently modified and improved, making it now closer to perfect than ever. You are getting a watch that is beautiful and intriguing to look at, powered by one of the best movements at the price and finished by Omega. It ticks all the boxes yet is still overlooked and under-discussed. Maybe it is such a good timepiece that there is not much to talk about! It could also be down to the lack of emotion that comes with the Aqua Terra compared to other watches.
Either way, few watches would truly work as a one-watch collection – this is one of them. Regardless of how large your collection is, I would strongly suggest you give the Aqua Terra a thought when you’re considering your next watch. You may be surprised by how much is on offer here.
For more information, please visit www.omegawatches.com/watches/seamaster/aqua-terra-150m/catalog
You can read more articles by Raman Kalra at www.thewatchmuse.com.