2017 is an important year for Omega. A quick glimpse shows the 60th Anniversary of the Speedmaster celebrated with the Omega Trilogy, among other marvels like the Speedmaster Racing Master Chronometer, Seamaster Diver 300M “Commander’s Watch” or the new Railmaster collection. Recently we reviewed the Omega Ploprof 1200 – a professional diver with improved specification and affordable price even for the “desk divers”. We review today the Omega Aqua Terra Master Chronometer, an all-rounder watch released initially in 2002 as an entry level for the Seamaster Collection. The 2017 release comes with all the goodies that the brand has to offer now: a beautiful dial, an excellent movement packed in a lovely case, excellent general specification and a great price. With an understated appearance, the Aqua Terra Master Chronometer has much to offer. We will reveal in our article the reasons that make this timepiece great.
Review: The Seamaster Aqua Terra Master Chronometer
The Aqua Terra was released in 2002 to complete the Omega’s entry-level of the Seamaster collection, being powered by the Omega Co-Axial Calibre 2500 or quartz movement. During the years, the Aqua Terra was powered by the calibre 8500 (starting 2008) and an improved calibre with anti-magnetic capabilities, the calibre 8505 (starting 2013). Now the watch is powered by the interesting calibre 8900.
The appearance didn’t change much during the years, featuring only small cosmetic colour themes. The newest Aqua Terra collection comes with a change: a horizontal “teak” pattern on the dial, instead of the vertical pattern of the older models.
We review today the Aqua Terra Reference 126.96.36.199.06.001, a stainless-steel watch with a grey dial with blue accents, on a rubber strap.
The case, dial and hands
Aqua Terra has a handsome 41mm stainless steel case. The case looks very familiar, maybe to the fact its shape and decoration resemble well the case of the Speedmaster. The case is manufactured with an alternate brushed and polished surfaces. The polished edges start as a bevelling of the case, continuing and twisting the lugs harmoniously. The brushing makes the case sides less sensitive to scratches. The bezel is polished, making the Aqua Terra to have a visual balanced appearance.
Turning the case, we find the satin brushed screwed-in case back with engraved “Aqua Terra” name and 150m/500ft water resistance, accompanied by a see-through sapphire crystal. The crown with embossed logo has an excellent grip. The watch is easy to wind and set.
Our reviewed piece has a lovely blue rubber strap that fits perfectly the nautical theme of the Seamaster Collection. The overall aesthetic is pleasing, on and off the wrist. The wearing is comfortable, the neutral size fitting well most of the wrists.
The most attractive element of the Aqua Terra is the “teak” patterned dial. The dials finish has as inspiration the wooden decks of the sailboats. Omega changed the vertical lines to a horizontal design with uneven thickness of the stripes. The dial received a more natural feel. The author considers the new dial to have more charm as the older ones.
In our version of Aqua Terra, since the collection has more colour variants, the dial is grey with blue decorations. The hour indexes are spectacular. The three-dimensional triangles have blue outlining and SuperLuminova filling. The same blue theme can be found on hands. The legibility is excellent in bright light, as well low light, with outstanding visuals. The minutes/seconds register is placed “outside” of the hour markers. The white indexes and numerals have good visibility, with the brushed rehaut reflecting some light. As a nice touch, the 60 and 30 minutes/seconds numerals are printed in blue, emphasizing, even more, the vertical line of decorating elements: three-dimensional Omega Logo and name in the same blue as the hours’ indexes, “Seamaster” and at the lower side of the dial the “Co-Axial” and “Master Chronometer”.
The date windows occupy the 6 o’clock spot. Judging purely visual, this position balances very well with the vertical decorations. A more traditional position at 3 o’clock will pervert this dial to boredom.
The movement: Omega 8900
Aqua Terra Master Chronometer use the Omega Calibre 8900. This movement was released in 2015, at Baselworld, as a successor of the 2007’s released Calibre 8500. The movement 8900 has several variations like luxury decoration on 8901 used on the Globemaster and the Aqua Terra – Sedna gold version, 8902, 8903, 8913 and 8923, GMT on 8906 used in the Planet Ocean, or no date in 8912 – the movement used in the Ploprof 1200.
The movement uses a non-typical speed of 3,5Hz with Co-Axial system and free sprung balance wheel. The co-axial system used by Omega since 1999, was patented by the watchmaker master George Daniels in 1980. The three pallets design has the advantage of the reduced friction. This minimises the stress in the lever escapement and the need of lubrication of the classical Swiss lever escapement. The unusual speed offers the chronometric capabilities of the 4Hz movements with the long run robustness of the 3Hz calibres. An interesting and admirable move from Omega. Using two series-mounted barrels, Calibre 8900 reach a power reserve of 60 hours.
The free-sprung balance wheel does not have a regulating lever. The variable inertia balance wheel (another name of the free sprung system) has micro adjustments screws built directly on the balance. The system is used to change the poise (weight distribution) of the balance to correct spring or lever issues, and, in the end, correct the timekeeping.
Another interesting detail is the use of a bridge for the balance wheel with improved Nivachoc instead of cock. This improves stability and resistance. Calibre 8900 is resistant to a magnetic field up to 15,000 Gaus. Instead of using a steel case back to keep the movement away from the bad influence of the magnetic fields, Omega chooses to use good a-magnetic materials and reveal it under a sapphire crystal.
The movement is machine decorated, but nicely and adequately with Côtes de Genève on the bridges and rotor weight. The movement’s delicate decorations do not reveal its excellent technical properties. The Sedna gold version of the Aqua Terra is powered by the beautiful decorated Calibre 8901. This calibre is only a “cosmetic” improvement featuring more detailed finishes and a 18k Sedna gold rotor weight. Sedna gold is an in-house developed 18k gold alloy of gold, palladium and copper with improved stability and increased scratch resistance.
The calibre 8900 is a “Master Chronometer” – the watch is tested in totality after the METAS approved standards. The COSC certification offers only chronometric certification of the movement, while the Master Chronometer certification means that the watch was tested for water resistance, anti-magnetic capabilities, timekeeping/chronographic properties as a whole. This guarantees an extensive quality control and a more robust and precise timepiece for the collector.
The market has a large offer for this type of watches. Priced at EUR5,000 / SGD7,600, the Aqua Terra is falling in a large pool of choices. One of the first competitors that come to mind is the vintage-inspired Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Date. With a price of EUR5,900, the Master Control is going more into the dress watches direction with a case of 39mm and only 5bar/50m water resistance. The dial is a combination of the brushed and matt surface with printed elements and it is adorned with skeletonised hands. The Master Control Date is powered by the in-house automatic calibre 899/1, a 4Hz movement with 38 hours of power reserve. The “1000 Hours Master Control” add, as the omega counterpart, an additional intensive quality control.
For a more diving-inspired piece, we had a look at the Tudor Heritage Black Bay steel and gold. The Black Bay features a 41mm steel case with brushed and polished finishes and 200m water resistance. The two-tone design has its own special charm. The big luminous indexes and Tudor’s famous snowflakes hands offer excellent readability. The watch uses the in-house, COSC certified MT5612. The 4Hz movement has a power reserve of 70 hours.
A direct competitor comes from inside the brand – the Omega DeVille Co-Axial, priced at EUR5200. The timepiece comes in a steel 41mm diameter case with a more elegant design. The white dial with Roman numerals and 3 o’clock date window has completely another style as the Aqua Terra. DeVille is powered by the older Omega Calibre 8500 with 60 hours power reserve. The watch is good looking, classical, still offering 100m water resistance and a robust movement.
Grand Seiko has several watches with the classical design in the same price category as Aqua Terra. The Grand Seiko Spring Drive 9R series or the Grand Seiko Automatic 9S series have a nice design and robust movements. The watches have 40 or 41mm steel cases and a water resistance of 10bar/100m. The movements come with the proverbial Grand Seiko finishes and brand’s known robustness. An example is the Grand Seiko SBGA011 Snowflake which we reviewed here, with a retail price of EUR6,200.
Our reviewed piece is a good all-rounder. The Aqua Terra is a good combination of finesse and vigor. Beautiful and elegant to fit business meetings and events, sturdy and robust to join you in ad-hoc adventures or diving/swimming. The 150m water resistance will suffice any amateur diver/snorkeler needs. The exquisite, almost delicate dial will do just fine in any situation. The watch denotes good taste and comes with a nice price. Even with enough competitors in the same price range, the Aqua Terra Master Chronometer will gain his own kingdom of passionate collectors.
Below a short video of the reviewed piece from today’s official release in St. Regis Langkawi, Malaysia.
Seamaster Aqua Terra Master Chronometer Specification and price
Today’s review piece, the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Master Chronometer Reference 188.8.131.52.06.001, has a price tag of EUR5,000 or SGD7,600.
The prices for other variation of the Aqua Terra Collection are: the steel case on steel bracelet, the Ref. 184.108.40.206.01.001 comes with a price of EUR5,100 or SGD7,750, the Sedna gold case with Sedna gold bracelet, Ref. 220.127.116.11.02.001 costs EUR26,800 or SGD40,500 and the steel and Sedna gold case on a rubber strap, Ref. 18.104.22.168.02.001 costs EUR6,700 or SGD10,500.
Calibre: Omega 8900
Type: Self-winding movement with Co-Axial escapement
Dimensions: Ø 29.0mm
Power reserve: 60 hours
Frequency: 3.5Hz / 25’200 vph
Functions: Hours, Minutes, Seconds
Material: Stainless Steel
Dimensions of the case: Ø 41mm
Crystal: Domed scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides
Crown: Screw-in crown titanium
Caseback: Transparent case back
Water resistance: 15bar (150 metres / 500 feet)
Material: Blue rubber strap.
Buckle: Deployant clasp