The Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Chronometer is one luxury sports watch that is really impressing me these days. While it's a good watch that has been around for some time, and even been equipped with the George Daniels-designed Co-Axial Escapement, the versatile Aqua Terra got a massive boost this year. Why? Omega's in-house 8500 caliber, and a sharp subtle redesign to go along with this technically impressive and very promising new self-winding movement.
Let's start with the redesign. The case of the new Omega Aqua Terra watches-in either 38.5 or 41.5mm sizes-is very much like the old, and shares a lot in common with the legendary Speedmaster Professional chronograph. It's got just the right blend of polished and brushed surfaces, meaning it works extremely well regardless of your attire. The slender polished bezel looks quite elegant, and it frames the slightly curved sapphire crystals very nicely, indeed. However, it is the dials where you notice some entirely new beauty revealing itself-in place of the more expected glossy or matte metallic dials, you have a new teck concept pattern. Modeled after the fine wooden decks in a luxurious boat, this texture looks superb, and really makes the dial pop. The addition of beautifully beveled triangular hour markers and faceted hands in 18K gold (white gold for the stainless steel models) brings more superlative detail to the new Aqua Terra watches. The execution of these elements is truly superb, and reflects Omega's continued upmarket move as a luxury watch manufacturer.
Turn the new Seamaster Aqua Terra over, and you can't help but exclaim, Ahhh! A nice, large sapphire window lets you in on the aforementioned Omega 8500 caliber movement, which prior to now was only available in the beautiful-but very niche-Hour Vision watch. While Omega's new manufacture caliber has only been out for a couple years, it continues to earn glowing accolades from watchmakers and industry insiders alike.
Among the Omega 8500's neat features are an hour hand that can be adjusted independently (great for crossing time zones), a system of two serially operating mainspring barrels (these give you a nice 60-hour power reserve), a full balance bridge for optimum stability (some would say a little lesson from Rolex), and a large freely-sprung balance wheel with an exclusive system of adjustment weights. Combine the latter with Omega's sensational Co-Axial escapement, and you have a mechanical movement capable of some stellar timekeeping performance. Many owners of watches with this movement are gushing about near quartz-like precision; I won't verify or dispute that, as I don't own one, but Omega has clearly produced a movement that-top to bottom-is designed to attain the best levels of chronometer performance, function reliably under unlimited daily use, and be readily worked on by a watchmaker when service is eventually required. The Omega 8500 is also really, really pretty to look at, with an exclusive Cotes de Geneve en Arabesque decorative pattern on all the external surfaces of major components. The version inside the 18K red gold models is particularly handsome, because in these, balance bridge and rotor are both made from red gold, a material which stands out beautifully against the rhodium-plated parts.
Prices of the 8500-equipped Omega Aqua Terra models are very reasonable considering how much watch you are really getting. They are noticeably more expensive than the older models, but that's understandable, as the latter are equipped with excellent, but less exclusive, Omega-modified ETA calibers. I feel it is very safe to say that the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra watches with the manufacture 8500 movement are going to provide some stiff competition for the ubiquitous Rolex Datejust.