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Review: Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra GMT Worldtimer

Value is a tough game in luxury watchmaking. On the one hand, luxury is supposed to be expensive—buying cheap luxury is almost counter intuitive. People are supposed to know what you have is expensive. But on the other, who doesn’t want more for less? A sense of quality and prestige at a price that’s cheaper than expected? Sign me up. So how about this for size: the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra GMT Worldtimer.

Now, before we begin, the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M Co-Axial GMT Worldtimer—to give it it’s full name—isn’t cheap. At £7,600 new, this is no impulse buy, but that’s not necessarily the name of the game, because what we’ve got here is a world timer—and one that’s pretty special to boot.

Perhaps you’re familiar with GMT watches. These allow a secondary time zone to be tracked so, say it’s taken on holiday, both local time—where you’re at—and home time—where you’ll be sad to be going back to in a week or so—are both visible at once. That’s usually done with an extra hand pointing to a twenty-four-hour scale, which is fine, so long as the time difference between the two places is known.

A world timer kicks that up a gear. With one of these, the time difference doesn’t need to be known, because the watch does all the work instead. Twenty-four cities—inscribed here in silver where daylight savings is observed—from the main time zones are layered around the dial, each one corresponding with a number on the world time disk from zero to twenty-four. So, whether New York or Moscow or Sydney, the time can be read—ingeniously using the standard twelve-hour markers and smaller light blue markers in between on this Omega—at a glance without needing to know anything in advance. The world time disk is even split into light and dark blue as a visual aid for day and night so the folks back home don’t get a rude awakening in the middle of the night. Perhaps you’ve even noticed how Geneva has been sneakily replaced with Bienne, Omega’s hometown.

But say the time difference isn’t known and the city isn’t on the world time list—what then? That’s where the Aqua Terra GMT Worldtimer kicks things up a notch again. Centred on the dial, orbited by the world time disk, is a top-down view of the northern hemisphere. It’s pretty accurate too, although the view may be unfamiliar to the most of us used to seeing that two-dimensional map projection most often employed to represent our fair planet. A little scrutiny of the fine detail, however, and you’ll have your bearings. Just think of the pinion holding up the hands as the north pole.

Once that’s understood, knowing what the time is at a specific location is as straightforward as finding it on the map and drawing an imaginary line from the north pole straight to it and beyond to the world time disk. Of course, this only works if the place of interest is in the northern hemisphere, but this is still pretty good. And don’t take my word for it: it’s the same approach used by Patek Philippe in its exquisitely enamelled World Time pieces, a mechanism originally designed in 1931 by apprentice Louis Cottier—and if anything, it’s better.

On the versions of Patek Philippe’s World Time with the enamelled map in the centre, it’s pretty much just there for show. Here it’s actually a functioning part of the watch. It’s a level of thinking usually reserved for such engineering excellence as the Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre Unique Travel Time. And of course both that and the Patek Philippe cost way, way more than the Omega.

And it’s not just the functionality of the Aqua Terra GMT Worldtimer that makes it’s RRP seem like good value; the way this watch is executed is—if you’ll excuse the pun—out of this world. The 43mm steel case is familiar fair for Omega, complex curves and refined finishing harking back to its earliest days making wristwatches, far more ornate and extravagant than any offering from stablemate Rolex. It’s thick at just over 14mm, but given its diameter and sporting intentions, it was never going to be a dainty wear.

The rubber strap it’s on here—an alternative to the stainless-steel bracelet—says everything that’s needed to be known about this ordinarily delicate complication: it’s designed to be worn. Water resistance to 150m, crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides, silicon escapement anti-magnetic to 15,000 gauss, free sprung balance on a bridge for increased stability, sixty hours’ power reserve, chronometer certification—this watch is no black tie-only affair.

But conversely, it won’t let you down in high society either. Yes, that’s a rubber strap, but polished end links, contrasting stitching and broad weave centre add elements of style and complexity that defy what should otherwise be a utilitarian way of securing this watch to a wrist. The same is true of this watch’s dial, patrolled by thick, wedge-shaped markers and hands carrying an abundance of luminous paint with them. Sounds like a recipe for uncompromised sporting intent, but no. Those markers are straight brushed on top to catch light no matter the angle, and polished on the edges for the sparkle of luxury.

And the dial itself is a sight to behold. In blue, with the Aqua Terra’s now-famous teak deck pattern inflated to represent the lines of longitude and latitude into which cartographers have divided our globe, it packs a punch of colour and detail that a Rolex could only dream of. A subtle sunburst on top of everything even has a practical use, further clarifying the division between time zones and helping line up those cities not marked on the outer ring.

This is where we come to the globe. It looks incredibly detailed with texture and relief because, well, it is. But instead of employing a man with a hammer and chisel and charging the Earth—again, apologies for the pun—Omega has sought inspiration from brand ambassador James Bond, or rather, his enemies, carving the map from titanium with a frickin’ laser. So, you’ve got raised land masses, contoured to match the natural mountains and valleys of our world, and deep oceans, tinted blue by the chemical reaction of the laser’s heat.

If the front were ever to become boring, however, there’s always the back, which is home to Omega’s calibre 8938. Here you’ll find those twin barrels providing that sixty-hour power reserve, the silicon Co-Axial escapement and the free sprung balance wheel. Omega’s adoption of the radial stripes has become something of a trademark for the brand, contrasting against the black details peppered throughout.

Add it all up and what you get is … seemingly more than £7,600 worth. Watches with this visual punch aren’t often found at this price range and in the catalogues of the more practical watchmakers, usually considered the reserve of horological tinkerers like Jaeger-LeCoultre. Even Rolex’s own world time watch—or as close as it can get to one—the Sky-Dweller, starts at £4,000 more.

What do you think of the Omega Aqua Terra GMT Worldtimer? Good value or a waste of a money? There are a lot of compelling reasons why it could be considered good value, especially when comparing specification to the few other watches capable of matching it. Perhaps most convincing of all is the visual enjoyment the dial brings in comparison to the otherwise more reserved competition. If that’s your thing, this Omega gets hard to ignore. And if you wanted any more reasoning that this watch is well-priced at £7,600, it’s not the first time Omega has sold it. In 2017 there was a limited edition platinum version with an enamelled globe, and that cost $50,000.

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