When it comes to luxury watches, there are two brands that excel: Rolex and Omega.
Time and time again, both Swiss luxury watch companies have proven that they’re a force to be reckoned with when it comes to high-end timepieces.
Today, we’re going to pit two luxury watches from Rolex and Omega in a head to head. Today, we’re going to do an in-depth comparison of the Rolex Explorer and Omega Aqua Terra.
If you’re looking for my opinion this early in the article, you should know that I chose the Explorer for the gorgeous dial, history and iconic status, and I was in the lookout for a more understated piece to my collection.
However, you should know that it was not at all an easy decision. Both the Explorer and Aqua Terra are amazing in terms of design, materials, and workmanship. Honestly, you really can’t go wrong with both. But we know that you’re because you want to know which timepiece is worth the hefty investment.
Let’s take a closer look at these high-end watches.
Omega Aqua Terra Review
If you’ve been eyeing the Omega brand for the longest time, there’s a good chance that you’ve come across the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra. First released in 2003, the Aqua Terra has evolved into a highly versatile everyman timepiece. The watch exudes sartorial elegance while still managing to be tough enough for the real world.
For this Omega Aqua Terra comparison review, we’ll be focusing on the 41.5mm model # 188.8.131.52.01.001. There are other less expensive models like the Omega 184.108.40.206.03.003 Seamaster Aqua Terra with differences in features, movement, and materials.
The Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra sports a very recognizable design – thanks to its black dial that is embellished with Teak Concept pattern. Basically, these are the vertical lines that would remind you of a polished deck of a luxury boat. This gives emphasis that the piece is indeed a dive watch.
Personally, I always prefer black dials on my watch and the Aqua Terra nails that look splendidly. The black dial is complemented by silver hands. The Omega and Seamaster logos are printed in white. Nothing to complain because readability is on-point, even in low-lighting situations.
The 41.5 mm stainless steel case houses the mechanical parts of the timepiece. There’s also the fixed stainless steel bezel and is covered by an anti-reflective sapphire crystal. These design elements worked harmoniously to create a classic but striking aesthetics. If you’re looking for a classic timepiece in terms of design, it’s hard to go wrong with the Aqua Terra.
One of the unique design elements of the Aqua Terra lies with its day aperture which is placed on the 12 o’clock and the date aperture on the 6 o’clock. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t really like the placement of the apertures.
Construction and Wearability
As mentioned, the Omega Aqua Terra is a 41.5 mm watch which is a bit large for me. However, I will hesitate to call it in the same class of oversized dive watches.
There are other models of Aqua Terra that are smaller, particularly for the ladies. Other case sizes include the 30 mm, 34 mm, and 38.5 mm versions. It’s not that bad especially when the Rolex Explorer II has larger models at 42 mm.
Both the bezel and bracelet are made of polished and brushed stainless steel. In terms of durability, stainless steel gets the job done in making the Aqua Terra fairly durable. However, it does make the watch a little bit heavy for my taste. The material is also quite vulnerable to scratches after significant wear and tear. I would have preferred Titanium but I know that it would only drive the price of the watch up.
One thing I love about the Aqua Terra is the strap options. The 220.127.116.11.03.003 features a three-piece link bracelet with a folding buckle. However, the Aqua Terra line itself has many different strap options like fabric, leather, steel, and gold.
Overall, the Aqua Terra is very comfortable although I think it’s a little bit too heavy which is not good for extended use.
The Aqua Terra Chronometer is powered by the Caliber 8602 self-winding movement. For the uninitiated, this means that you don’t have to manually wind the watch.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Aqua Terra is a COSC certified chronometer which is the highest certification that timepiece can get from the Official Swiss Chronometric Testing Institute (COSC). The standard for a COSC certified chronometer is 99.994% accuracy or -4 to +6 seconds/day. The day and night features work as intended and change instantly at midnight.
Overall, the Aqua Terra is a very versatile and accurate piece.
Rolex Explorer Review
The Rolex Explorer has always been, in my opinion, one of the purest sports watches from the Rolex stable. It has always been an understated piece with no cyclops, no moving bezel or any other “common” Rolex features.
For this review, we’re going to focus on the Rolex Explorer reference 214270 which was updated back in 2016. Let’s take a look.
The 214270 in 39 mm features a familiar yet new dial that sports Arabic numerals on 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, and there’s the large luminous triangle at 12 o’clock. The defining characteristic of the Explorer has always been the black dial, and it’s complemented by white gold numerals and indices – all of which are applied with Chromalight.
Back in 2010, the Explorer has been updated from 36 mm to 39 mm case size. Although this might have been a welcome update at first, many fans were disappointed that the enlarged dials made the dials too short, unable to properly reach the indices. Many enthusiasts felt that the change made an excess of negative space on the dial. The Rolex 214270 fixes that.
The Rolex Explorer is one of my most favorite looks when it comes to chronographs. As I’ve mentioned, I love watches with black dials like the Rolex Submariner. And with the 214270’s tighter dials, it’s hard not to fall head over heels over the Explorer. There’s the beautiful balance between the size of the dials, hands and, markers. This timepiece epitomizes sporty elegance.
For low light conditions, the Chromalight does its job and it looks super slick. In terms of legibility, I have no complaints.
Construction and Wearability
The Explorer’s case and bracelet are made from 904L stainless steel which is super resistant to corrosion and is usually used for aerospace and chemical industries. 904L seems to be standard when it comes to Rolex sports models.
As far as durability goes, the Explorer is a fairly tough piece although it’s made of steel. While I would prefer Titanium on my Rolex, the 904L offers better protection and weight savings as compared to, let’s say, a 316L.
The bracelet is secured with the Oysterlock safety folding clasp which is known for its ease of operation. A gentle tug easily opens the protective bow, and another tug on the lever mechanism unlocks the bracelet.
The Easylink system is another feature that I love as I can simply pivot out the clasp without altering the look of the bracelet. For the best fit and comfort, the bracelet also has a 5 mm extension which should come in handy when the wrist starts to expand during certain conditions.
All of these construction elements really make the Explorer a very comfortable chronometer. I didn’t experience any uncomfortable scratches or poking. This is a welcome surprise for me especially considering that it’s a steel watch.
The Explorer is powered by Rolex manufacture Caliber 3132 movement. The watch is also COSC certified and that’s on top of Rolex’s own Superlative Chronometer certification.
This is where the Rolex edges out the Aqua Terra. Knowing Rolex and their mastery of attention to detail, the 3132 finishing ensures superior timekeeping reliability and precision. Rolex employs a more stringent +2/-2 second a day accuracy, which is performed after casing. Personally, I would have liked a day and date apertures which are notable omissions in this model.
The 3132 movement also comes equipped with Paraflex shock absorbers and Parachrom hairspring for added durability.
Head to Head Comparisons
Here’s a direct comparison of the key specifications of the Omega Aqua Terra and Rolex Explorer.
This is really a tough one.
For me, it all comes to the accuracy and precision of the Rolex Explorer. The Aqua Terra features an impressive COSC certified chronometers with -4 +6 accuracy but just doesn’t compare to the -2/+2 seconds accuracy of the Explorer. This just means that the Rolex chronometer is about 2 or 3 times more accurate than Omega’s offering. I also prefer the Rolex for the sheer brand prestige and resale value, but that’s just me.
By no means, the Aqua Terra is not at all an inferior timepiece.
In fact, it does offer more in terms of options. More choices for movements, more case options, more material options, you get my point. The Aqua Terra is a terrific choice if you’re looking for a high-end dive watch but don’t want to spend big on a Rolex.
Do you agree with this comparison review? Which chronometer do you prefer? Feel free to comment below!