In the grand scheme of things, watch collectors are a rare species and, however much we love you, do not represent the vast majority of men when it comes to watch needs. Most men tend to fall in the one-watch category. When it comes to investing in an all-rounder destined to last a lifetime (and some), there are two candidates you cannot overlook. Extremely specialised tool watches for specific sports won’t look right in the office, and that ultra-thin gold tuxedo watch will look pretty ridiculous during rugby practice. It’s all about striking a balance, finding a watch that works in all environments and that won’t let you down. For this Battle of the Luxury Daily Beaters we will be pitting two strong contenders. The three-hand-and-date Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150m and the Rolex Datejust 41 are, in our eyes, versatility incarnate and offer a very satisfying answer to the “one watch for all occasions” conundrum. Squarely matched in almost every aspect, let’s take a closer look at their vital statistics and see if we can pronounce a winner.
Editor’s Note: The photographs of the Omega Aqua Terra were taken on Frank’s 18cm wrist and the Rolex Datejust on Brice’s 16.5cm wrist. So please take this into consideration when looking at the images illustrating this article.
Case Size and Presence on the wrist
Both models have a contemporary 41mm diameter and both have stainless steel cases and metal bracelets. The cases of both the Aqua Terra and the Datejust are exceptionally well-finished with brushed and polished surfaces and the bracelets are fully integrated into the case.
There are, however, noticeable differences regarding the height of the case; the Aqua Terra has a case thickness of 13.6mm while the Datejust is 11.8mm. That might not seem like a lot on paper, but when viewed in profile, you can really appreciate the difference. The 2017 Datejust we have for this comparison benefits from the recent design upgrade and has a slightly slimmer case, more tapered lugs and a thinner bezel. The profile of the Datejust is leaner, more ergonomic, decidedly more elegant than in the past and sits beautifully on the wrist.
Despite the difference in case height, both watches sit extremely well on most wrist sizes (Aqua Terra on an 18cm wrist, Datejust on a 16.5cm). The tapered lugs of the Aqua Terra and the mobile end links of the bracelet allow the watch to sit flush against the wrist.
Another salient difference is the white gold fluted bezel of the Datejust in contrast to the flat polished steel bezel of the Aqua Terra. Curiously, the fluted bezel draws the eye in towards the centre of the dial making the watch seem more compact and smaller than its 41mm would indicate.
The water-resistance of the Aqua Terra is 150m, and while the crown is screwed-down, the caseback has a sapphire crystal to view the movement. The water-resistance of the Datejust is 100m and the solid caseback and crown are screwed-down.
Conclusion: Although both watches share the same 41mm diameter, the case thickness of the Datejust is noticeably slimmer. The case finishes are similar but the gold fluted bezel of the Datejust makes the watch seem slightly smaller and more compact than the Aqua Terra. Water-resistance is 50m higher in the Aqua Terra and to boot, the caseback offers a view of the movement. All of this gives a slightly more refined profile to the Rolex, while the Omega feels a bit more casual.
The black dial of the Aqua Terra is decorated with the characteristic teak decking of this collection. The irregular decking adds interest and depth to the dial and this black model, in particular, comes across as more elegant, classic and formal than some of its more colourful counterparts.
The date window at 6 o’clock picks up design cues from the vintage 1952 Seamaster Calendar that inspired certain details of this watch. The background colour of the date window matches the black dial and the function blends in discreetly with the dial. Applied triangular indices with Super-LumiNova and classic Broad Arrow hands with luminescent tips complete the picture. However, when the brightly polished rhodium-plated hands converged on the dial, they were hard to distinguish.
The blue dial of the Datejust offers exceptional legibility at all times. The rectangular gold hour markers and the blunt-edged baton hands are treated with Rolex’s own luminescent material and emit a long-lasting blue glow. The date window at 3 o’clock, the function that the Datejust put on the map of horology, has a Cyclops magnifying lens.
Conclusion: Although the dials share comparable features, legibility is superior on the Rolex Datejust. The black decking of the Omega Aqua Terra makes this model come across as a slightly dressier, more formal model. Both watches feature date windows, the Aqua Terra’s tucked away at 6 o’clock, the Submariner in a prominent position at 3 o’clock with a Cyclops lens.
Latest generation in-house automatic Movements
Once again, both contenders benefit from the latest technology of their respective companies and their automatic movements perform well beyond the mandates of COSC-chronometer certification. The Omega Aqua Terra and the Rolex Datejust also come with a 5-year warranty.
The Omega Aqua Terra 150m is fitted with calibre 8900 with Co-Axial escapement and independent METAS certification as a Master Chronometer (surpasses COSC-chronometry certification with its powerful resistance to magnetic fields of 15,000 gauss). Two mainspring barrels provide a 60-hour power reserve and stable distribution of torque. In addition to time and date functions, the movement has a stop-seconds and a time-zone function that lets you set the hour hand independently while travelling across time zones. The machine-finished decoration includes bevelled edges and Geneva waves on the rotor and bridges.
The Rolex Datejust is equipped with the new generation Rolex calibre 3235, a movement designed to offer improved precision, shock and magnetic field resistance, and an upgraded power reserve of 70 hours. Covered by 14 patents, calibre 3235 uses Chronergy escapement, paramagnetic alloys and in-house high-performance lubricants. The movement has earned ‘Superlative Chronometer’ status, an in-house certification devised by Rolex that surpasses precision rates of the COSC two-fold.
Conclusion: Solid in-house movements in both cases with anti-magnetic properties and precision rates that surpass COSC-chronometry standards. Omega’s Calibre 8900 has a higher resistance to magnetism, offers the additional time-zone functionality and can be viewed from the caseback. Rolex’s Calibre 3235 boasts a precision rate of -2/+2 sec/day after casing, also includes stop-seconds functionality and has 10 hours more power reserve than the Omega but is hidden under the solid caseback.
One of the star attractions of the latest Datejust models was the reintroduction of the 5-link Jubilee bracelet. This Datejust 41mm model is available with the dressier super-supple Jubilee or the sportier 3-link Oyster bracelet we have here today. The finish of the bracelet is absolutely first class with smooth, rounded edges and contrasting satin-brushed outer links and thicker brightly polished central links. Fully integrated into the case, the bracelet has an ergonomic design that adapts perfectly to the wrist. Another feature of the Oyster bracelet is the folding Oysterclasp and the Easylink DIY 5mm comfort extension link.
The Aqua Terra also comes with a variety of strap options, ranging from the bracelet we have here to rubber, leather and forty plus NATO straps. No doubt inspired by the hyper-comfortable and resilient Oyster bracelet, the 3-link bracelet of the Aqua Terra is also very well-finished with polished central links, brushed outer links and has mobile end links that allow the watch to settle nicely on the wrist.
Conclusion: Two comfortable steel bracelets, one undeniable precursor. An advantage of the Oyster bracelet over the Aqua Terra is the DIY Easylink rapid comfort extension link that needs no tools to adjust.
Price and availability
The Omega Aqua Terra 150m steel on steel model – ref. 126.96.36.199.01.001 – retails for EUR 5,400 and is widely available. The retail price of the Rolex Datejust 41 – ref. 126334 – is EUR 8,650. Take into consideration that a Datejust 41 with flat steel bezel and an Osyter bracelet will retail for EUR 6,750.
When I visited a Rolex retailer here in Madrid, I was told there was a waiting list of approximately 9 months for the white metal version. There were, however, plenty of pink and yellow gold Rolesor models on offer.
Conclusion: Two very strong, equally matched contenders with a price difference of roughly EUR 3,250 for the configurations we have here, and EUR 1,350 without the fluted bezel. If brand equity is important to you in your final choice, the price difference will not be an issue. If brand equity is not a primary concern, and you like the aesthetics of the Aqua Terra, you are getting a lot of watch for a fair, equitable price.
This is a tough one. As you can see from the comparisons above, both contenders are rock-solid candidates in this Battle of the Daily Beater, and both are well-matched on practically every level give or take some minor differences. Quality is equal, mechanics are outstanding, performance surpasses COSC standards, finishes are exceptional, both have a 5-year warranty – but the look is different.
(Editor’s note: keep in mind that the verdict here is based on Rebecca’s personal preferences.)
And when the battle boils down to looks, objectivity gets tossed out the window. Although the rational side of me wants to embrace the Aqua Terra and acknowledges that it is one of the fairest prices for a watch of these characteristics, the emotional part of me wants the Datejust 41.
The Datejust is, in my eyes, the incarnation of the perfect daily watch. Legibility is flawless in any light conditions, the dial is simple and unpretentious, and if you are going to have a date window (and were the inventor of this cool feature), why not flaunt it? I know there are thousands of reasons why people hate date windows, but I believe that if you’re going to have this functionality it should be conspicuous and you should be able to read it without having to reach for your glasses! Although I was a little uncomfortable at first about the fluted bezel, the more I looked, the more I loved the way it played with the light.
Powerful, sporty, resilient, functional and so good-looking… I’m in love with the Datejust.
Which is your favourite? And why? We’d love to hear from you so please feel free to post your comments in the box below.