Comparison 1:

Omega Seamaster "Aqua Terra" (AT) and Grand Seiko (GS) SBGR023 compared

There are two ways to view this comparison. You can either follow the verbose Review or you can skip the reading and jump directly to the Pictorial. Or you could read the verbose Review first and then click through the Pictorial. The pictures are not the same for the verbose Review and the Pictorial. But both picture sets cover both watches similarly. I tried a format that allows a fast-track for those that do not like to read.


Pictorial

Verbose Review

Foreword
It seems that there has not been enough "driving force" to quickly complete this comparison...it took me more then 2 years to finish it. And if I had to decide today between the GS and the AT, I would probably buy the very same GS again. At the time of the writing (July 2005), Omega has released two new models that I actually like better then the Aqua Terra: the Railmaster and the just released Planet Ocean (released in May 2005) with that incredibly sweet turning bezel. I still love to wear my AT and will definitely keep it in my collection, since it was the first Seamaster with Co-Axial escapement. Before that Omega deployed that caliber only in DeVille models. Please use the back button after clicking on a thumbnail to come back here and continue the verbose Review.

Cost
The difference when buying the watches street price is probably about USD 200 in favor of the Omega Aqua Terra. The street price for the Grand Seiko was ca. USD 1700.

Packaging
I love the ecologically sensible yet fully functional packaging of the Grand Seiko. Use of cardboard and paper instead of bulky wooden boxes covered with man-made leather. The Omega packing is the traditional bulk of boxes and papers. Seiko seems to have gotten the "Zeitgeist" better here, providing a really optimal packaging. Please note, this is my personal opinion. I am well aware, that some of you might like the heavier red Omega boxes better and if the AT will be your first Omega, then you probably do not mind the packaging overkill.

Sizes of Watches and Wearing Comfort
The GS has the perfect dimensions for my 6.5" wrist while the AT seems a bit too big for my "girl scout wrist" as one PMWFer put it once. It looks OK on the wrist, but the GS hugs my wrist and the watch sits and feels like it was not nearly 100 grams heavy. The watch is really perfect for thinner wrists and might look a bit too smallish for you bigger guys.
The AT on a 6.5" inch wrist feels a tad "flat" and big, if you look at the case pictures of the GS on my Grand Seiko page, you will note the nicely curved case. The main reason however for those "flatter" looks of the AT are the 3 mm larger visible dial. The case of the AT is only 2 mm wider (exclusive crown) then the GS, but due to the larger visible dial, the watch looks a lot bigger.

Bracelets and Clasps
The Grand Seiko bracelet is dressier and has a high class finish. The glossy areas are high polish and the satin brushed parts' consistency of the linear brushing are far more consistent then on the AT. The AT bracelet looks like a good quality Mainland China bracelet you find on watches starting at USD 200. Only the button release clasp seems to be manufactured according to higher Swiss standards. I would have preferred to find a better finish on the AT bracelet instead of the huge box and all those glossy brochures that accompanied the watch. Both clasps are very well made. For once the GS does not really beat the AT, I love the Omega clasps with the sliding open rail which saves some weight too. The GS clasp is machined from much thicker steel and is operated by two lateral push buttons. The ingenious single push button hidden behind the clasp is brilliant, since you get immediately used to this really smart way of releasing a clasp. Some IWC watches also use the single button release which makes for one of the best solutions out there in my opinion

Cases
The Grand Seiko's case was clearly designed for smaller Asian wrists. Luckily I have such a wrist too. The case is beautifully curved and fits smaller wrists around 6.5 to 7.5 inches perfectly. The Aqua Terra has a relatively flat case that suits larger wrists (>7 inches) better. The quality of both cases is excellent. However the finish on the Grand Seiko is really amazing. I trust this is the result of the amounts of manual polish and finish that go into every Grand Seiko.

 

Movements AT: Caliber 2500 co-axial, GS: Caliber 9S55 with a fantastic finish
The Grand Seiko's fantastic 9S55 has a finish that is hard to beat. The Omega's AT Caliber 2500 has the technological edge of the co-axial escapement, invented by the genius George Daniel, a UK based watchmaker that had been fighting for decades to get the recognition for this great new escapement. The co-axial escapement's quintessence is not better accuracy as often stated, but "a better accuracy and less wear over a longer period of time". Since I am not a watchmaker I do not feel competent to continue to produce elaborate comments about those movements. I simply leave that field to the real experts out there.

Crystals, Dials, Appearance and Feel
What surprised me most is that heavy weight of that "little" Grand Seiko. I was almost shocked when I first lifted one, a lot heavier then I expected. Maybe we are all too used to those folded-links Seiko 5s. I am not going to impose my taste on you, I will just mention this. Thanks to the anti-reflective coating (I have no confirmation for that, but the AR coating is so effective on the Grand Seiko, I assume it is on the inside as on the outside), the handpolished hands and indices of the Grand Seiko sparkle like diamonds. I still remember my heart rate increasing when they showed me my Grand Seiko. I stopped breathing for a while when the sales person in Shinshuku open the dark blue velvet box! The hands and the indices are very nice on the AT too, yet the less effective anti-reflective coating on the Omega does not let them sparkle like on the Grand Seiko.
Everybody has its own taste, so regarding Appearance, I would say the Omega looks very classic and plain. The Seiko looks dressier and also due to the polished parts on the bracelets, dressier.
And of course both Omega and Grand Seiko got the date disk - black disks with white lettering - right. The Grand Seiko uses fine white indices for the minutes, the Omega uses a silver color for the dial printing. And here, the Omega wins, those minute indices are really beautifully printed!

AR Coating comparison (added May 2007)
February 2007: a fellow watch enthusiast (Paul B.) informs me that the Aqua Terra also has an anti-reflective coating. Originally I wrote that there was no AR coating on the Aqua Terra because when compared to the Grand Seiko, there are a lot of reflections on the crystal of the Omega. Thus today I assume that the Grand Seiko has outer and inner AR coating while the Omega only has inner AR coating. Thanks Paul B. for the hint! In May 2007, I got a new compact camera (the faithful old Coolpix started to develop some problems with the shutter - probably turned on and off too many times) and was playing with the camera and the light. We have incandescent ceiling lamps with warm light and we have Neon light too. When I take watch pictures, I only use fluorescent (=Neon) light, from the ceiling and from a desktop lamp. Now the reflectors in the ceiling from our "normal" light bulbs are quite visible if I direct my desk lamp to the ceiling when avoiding to burn the watch pictures (burn = some parts of the watch are too lit). To understand the pictures, please look and find a faint blue ring on the Grand Seiko. On the Omega AT you will not have a problem finding that reflection of the turned off ceiling lamp.

Luminosity
No luminosity on the Grand Seiko because no luminous material is used at all on dial and hands. Also meaning that your grand children do not need to worry about the black dial getting spotty from lume bits falling out of their dedicated position at the hour indices or from the hands. Also I noticed that during dusk and dawn, the highly reflective hands allow a much better reading of the time then expected. Also one dim public street light as found on many Bangkok roads will throw enough light at your GS dial to allow you to read the time fairly easy. The AT lume consists of small rectangular applied luminous indices behind the hour markers. I was a bit disappointed to find that the robot had chopped off a fairly reqular square at the 11 hour index, the size of the missing luminous paint maybe 0.3 x 0.5 mm. If you walk through the picture report below, you will find a macro showing this defect. When writing this comparison, I also had a look at all the other hour indices again and found that the consistency of the application of the luminous paint on those small applied rectangles sitting behind the triangular longer chrome indices is inconsistent and does not match the overall quality or its consistency of the "Aqua Terra". Probably a supplier problem that slipped past the QCM. Of course you will not notice this with the naked eye, but if you look with a loupe at those luminous hour indices, this will definitely dampen your enthusiasm about Omega QC. Maybe wasting less money on all those "Ambassadors" would be a solution ;-)
I have no problem with only the tip of the arrow shaped minute hand being lumed. Some fellow WIS did not like it. I found it actually quite easy to find the minutes using the little luminous triangle, one has simply get used to it. One has to look a bit longer to see which triangle moves - the second hand does of course, if the minute and second hand are close together, it might get a bit confusing. But since the AT was barely designed as a service or tactical watch, the lume on the AT - except for the sloppy lume application on the hour markers - is very functional. Also for dress watches or more expensive all-rounders I like as little lume as possible. A bit of lume dropping onto the dial of either watch could do some serious staining and discoloring.

Certificates for Accuracy
The AT comes with a C.O.S.C. (Neuenburg Observatory) certificate, so you know Omega had to pay ca. USD 50 for that test per watch. C.O.S.C guarantees that the watches run at - 3 seconds to maximum + 6 seconds in different positions and temperatures during the exactly defined test set by the Observatory. SEIKO has created its own test set and guarantees -2/+5 seconds a day. Do the watches hold their respective promises. The AT certainly does at plus 1.9 seconds a day. The GS seems to run a bit too fast here in Thailand at 5.5 seconds plus but I expect this to change pretty soon.

Water Resistance and Crowns
100 m water resistance, the Grand Seiko does this without a screw-down crown. 150 m water resistance for the AT with a pleasantly big and tall crown that makes opening and closing it a pleasure. Omega has really found the 100% perfect proportions here! What is puzzling is, if you start winding the Seiko, there is almost no resistance. Only if you are holding it against the ear, you hear the sweet and soft whizzing of the gears and then know you are actually winding it. First I had thought the winding system has disengaged itself, the winding resistance is so little. Shows what great meticulous finishing procedures are in place at the Grand Seiko QC.

 

Resale value
Since Omegas and Grand Seikos enjoy a very good resale value, I do not expect much of a difference here.

Conclusion: "Go for the one you like better or go for both of them"
I would have a hard time to decide WHICH one of the two watches to buy, that is why I bought them both. I had been hunting the Grand Seiko long before the news broke, that Omega now makes more affordable Co-Axial watches. The first pink gold DeVille Co-Axial I had seen at the Bahnhofstrasse was tagged CHF 60'000. I always wanted a Co-Axial escapement dial inscription in my collection and when the first Seamaster (I am not a big fan of DeVille) appeared, I bought one during a boring mall Sunday. If I had a limited budget and if I wanted ONE watch that fits my 6.5" wrist perfectly, then the Grand Seiko is the choice that offers the same grand class for this kind of watch as the Rolex DateJust. An Allrounder watch that can be worn for sports, that looks good with leisure apparel and with formal wear. I have to thank here Seiya-San again for helping me getting a bigger then the normally granted 20% discount while buying the Grand Seiko. I still remember our great spicy lunch and the following watch hunt in Tokyo as the crowning hours of our Tokyo 2002 visit.
And although I have been thinking very hard on how to close this review, it is really hard to find the right words to summarize this in a nutshell, here is my try:
If you want a great looking extremely well finished all-rounder dress watch, then go for the Grand Seiko. If the understated looks of the Seamaster, that seamlessly continue the long and great Seamaster tradition with an exciting new co-axial caliber, then go for the Omega.

GS SBGR023 Dimensions (mm):
Case excl. crown: 37
Visible Dial: 28.5
looks considerably smaller then the AT
Crystal: Sapphire with inner and outer anti-reflective (AR) coating, very effective
Lug to Lug: 44
Height: 12
Lug width: 18
Bracelet tapered from 19 to 17 at clasp
WR: 100 meters, non-screwed crown
Weight: 125 grams (bracelet adjusted to 6.5 inch) creating the impression this smaller sized watch to be very heavy!

Street price (2002): USD 1700

Omega Aqua Terra Dimensions (mm):
Case excl. crown: 39
Visible Dial: 31.5
3mm larger makes the AT dial look a lot bigger
Crystal: Sapphire with anti-reflective (AR) coating on the inside of the crystal according to Omega
Lug to Lug: 46.3
Height: 11
Lug width: 20
Bracelet tapered from 20 to 17 at clasp
WR: 150 meters, screwed-crown
Weight: 120 grams (bracelet adjusted to 6.5 inch) due to a relatively light bracelet

Street price (2003): USD 1500

Click here or on the first thumbnail to walk through the picture review with additional comments >>>


This one does not need a copyright mark!

GS Wrist

AT Wrist

I shot 2 series of the watches, that is why some backgrounds are light grey while others are black

Back View

Clasps compared

Backs Closer

Top View

Side View

Omega's Back

GS Back

A Look at the Movements
(9S55A picture by John Davis) 

Clasps Signature

Crowns Compared

Front View

Front Side

Side

Dials and Crowns

Dials closer 

Antireflective Coating
Compared

A second picture to illustrate
the difference in the AR coating

Lume of the AT

11 o'clock luminous Marker

The Aqua Terra close-up

The GS close-up

Stacked

Side Comparison

Diagonal Comparison

Frontal Comparison

The End
Find a lot more solo pictures of the Grand Seiko here