Head To Head: TAG Heuer Aquaracer VS Omega Seamaster
by Owen Davies ; @86imaging | February 23, 2017
This month in Head-to-Head I take a look at the staple mechanical dive watches from two of the top Swiss manufacturers. The Omega Seamaster Professional and the TAG Heuer Aquaracer are tempting purchases for both the budding watch collector and the dive watch enthusiast alike. The base models (as in the frill-free models—in this case the Seamaster Ref. 126.96.36.199.01 Co-Axial and the Aquaracer WAK2111.BA0830 Calibre 5) have similar price points and spec, and they also happen to look like siblings. But which one is better?
While the Omega brand is often perceived as being of an ever-so-slightly higher quality than TAG Heuer, and benefits from the James Bond connection, these watches are remarkably similar. But setting reputation and fictional spies aside for a moment, here’s a detailed comparison of these two casual sports watches.
The Seamaster Professional has been a mainstay of the Omega range for over 50 years. Looking at this model, it’s easy to see why. The dial is nice and clean and features the embossed wave pattern that the model is so well known for. The hollow silver sword hands add interest to the dial and the bold hour markers are well balanced and provide maximum legibility.
The unidirectional steel bezel is finished with a black aluminium insert and has bevelled edges that create a unique look and also add something to grip when turning. The bracelet design on the Seamaster is another great feature. With its mixture of brushed and polished steel links, it gives the watch a look that could suit both casual and formal occasions.
The TAG Heuer Aquaracer has a similar appearance to the Seamaster, but for one rather obvious difference—the colour. This Aquaracer is finished in a brilliant royal blue and has a dial with a shutter-like embossing to it that reminds me of the Patek Philippe Nautilus, which is never a bad thing! The hour markers are rectangular and the hands a much narrower sword shape compared with the Seamaster.
The bezel is closer in style to a Rolex Submariner than a Seamaster, but it has the addition of raised steel sections that make the insert look as though it’s clamped in. The bezel insert is made from a ceramic compound, as opposed to the aluminium of the Seamaster. This gives it a tougher look and as we all know ceramic lasts considerably longer than aluminium without its colour fading. The bracelet has “H”-shaped links that again are reminiscent of Rolex’s Oyster design. They are finished in brushed steel to carry on the functional look of the watch.
The dive watch “look” was introduced with Blancpain's Fifty Fathoms model and then further developed by Rolex with the Submariner. These watches have remained the blueprint for divers ever since. There’s no escaping the fact that both the Seamaster and the Aquaracer heavily borrow from this blueprint, and at times, it can feel as though you’re looking at “just another dive watch”. That being said, both watches do have their own design nuances—the Seamaster’s wave dial and the Aquaracer’s chunky bezel—which bring some originality to proceedings and do a good job of distancing themselves from the hundreds of Submariner clones flooding the market.
As for a winner, I found it quite tricky to distinguish between these. I prefer the Aquaracer’s shutter-style dial to the Seamaster’s wave pattern, but I think the Omega’s bezel and bracelet are finished a little better than the TAG. I would be happy to wear either, but at a push I’m leaning towards the Seamaster Professional as I feel it’s a little more versatile, being suitable for wear in both formal and casual settings.
The TAG Heuer Aquaracer is powered by a TAG Heuer Calibre 5 movement. Interestingly, this calibre is based on two movements—the ETA 2824-2 and the Sellita SW200, which makes it fairly unusual and means that two of the exact same watch can be purchased, but contain different movement bases. The Calibre 5 is a 25-jewel self-winding movement and it has a power reserve of 42 hours, which makes it an ideal choice for an everyday watch.
Inside the Seamaster Professional is the Omega 2500 self-winding co-axial movement. We’ve previously reviewed three generations of Omega's co-axial calibres in more detail, but in short it’s a very impressive movement. It’s chronometer certified and the co-axial escapement allows for much longer intervals between servicing. It has a 48-hour power reserve, much like the Aquaracer, which again makes it a great choice for everyday wear.
For me there is one clear winner in this category. The Omega co-axial 2500 is head and shoulders above the Calibre 5 in terms of accuracy, durability and reliability.
I found both of these watches incredibly easy to wear, which is something I would expect for an everyday tool watch. Both have relatively low profiles, which meant I didn’t have to worry about catching the cases on doorframes, or getting them caught on my shirtsleeves. Both watches were very easy to operate, with the screw lock crowns being easy to loosen and adjust. Both bezels are equally legible and operate well in low lighting.
While the Aquaracer has a slightly better designed bezel as it has more grip the Omega feels though it has a slightly better build quality, although this might be down to my perception of the brands and the finishing on the Omega. I think it’s fair to call this one a draw.
Considering the price of a pre-owned Seamaster is around the £2,000 mark, and a pre-owned Aquaracer is a couple of hundred pounds cheaper your decision may well come down to this and I think you would be hard pushed to find better alternatives. But on that note, given the reputations of each watch that I have already touched on, you will probably find that the Seamaster will hold its value a little better.
With regards to my comparison, with two wins to one, the Omega Seamaster Professional claims the victory here. It’s a great looking dive watch, with an in-house, technically advanced movement and it’s very easy and comfortable to wear. That’s not to say the Aquaracer is a worse watch, far from it. I really liked some of the design features, especially the dial and the ceramic bezel. I would certainly recommend it to someone who isn’t a fan of the Seamaster design but wants a diver’s watch at a similar price point.
For more information visit our dedicated pre-owned and vintage mechanical watches page.