Fleming might have chosen Rolex for his now-iconic super-spy, but as the story goes, it was ultimately James Bond who chose Omega, cementing the Seamaster in pop culture lore. But did he really? It’s the classic hypothetical question that watch fans love to argue over: What watch would 007 wear? Brand allegiances and savvy, Oscar-winning costume designers aside (hat tip to the inimitable Lindy Hemming), I’m of the mind that an Omega seems plausible, given the brand’s long history of supplying reliable and affordable watches for the many branches of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. However, I find it hard to believe that a real-life James Bond would have ever chosen a cumbersome 45mm stainless steel Planet Ocean, or even a pure dive watch like the Seamaster 300, for that matter. To me, the quintessential Bond watch operates much like the rest of the agent’s kit — be it a Tom Ford suit, a pair of brogues, an Aston Martin, or a weapon like the pint-sized Walther PPK — each piece is classically sexy but sleek and unobtrusive, capable enough to be adapted to any environment and bent to his will. There are few sport watches in Omega’s catalog that fit this profile better than the second generation Seamaster Aqua Terra (ref. 22.214.171.124.03.001), which made its screen debut in 2012’s Skyfall.
Sure, some of the biggest news of the season might have been the recent unveiling of the Omega Seamaster 300 Diver to be worn by Daniel Craig in his final outing as the British super-spy when No Time to Die hits theaters next April. Designed with input from Craig himself, it’s about as close as one could come to answering the hypothetical question of what a former naval-commander-turned-suave-super-spy might actually wear. And while much has been said about this, and the many other Omega, Rolex, and Seiko watches worn by Craig, Pierce Brosnan, and their respective predecessors in the role of 007, a whole lot less has been said about the “Skyfall” Aqua Terra — arguably, the nicest Bond watch in the history of Fleming’s timeless franchise. This watch has consistently escaped mention in the James Bond lexicon, most likely because it was never part of the official promotions for the film in which it first appeared, despite being Daniel Craig’s personal choice; he loved it for its simplicity and striking blue dial. It also didn’t hurt that Skyfall was considered a triumphant return to form after the modern series roared back to life with Casino Royale but quickly sputtered with the forgettable Quantum of Solace that immediately followed.
Skyfall marked another generational shift in the tone and the tools at Craig’s disposal, with Omega’s new Co-Axial Calibre 8500 making its on-screen debut in a Planet Ocean, and the blue Aqua Terra – the latter of which being the first time any James Bond would wear something other than a dive watch. Centering around a familiar theme of a world-weary Bond returning to confront his mortality at MI6 after a long absence, the film itself adopts a darker, more existential tone and excellent pacing, holding the reveal of its main antagonist (Javier Bardem) until halfway through – stylistic elements that share more than a few similarities to the excellent Casino Royale (and from what we can tell, No Time to Die, as well). And in a bit of a surprise twist, the film’s gripping finale in the moody Scottish highlands would also mark the departure of longtime cast member Judy Dench as MI6’s long-running chief “M.”
Now, despite this particular Aqua Terra getting a fair amount of subtle screen time throughout Skyfall, it never received quite the prominent product placement as the 8500-series Seamaster Planet Ocean, which was part of the formal marketing materials and established itself early in the film during the Istanbul chase sequence. That probably explains why this particular Aqua Terra has largely escaped formal mention in the “Bond watch” canon since Daniel Craig took the role. That said, I’ve recently noticed that Omega seems to have gone back to its site and retroactively added “Skyfall” to the product title for SEO purposes, so that a quick Google search for “Omega Aqua Terra Skyfall” takes you directly to the page for reference 126.96.36.199.03.001. It’s a savvy bit of inside baseball, considering that this watch (to my knowledge) had been until only recently referred to as the “Skyfall” in singularity by the community, and not by Omega itself.
Also interesting is how, unlike the Speedmaster, which has seen a litany of desirable limited-edition variants released in the last decade that command at or well above their original asking prices, this particular Aqua Terra is one of only several modern Omegas in the Seamaster family (including the inaugural Seamaster Planet Ocean Liquid Metal LE) able to do the same, with its current pricing on the secondary market creeping ever-closer to its original suggested retail price of around $4500 in 2012. Unlike the aforementioned, though, the screen-worn Skyfall reference was a bone-stock general release and not a limited edition in any capacity.
Discontinued around late 2015 or early 2016, the 8500-series Aqua Terra watches represented the second generation of Omega’s most versatile luxury-sport watch, following the inaugural Aqua Terras which were outfitted with 2500-series Co-Axial calibres and featured a more pared-down, two-dimensional dial reminiscent of transitional Railmaster references. To put the modern 8500 Aqua Terra more in step with its closest competition in the Rolex Oyster Perpetual or Datejust, Omega refined nearly every aspect of the watch, starting with the dial, which was characterized by thick applied white gold hour markers, a framed date window at 3:00, and textured vertical striping designed to evoke the wooden decks of luxury sailing vessels. This Aqua Terra maintained the generous 150-meter water resistance of its predecessor, but the upgrades to the Co-Axial movement increased the power reserve to 60 hours and added a handy quick-adjust hour hand (a boon for frequent fliers like Mr. Bond himself). Lastly, the watch was fitted with a fully brushed three-link stainless steel bracelet and a butterfly clasp, lending it a sleek and refined, but simultaneously restrained, stealthy appearance on the wrist – all of which made it the perfect choice for an international super-spy.
Speaking of choice, Daniel Craig has long favored blue dials, and seeing as how Omega has purportedly developed its own exclusive shade of blue for its dials (we’ll make no attempt to confirm or deny the silly rumor that Omega tuned the Skyfall’s blue dial to match Craig’s own blue eyes), it does make this particular Aqua Terra’s inclusion in the film a pretty natural one. It wouldn’t be the blue Aqua Terra’s last on-screen appearance though – the arrival of 2015’s Spectre would also usher in the third generation of the Aqua Terra, and once again a blue, mid-sized variant with vertical striping on the dial would be worn on screen by Daniel Craig.
However, this generation of the Aqua Terra came with another short list of revisions: Namely, the 8500 Calibre was upgraded to “Master Co-Axial” status for its anti-magnetic properties. More notably though, was the removal of the date window frame and the stealthy all-brushed bracelet finish in favor of a mirror-polished center link. Those last details are particularly critical, as they tend to be two of the updates driving the collectability of the earlier, more desirable Skyfall variant, even though a comparable reference with the new updates was screen-worn in Spectre as well. It was around this time that Omega seems to have caught on to Craig’s personal liking for the Aqua Terra, introducing a blue-dialed Limited Edition Aqua Terra for the release of Spectre, replete with a Bond family coat of arms printed all over the dial.
It would be the introduction of the 8800/8900 generation of Co-Axial movements which brought about the fourth incarnation of the Aqua Terra and an entirely new reference thanks to a new case, crown, bracelet and dial – the latter of which re-oriented the date aperture and “teak deck” stripes to create a much more dramatic visual departure to the older models. If you love the aesthetic of the Skyfall, but don’t want to chase one down on the secondary and don’t mind the latest dial updates, Omega very quietly introduced a new 38mm Master Chronometer reference (188.8.131.52.03.001) in late Q4 of 2019 with a blue dial that closely emulates the desirable blue Skyfall and its Spectre successor with white and silver text. The timing is a bit prophetic, perhaps a hint at the new screen-worn kit for No Time to Die?
One thing that hasn’t changed throughout the numerous iterations of the Aqua Terra is how well it wears in both the 38.5 (or 38mm of the current 8900 generation) or 41mm case size variants. It’s worth noting that both case sizes wear a bit more broadly than their specs suggest due to the sloped bezel, the thickness of the 150m water-resistant case, and the large applied dial markers, so the smaller mid-sized case should still feel plenty bold enough, even for someone desiring a bit more discretion on the wrist than a traditional modern offering. It should come as little surprise that for both Skyfall and Spectre, the smaller size is acknowledged as the screen-worn reference, though it hardly goes unnoticed in multiple instances throughout either film.
To be fair, dive watches have indeed long been a tradition of the James Bond character, but I’d argue that the Aqua Terra represents a far more practical choice for the super-spy — fictitious or otherwise. And whether or not you moonlight for a shadowy government organization, I’d also argue that every watch collection should have a blue-dialed Aqua Terra. It’s a gorgeous, superbly versatile and capable piece, representing the very best of Omega’s modern offerings in any of its subtly unique iterations. Pricing for the Omega Aqua Terra Seamaster watches starts at around $5,500 USD. You can learn more about the current Aqua Terra collection at omegawatches.com.