January 5, 2014
Since I became addicted to watches around the turn of the millennium I spent a lot of time perusing watch forums and sites dedicated to watch reviews. I picked up a lot of useful, if not expert-grade or properly structured information along the way. One thing I found myself increasingly interested in were in-depth comparisons of watch A vs. watch B. This is not to say that standalone watch reviews don’t have their merits or place. They certainly provide a lot of useful information and quite good live pictures of new models, providing potential buyers with generally unbiased opinions. The reason I find comparisons more interesting is that if you are curious about a watch, chances are you already might own a similarly priced/specified model from another manufacturer, thus delivering the information on the other watch in a more meaningful context. So I decided to use my admittedly modest knowledge to give you one such comparison, should you care to read it.
Watch Shootout: IWC Ingenieur 40mm 3239 vs. Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 8500 So, why the Aqua Terra? Well, first of all, these watches come from manufacturers with roughly the same pedigree and both are part of a larger group: Richemont for IWC and Swatch for Omega. Second, these watches were both created and are indeed perceived as go-anywhere, do-anything watches, also often referred to as beach-to-boardroom. Third, their MSRPs are in the same ballpark, with the IWC maybe 15% more expensive. Fourth, they are also quite similar in size. The IWC has a 1.5mm smaller measured diameter, but it also has crown guards, which make the wrist presence almost identical. That is except for the thickness, but more on that later. The particular AT in this comparison is the Captain’s Watch. Ideally, it should have been the standard white dial version, but I currently don’t own one of those. I will not, as others do, give grades to the different aspects of these watches as cumulated scores may have some indicative value, but everyone’s weighting of these aspects is different, so even if someone were to agree with my assessments, their final score may be quite different. I will, however, pronounce a winner under each heading, however presumptuous that may sound – for both your benefit and my delight.
* – manufacturer data, own measurements
Honestly, I only included this heading because all comprehensive watch reviews start with the packaging and I didn’t want to short-change you, Dear Reader. I have little to say other than both packages are up to their respective companies’ standards for their cheap(er), non-limited editions. They both serve their purpose in providing ample protection during shipping and offer a measure of presentation while in the home. Imitation leather on cardboard for Omega and synthetic-coated wood for IWC, but IWC’s box is a touch more classy and feels sturdier, although I presume that under heavy stress none would perform significantly better than the other. You get the compulsory booklets and warranty card, but no COSC chronometer certificate. Omega only provides one on request, while IWC’s own quality standards exceed those of the august Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres, hence they have not a single officially certified chronometer and even fewer Officially Certified Superlative Chronometers, whatever “superlative” may mean. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist the temptation.
The point goes to: IWC
CASE AND CROWN
It is safe to say that both watch cases build on their respective companies’ rich history, but that’s almost the only thing they have in common. The Omega case has the company’s exquisitely proportioned signature lyre lugs. The alternating brushed and polished surfaces are well balanced, complement the case just right and the quality of the finish and attention is excellent for this price category and about as good as you can get on a (relatively speaking) mass-produced watch.
The fairly thick sapphire crystal is slightly convex and rounds out the top of the watch in class, offering an undistorted view of the dial at literally any angle. The double-sided anti-reflective coating is top of the class, you have to turn the watch around quite a lot to even see some reflection and under some angles it the makes the crystal disappear altogether. There are also no color hues to it. The see-through case back has a slightly raised flat sapphire crystal, giving a good view of the adequately finished movement. Omega has even labeled the two spring barrels as “BARREL ONE” and “BARREL TWO” hammering home the message. There are three reasons why I generally like see-through case backs. First, they provide some welcome entertainment on those occasions when you find yourself idly waiting without anything to read. Second, I found that the silky smoothness of the crystal is more pleasant to the wrist than almost any metal. Third, on an automatic watch it is the perfect visual aid should you want to explain to the uninitiated what an automatic movement is.
The crown is generously sized, signed with the Omega logo and halfway recessed into the case, acting as a crown guard of sorts. The screwed-in crown is the only other thing in which the two watch cases are almost identical: both are ideally sized, perfectly grooved for grip but without unpleasant edges and both provide equally smooth and crisp operation with just the right amount of tactile feedback. Swiss watch making at its best. The IWC case is a much more Spartan affair, with a clear dominance of brushed surfaces, emphasizing the tool watch nature of the Ingenieur. The crystal here is flat, with an equally good – or maybe a touch better – anti-reflective coating.
The case back is the standard steel issue familiar from previous Ingenieur models. Funnily enough for a line that started life with and became known for being highly anti-magnetic, this is the only model in the new lineup which has that property. The crown guard is a welcome addition as previous models had quite visibly protruding crowns, which made them more vulnerable (although I haven’t seen any anecdotal evidence of this actually causing any problems). The case is notably slimmer (see MEASURABLE DATA) than the Omega: if you’re wearing anything with long sleeves, you’ll always be reminded that you are wearing a watch. In contrast, the Ingenieur has the ability to disappear until the time when you actually want or need to use it. And that is probably the main reason why
The point goes to: IWC