So I met up for some Korean BBQ and yogurt with my old Omega collecting law school chum and he told me he had the perfect Omega answer to my GS Hi-Beat. Surprisingly, he was right.
The white guy wears the Asian watch. The Asian guy wears the European watch. Diversity is finally realized.
What you see here is my Grand Seiko Hi-Beat on the left and his new Omega Deville Chronometer on the right. He's actually had this watch when we were in law school, but on a leather strap. Complete with bracelet, it's ready to do battle with the GS.
The first thing I noticed in this comparison was the size disparity. In reality, the Omega is 41 mm versus the GS' 40, making them nearly identical. But because the GS uses a rather wide case and large bezel, it looks far smaller. On the wrist, the 41mm Omega looks surprisingly large due to its all-dial design. You'd be forgiven for thinking it was 43mm if you saw it in real life.
In Omega and GS stock photography, the dials look very similar. In real life, they're certainly not opposites, but the differences are obvious.
Omega uses a traditional silver dial, not unlike what you'd find on a Nomos or Glashutte Original. This looks gorgeous and uniform, like virgin snow. Adding some visual interest to the dial is the rim that holds the Roman numerals, which has a slightly different finish.
The GS features a very dynamic finish which changes radically given the lighting. It ranges from dark silver to nearly pure white given the light and what part of the dial you're looking at. The Omega dial is far more static, with a single solid color. They're both really gorgeous, but the GS just seems a little more special to me.
From a design standpoint, they utilize strikingly similar, yet relevantly different, approaches to hands and indices. In traditional GS fashion, numbers of any kind are avoided in favor of relatively spartan, super highly polished steel bars. Omega, conversely, has chosen to go with applied Roman numerals that are also quite brilliantly polished. Normally I don't like numbers on my dial, but I have to say, Omega's applied numerals are really quite impressive in person. If I had to nitpick, I would have avoided using a shortened "III" in front of the date wheel, although I'm not sure how. Personally, I remain a fan of the GS' approach for various aesthetic preferences, but both have done a tremendous job in this area. I do like that the GS uses a border around the date wheel. Using a border helps hide the gap between date wheel and the dial and makes it easier for my eyes to find the date. This is purely my personal preference, but I always felt that date windows without a border appeared like an after thought, as if they decided after the fact to just cut a hole in the dial and be done with it. Fortunately, Omega mitigates that appearance in my opinion as it tapers nicely down instead of being a simple cutout.
This view gives us a good show of the hands contrasting with the dial. This is where I really start to prefer the GS aesthetically. The Omega has gone with simple sticks, although the seconds hand, like the GS, is beautifully blued. The simplicity of the hands, in my opinion, contrasts poorly with the intricate and highly polished Roman numerals. I'm not saying that Omega needed to be daring with their hands, but in terms of shape, these just look like generic hands. Aside from the blue seconds hand, the other hands could have been taken from any watch. The GS, on the other hand, incorporates a more interesting and unique design. The hands look thick and heavy, which give it a very high quality feel. Their broad, flat surfaces show off the mirror polishing, while the edges, as seen in this photo, reflect light or the surroundings that the top of the hands don't, effectively giving the hands an illuminated border. Finally, the hands are extremely pointy at the end, and as they taper, make precise time reading very easy. While I do actually like the blued seconds hand on the Omega (which I remember being bluer in real life than in these photos), I still prefer the GS' option, which is very smooth and rounded, making sure it is reflecting a bright blue at more angles. On a side note, this photo reveals another difference; the Omega uses a double anti-reflective coating whereas the GS uses a coating only on the inside. It's clear here that the GS has more glare. On the other hand, the crystal will be, effectively, much tougher. For my peace of mind, I prefer the Seiko approach, although the Omega's double AR does look better in poor lighting conditions like this. I couldn't notice any difference in direct light.
Both watches feature signed crowns and 100 meter water resistance, but the GS uses a larger, sportier screw down crown. In dress watches like these, I find screw down crowns unnecessary, but if you're the kind of person who might actually take a $7000 watch swimming, then I suppose the GS is the one for you. Both cases are fully brushed on the side, but the method of brushing is very different. As is clear in the photo, the GS uses a much brighter finish and the brushing appears to me to go parallel to the case. The Omega appeared to me to use perpendicular brushing and is far darker in appearance. The owner of the Omega loved the brushed appearance; I was less impressed. But these are matters of taste. What can be said is that Omega did make the nice decision to match the side of the bracelet to the side of the case. The GS, like the Omega's own brethren, rather inconsistently polishes the sides of the links. Furthermore, the longer lugs and slightly larger case help give the impression that the Omega is thinner. Fortunately, both bracelets feature screws instead of friction pins, which makes them much easier to manage. The Omega will require an extremely narrow screwdriver, however; its owner had to actually sharpen (I'm not kidding) his screwdriver in order to adjust the bracelet. In profile, I think the Omega is the nicer looking watch, bracelet and all, although I'm not a fan of the finish Omega has used for the side of the case.
Both feature great bracelets with radically different designs. I did wear both and found them equally comfortable. I think I prefer the more traditional design of the GS' bracelet, yet I appreciate the novelty of the Omega. It's relatively daring, yet not really any more or less attention grabbing. I really like the GS stamp on the Seiko's clasp, but I love the golden Omega engraving more. It's a great touch and is part of Omega's trend of incorporating small amounts of gold across their watch lines, even on steel models like this. It lets the owner know he has something special, yet doesn't broadcast it to the world. Functionally speaking, the clasps operate in their standard company fair--the Omega uses an integrated design and Seiko doesn't. While I think the Seiko's clasp design is ever so slightly more comfortable, I prefer Omega. It looks better and is less likely to fail.
Forgive the scratches on my relatively old GS next to the nearly brand new Omega. I'm not even sure how to refer to the bracelet on the Omega--a 10 piece design? At any rate, the Seiko uses the more traditional 5 piece links. The Seiko is a pain to polish. Cleaning the Omega will be like performing heart surgery. You'll be better off taking the link off and doing each piece separately, as time consuming as that is. They're both winners in my book, although the owner isn't totally thrilled with the bracelet. I think I like it more than he does.
Both feature beautifully decorated movements, but I think the Omega uses a distinctively superior caseback. It's broader, where the Seiko is unnecessarily narrow, which I suspect would be more comfortable given a tighter bracelet. Furthermore, the display caseback just looks better when it's nearly the size of the case. IWC does a great job with this approach, but the Deville here also does a commendable job. Oddly, he tells me that Omega is still not using the SI14 hairspring on the Deville Chronometer model. Apparently this one was made only 6 months ago and does not feature it. This is a surprising holdout. As an aside, this is also a good time to look at those crowns again. The GS is using a more integrated look, with a beefier, sharper coin-edged crown. I actually personally really like this look, although the Omega's crown isn't bad at all.
I am not going to re-litigate a comparison of the 8500 and 9S85 movements. These movements are essentially identical to the ones I tested in my Aqua Terra vs GS HB thread previously, so you can apply the same data here.
And so we must conclude: which is better? Beats me. They're both awesome. I'd be really happy with either. Depending on your aesthetic preferences, you might very well be happier with the Omega, and you'd be justified in that choice. I'd love to own that Omega in the future. For me, however, I'm still happy I went with the GS.