Review: Omega Seamaster Bullhead Rio 2016

The Seamaster Bullhead Rio 2016 that you see here is part of Omega’s long running Olympics collection. We first heard whispers about it after Baselworld 2015, and Omega officially announced it a couple of months after the world’s largest watch show. This watch, reference 522.12.43.50.04.001, is limited to just 316 pieces, and we recently had the opportunity to spend some quality time with it.

The Bullhead rides again, this time as part of Omega's Olympic collection.

The Bullhead rides again, this time as part of Omega’s Olympic collection.

Omega is a dynamic brand, and it has been running a rather solid balancing act in the last few years. Thanks to consistent research, the Biel-based watch company has achieved in-house movements, ceramic cases (matched with ceramic pin/buckles), silicon balance springs, and anti-magnetic movements that can withstand up to 15,000 Gauss of magnetism.

In contrast to these high tech innovations, Omega has also remained true to its heritage (and perhaps its hoards of fans) by leaving watches such as its iconic Speedmaster Professional alone. The company isn’t shy about paying tribute to iconic timepieces from years gone by either. Case in point, the watch you’re reading about here was inspired by a watch that originally hit markets back in 1969. In fact this isn’t the first time Omega has released a reissue of the Bullhead, the company released three different references (each limited to 669 pieces) back in 2013.

The original Bullhead is highly sought after, with well looked after examples that include box and papers fetching upwards of US $12,000.

The original Bullhead is highly sought after, with well looked after examples that include box and papers fetching upwards of US $12,000.

As with other limited edition timepieces in Omega’s collection, the limitation number is of significance. In this case ‘16’ signifies the year of the Rio games, while ‘3’ stands for the number of times golf has been included in the Olympic Games. Beyond the limitation number, there are a number of connections to the forthcoming games.

The leather strap is a beautiful shade of blue, while the contrast stitching on the strap, numbers on the inner bezel, color of the main chronograph hand, and chronograph minute counter hand (top sub dial), use colors that can be seen on the Olympic rings. The bright colors combine well with the already distinctive design of the case, crown and pushers.

The case features different types of polishing - high, matte and the sapphire crystal is surrounded by a polish finish that resembles the pattern you'd see on sunburst dials.

The case features different types of polishing – high, matte and the sapphire crystal is surrounded by a polish finish that resembles the pattern you’d see on sunburst dials.

Whenever we were out and about with the Bullhead Rio, we were approached by a myriad of people who were curious about the eye-catching “thing” strapped to our wrist. Even when we walked into other watch boutiques, this timepiece stole more than a few glances, with a curious few inquiring what it was, and if they could have a closer look.

The Bullhead Rio sports a two register dial layout, and it’s as clean as they come. A quick glance is all you need to tell the time, and the same can be said of the date window, which sits at the 3 o’clock position. In our book, this timepiece is one of the best-looking summer watches we’ve come across in recent times.

Besides the presentation of the dial, caseback, bezel and strap, the Bullhead Rio is identical to its predecessors from 2013 and, as you’d expect, sufficiently different from the 1969 original. The 43mm case retains the wonderfully angular and muscular traits of the original but has grown in size and sits high on the wrist. If you wear long sleeve shirts it’s quite likely you’ll have to fiddle around to get this attention-getting timepiece neatly under your cuff.

On our wrist, the watch didn’t appear too big or too small but if you’ve got smaller wrists, the Bullhead Rio may appear to be wearing you. The crown at the 12 o’clock position must be unscrewed before you gain access to its functionality – one pull allows you to quick set the date, while the second position allows you to set the time. The design of the chunky pushers fit the profile of the case well – we preferred them to the smaller pump pushers on the 1969 watch. That said, the older pushers completed the ‘head-of-the-bull’ look of the original watch, and is what drove fans to nickname it the Bullhead.

The second crown, at the 6 o’clock position, can be used for manipulating the bi-directional inner bezel, which features five-minute markings that divers can use to time dives. This isn’t quite a dive watch however – more on this later in the review.

Both crowns are beautifully finished and are easy to grip.

Both crowns are beautifully finished and are easy to grip.

Thanks to its substantial case, this is a watch that you’ll feel on your wrist. We recommend trying it on to see if you can get a solid but comfortable fit, so it doesn’t move around on your wrist like a stray wrecking ball. You won’t have to worry too much about a snug fit chocking out your skin however, because that blue racing-style strap is perforated and allows your skin to breath. We had the watch on for hours without any feeling of discomfort.

As great as this strap is, we don’t think it’s the best for this timepiece. The Bullhead is very obviously a sporty chronograph, and as it is rated to be water resistant to 150 metres, a leather strap seems a bit out of place. While we are sure it will shrug of the heat and humidity of Middle Eastern summers, we don’t think it will fair quite as well with being subjected to water on a frequent basis, whether that’s when you’re having a shower or if you fancy a swim. We would have loved to have seen Omega use a rubber strap in the same shade.

Its a Seamaster but we'd avoid submerging this beautiful piece.

Its a Seamaster but we’d avoid submerging this beautiful piece.

Speaking of water, we’d also advise against exposing this Seamaster to complete submersion because while the 12 o’clock crown boasts a screw-in design, the rectangular chronograph pushers are standard push buttons. We’re fairly pedantic about watches and won’t submerge any watch that doesn’t have a full-fledge screw-in system or other apparent water resistance features on its crown and pushers.

Sitting inside the stainless steel case is Omega’s 3313 co-axial column-wheel chronograph movement. It offers 52 hours of power reserve when full wound, and is the same automatic calibre that appeared in the three Bullhead references we mentioned earlier. This is where the Rio Bullhead and its recent predecessors really differ from the original Bullhead, because the rare and collectible original was powered by the manual-winding calibre 930 movement.

The crown and pushers perfectly suit the design of the case. We prefer these to the smaller pump pushers of the original.

The crown and pushers perfectly suit the design of the case. We prefer these to the smaller pump pushers of the original.

The calibre 3313 has appeared in a number of Omega’s timepieces in recent years, and recent versions have proven to be reliable workhorses. Since the limited edition Rio 2016 Bullhead features a solid steel caseback, the movement cannot be observed here but when we’ve sampled it on other Omegas (such as a few of the Broad Arrow references), it was finished reasonably well, boasting Geneva stripes.

On the whole, the Bullhead Rio is a bright and charming timepiece that saw our fondness for it grow, each time we put it on our wrist. While the novelty value of the Bullhead Rio isn’t as high as when Omega first released the three reissues back in 2013, this is still an attractive and desirable watch that we’d love to add to our personal collection. From an exclusivity standpoint, since only 316 pieces of this specific reference are being produced, it’s unlikely you’re going to see one on someone else’s wrist when you’re out and about.

No exhibition case back here but that's perfect because we think sapphire would look out of place on this timepiece. (Did you notice the red dot? We heard rumors Omega was going to stop using these to identify whether the watch case was opened.)

No exhibition case back here but that’s perfect because we think sapphire would look out of place on this timepiece. (Did you notice the red dot? We heard rumors Omega was going to stop using these to identify whether the watch case was opened.)

The Bullhead Rio 2016 retails for AED 33,800 (US $9,209). As only 316 of these watches are being produced, don’t expect to find them in every Omega or Rivoli boutique in the Middle East. We last saw one in Omega’s Dubai Mall boutique.

We first wrote about this bright and colorful watch a little over a month ago, and compared it with its less expensive Rio 2016 counterpart. We also talked about the original Bullhead in greater detail. If you want to read that piece, click here.

To learn more about Omega, click here.

Our thanks to Dean at BPG Cohn & Wolfe, and the Rivoli team for providing HME with the Bullhead Rio for review.

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