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12/05/2023
 5 minutes

The Love We Share: Sea of (Motherly) Love

By Sharmila Bertin
TLWS-Sharmila-Bertin-2-1

Our whole life, from birth to death, is interspersed with “firsts.” We keep them stored away in what I like to call our treasure chest, aka our memory. Some are more delectable and powerful than others. They are imbued with a touch of magic and hold a special emotion – that same feeling we get when a new day dawns, and we know, from the very moment the sun rises, that nothing will ever be the same again. One evening, I fell asleep pregnant and the next morning, I was a mother. My first pregnancy, my first child. I remember it like it was yesterday: the moment the midwife handed me this little human being, born of my flesh, wrapped in a pink blanket, with wide eyes staring up at me curiously and kindly. The first time I held my little girl in my arms, the first time she uttered this new word “mummy” that I’ve now been called for 18 years, the first time she took a step on her own, then two, then three, the first time she grasped hold of my watch with her chubby little fingers…

How It All Began

My watch, my very first watch, and my first brand love: Omega. It was there, in Bienne, Switzerland, “the center of the world” as the locals call it with delightfully ironic humor, that it all began. I worked in international sales, so my wrist had the opportunity to flaunt a host of different timepieces, including “work” watches (lent to us as salespeople to represent the brand), prototypes, and new pieces to present to customers. There’s one that never left my wrist during my three years at Omega and that I loved to bits: a Speedmaster Broad Arrow.

But one day, when I was hanging around on the floor where the products were made, a watchmaker invited me to test a movement – the first generation with a co-axial escapement, if I remember correctly – integrated into a Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M. I didn’t really listen to what he was telling me, because I was completely under the spell of this timepiece with its classical, almost vintage look. It was the first time that our paths had crossed. Up until that day, I’d only ever sold other members of the Seamaster family, like the Diver 300M or more recent Planet Ocean, but never any Aqua Terras.

Love at first sight: the Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M. © Mickael Gautier
Love at first sight: the Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M. © Mickael Gautier

Statement on a Ladies’ Wrist

It was love at first sight, like nothing I’d ever felt before. The watch was enormous on my barely 14-cm wrist with its 42-mm diameter, its bracelet with large steel links, its pared-down silvered dial with a dash of gold, and fine, fixed bezel, which only emphasized its enormity even more. And yet, I drowned in happiness a thousand times over. It exploded like summer sun against my skin.

The watch didn’t go unnoticed, and I received a few sexist remarks outside the walls of Omega: “Looks like you borrowed your father’s watch!” “Can’t you see it’s too big for you? The lugs are over-the-top….” “I think you should wear a smaller, more feminine one,” blah, blah, blah.

Today, women are a bit more represented, listened to, and respected in the watchmaking world (we’ve still got a long way to go), but this wasn’t the case in 2005. Back then, women were synonymous with mother-of-pearl dials, diamond bezels, and quartz movements. While that’s still the case today, it’s much less so. Wearing the Aqua Terra on my wrist was much more than a statement of my feminist values, it reflected my personality.

Passing on the Fascination

My daughter has been surrounded by watchmaking since her days in the cradle, and even before that, in my womb – in Basel for the fair, at Omega in Bienne… Babies are captivated by twirling mobiles and bright-colored toys, but my tiny girl was captivated by my watches. I’d place them in her hands so she could look them over front and back, weigh them up, let out little high-pitched sounds to show her joy, and then I’d take them away when she fancied chewing on them.

There was one watch in my collection that appealed to her more than the others: the Aqua Terra. It was big, dazzling, and lightweight (not as light as a baby rattle, but lighter than a Speedmaster). It was often on my wrist – during the week, at weekends, on holidays. In all our family photos with my daughter in my arms, there’s an Omega present. More often than not, it’s this Seamaster. The watch is part of my history and my child’s history. One has since grown a lot, and the other has aged, yet without becoming outdated.

It's part of her and her child's history. © Mickael Gautier
It’s part of her and her child’s history. © Mickael Gautier

Aqua and Terra. Water and earth. When the sea and the mother meet. I’ve always said that when the time comes, I want to be buried with my Aqua Terra on my wrist. Perhaps it’s a bit sordid, but I can’t see myself traveling through the great otherworld, if there’s life after life, without it by my side to reassure me. And you know what, when my little girl was 6, she said to me that this watch was the object that best represented me to her. She said she always saw me with it and that she hoped to be able to wear it when I’m no longer part of this world – that moved me.

Reconnecting With the Original

I repurchased my “work” watch before the model was taken out of the collection and replaced. But honestly, even though the various upgrades with the teak pattern were beautiful, none of them pleased me as much as my own. Then this year came around, and I felt as if I’d been reconnected with my “original” Aqua Terra via the series of 38-mm watches. There was no sailor-shirt-style crossing the dial this time, but rather the sunburst that I love so much, and in colors that boost my body and soul: gray-blue, silvery-champagne, soft green, orangey-red, and – my favorite – coppery-auburn.

Re-purchased and reconnected. © Mickael Gautier
Re-purchased and reconnected. © Mickael Gautier

This is the same hue of saffron as the sand on my childhood beach and the moon as it rises above the Mediterranean. Its size fits my wrist perfectly, its bracelet is extraordinarily comfortable, and its face – thanks to the automatic 8800 caliber – displays what I call the “essential time data,” i.e., hours, minutes, seconds, and the date.

Ah, I smile. I touch my Aqua Terra gently. The future is assured, for me and for it.


About the Author

Sharmila Bertin

When I moved to Switzerland and started working at Omega HQ almost 20 years ago, I was told early on that once you enter the world of watchmaking, you never leave it. It's totally true.

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