|Privately held company|
|Raynald Aeschlimann, President|
|Parent||The Swatch Group|
Omega SA is a Swiss luxury watchmaker based in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland. Formally operating as the La Generale Watch Co, founded in 1848, later incorporating the name Omega in 1903. Britain's Royal Flying Corps chose Omega watches in 1917 as its official timekeepers for its combat units, as did the American Army in 1918. Omega watches were the choice of NASA and the first watch on the Moon in 1969. Omega has been the official timekeeping device of the Olympic Games since 1932.James Bond has worn it in films since 1995; other famous Omega wearers, past and present, include Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy,Prince William, George Clooney and Buzz Aldrin. Omega is owned by the Swatch Group.
The forerunner of Omega, La Generale Watch Co, was founded at La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland in 1848 by Louis Brandt, who assembled key-wound precision pocket watches from parts supplied by local craftsmen. He sold his watches from Italy to Scandinavia by way of England, his chief market. In 1894, his two sons Louis-Paul and César developed a revolutionary in-house manufacturing and total production control system that allowed component parts to be interchangeable. Watches developed with these techniques were marketed under the Omega brand of La Generale Watch Co. By 1903 the success of the Omega brand led to La Generale Watch Co to spin off the Omega brand as its own company, and the Omega Watch Co was officially founded in 1903.
Louis-Paul and César Brandt both died in 1903, leaving one of Switzerland's largest watch companies -- with 240,000 watches produced annually and employing 800 people -- in the hands of four young people, the oldest of whom, Paul-Emile Brandt, was not yet 24.
Brandt was the great architect and builder of Omega. His influence would be felt over the next half-century. The economic difficulties brought on by the First World War would lead him to work actively from 1925 toward the union of Omega and Tissot, then to their merger in 1930 into the group SSIH, Geneva.
Under Brandt's leadership and Joseph Reiser's from 1955, the SSIH Group continued to grow and multiply, absorbing or creating some fifty companies, including Lanco and Lemania, manufacturer of the most famous Omega chronograph movements. By the 1970s, SSIH had become Switzerland's number one producer of finished watches and number three in the world. Up to this time, the Omega brand outsold Rolex, its main Swiss rival in the luxury watch segment, although Rolex watches sold at a higher price point. Around this time it was viewed as Rolex versus Omega in the competition for the "King of Swiss Watch brands". Omega watches tended to be more revolutionary and more professional focused, while Rolex watches were more 'evolutionary' and famous for their mechanical pieces and brand.
While Omega and Rolex had dominated in the pre-quartz era, this changed in the 1970s. That was when Japanese watch manufacturers such as Seiko and Citizen rose to dominance due to their pioneering of quartz movement. In response, Rolex continued concentrating on its expensive mechanical chronometers where its expertise lay (though it did have some experimentation in quartz), while Omega tried to compete with the Japanese in the quartz watch market with Swiss made quartz movements.
Weakened by the severe monetary crisis and recession of 1975 to 1980, SSIH was bailed out by the banks in 1981. During this period, Seiko expressed interest in acquiring Omega, but nothing came out of the talks.
Switzerland's other watch making giant Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG (ASUAG - supplier of a large range of Swiss movements and watch assemblers) was in economic difficulty. It was the principal manufacturer of Ébauche (unfinished movements) and owner, through their sub-holding company General Watch Co (GWC), of various other Swiss watch brands including Longines, Rado, Certina, Hamilton Watch and Mido.
After drastic financial restructuring, the R&D departments of ASUAG and SSIH merged production operations at the ETA complex in Granges. The two companies completely merged forming ASUAG-SSIH, a holding company, in 1983.
Two years later this holding company was taken over by a group of private investors led by Nicolas Hayek. Renamed SMH, Société de Microélectronique et d'Horlogerie, this new group over the next decade proceeded to become one of the top watch producers in the world. In 1998 it became the Swatch Group, which now manufactures Omega and other brands such as Blancpain, Swatch, and Breguet.
Omega's brand experienced a resurgence with advertisement that focused on product placement strategies, such as in the James Bond 007 films; the character had previously worn a Rolex Submariner but switched to the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M with GoldenEye (1995) and has stayed with the latter ever since until swapping it for the Omega Planet Ocean and Aqua Terra. Omega also adopted many elements of Rolex's business model (i.e. premium pricing, tighter controls of dealer pricing, increasing advertising, etc.) which was successful in increasing Omega's market share and name recognition to become more of a direct competitor to Rolex.
Observatory trials focused on the science of Chronometry and the ability to make chronometers measure time precisely. Only Patek Philippe and Omega participated every year in the trials. Omega's performances at these competitions garnered the company a reputation of precision and innovation.
For more than a decade (1958 - 1969), Omega was the largest manufacturer of COSC chronometers. Omega developed the slogan "Omega - Exact time for life" in 1931 based on historical performance at the Observatory trials. Omega's early prowess in designing and regulating timing movements was made possible by the company's incorporation of new chronometric innovations.
Important reference dates for the Omega precision records:
In 1947, Omega created the first tourbillon wristwatch calibre in the world with the 30I. Twelve of these movements were made, intended for inclusion in the observatory trials in Geneva, Neuchâtel and Kew-Teddington, and they were known as the Omega Observatory Tourbillons. Unlike conventional Tourbillion movement's whose cages rotate once per minute, the 30I's cage rotated one time each seven and a half minutes. In 1949, one of these delivered the best results ever recorded by a wristwatch up to that time. A year later, Omega broke its own record in the Geneva Observatory Trials of 1950.
In 1999, after the successful development of Calibre 2500, Omega made history by introducing the first mass-produced watch incorporating the coaxial escapement -- invented by English watchmaker George Daniels. Considered by many to be one of the more significant horological advances since the invention of the lever escapement, the coaxial escapement functions with virtually no lubrication, thereby eliminating one of the shortcomings of the traditional lever escapement. Through using radial friction instead of sliding friction at the impulse surfaces the coaxial escapement significantly reduces friction, theoretically resulting in longer service intervals and greater accuracy over time.
On January 17, 2013 Omega announced the creation of the world's first movement that is resistant to magnetic fields greater than 1.5 tesla (15,000 gauss), far exceeding the levels of magnetic resistance achieved by any previous movement - a similar movement was used by Daniel Craig as James Bond, though the official collectors watch was labelled as resistant to 15,007 gauss in honor of the fictional secret agent's codename. Most anti-magnetic watches utilize a soft iron - Faraday cage which distributes electromagnetism in such a way that it cancels the effect on the movement contained within. Omega has instead built a movement of non-ferrous materials eliminating the need for such a cage and providing a far greater resistance to magnetic fields.
All subsequent manned NASA missions also used this handwound wristwatch. NASA started selecting the chronograph in the early 1960s. Automatic chronograph wristwatches were not available until 1969. Even so, all the instrument panel clocks and time-keeping mechanisms in the spacecraft on those space missions were Bulova Accutrons with tuning fork movements, because at the time NASA did not know how well a mechanical movement would work in zero gravity.
The Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronograph was the first watch on the Moon, worn by Buzz Aldrin. Although Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong was first to set foot on the moon, he left his 105.012 Speedmaster inside the Lunar Module as a backup because the LM's electronic timer had malfunctioned. Aldrin elected to wear his and so his Speedmaster became the first watch to be worn on the moon. Armstrong's watch is now displayed at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Aldrin's was lost. He mentions in his book, Return to Earth, that when donating several items to the Smithsonian Institution, his Omega was one of the few things that was stolen from his personal effects.
In 2007, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronograph, the Omega company unveiled the commemorative Speedmaster Professional Chronograph Moonwatch. The watch had the distinctive features of the first hand-winding Omega Speedmaster introduced in 1957. It was sold in an edition of 1,957.
Omega sponsors a number of celebrities to wear and advertise their watches including:
In addition, the following have been seen wearing Omega watches:
In the US television series NCIS, lead actor Mark Harmon wears an Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean with supporting cast member Michael Weatherly wearing a matching version. In both cases, this is the stainless steel model with orange bezel and black dial.
Omega has been associated with James Bond movies since 1995. That year, Pierce Brosnan took over the role of James Bond and began wearing the Omega Seamaster Quartz Professional (model 2541.80.00) in the movie GoldenEye. In all later films, Brosnan wore an Omega Seamaster Professional Chronometer (model 2531.80.00). The producers wanted to update the image of the fictional "super-spy" to a more distinctly sophisticated "Euro" look.
Another possible reason for the change from the Rolex Submariner that Bond had previously worn was a change in the business environment surrounding modern films and product placement. Omega was eager to participate in high-profile co-promotions/product placement opportunities, especially the James Bond franchise, to further its brand image/awareness. It accomplished this by supplying products and finance (something that the conservative Rolex company avoids, presumably because it sees no benefit for itself).
For the 40th anniversary of James Bond (2002) a commemorative edition of the watch was made available model 2537.80.00 (10,007 units). The watch is identical to the model 2531.80.00 except the blue watch dial had a 007 logo inscribed across it and also machined into the caseback. The band also had 007 inscribed on the clasp.
Daniel Craig, the current James Bond since Casino Royale, also wears the Omega Seamaster: the Seamaster Planet Ocean (model 2900.50.91) in the first part of Casino Royale, and the Seamaster Professional 300M (model 2220.80.00) in the latter part (from travelling to Montenegro). He even goes so far as to mention Omega by name when questioned by Vesper Lynd. In connection with the launch of the film, Omega released in 2006 an 007-special of the Professional 300M, (model 2226.80.00) featuring the 007-gun logo on the second hand and the rifle pattern on the watch face, this being a stylized representation of the gun barrel sequence of Bond movies.
Omega released a second James Bond limited edition watch in 2006. This was a Seamaster Planet Ocean model with a limited production of 5007 units. The model is similar to what Craig wears earlier on in the film; however, it has a small orange colored 007 logo on the second hand, an engraved caseback signifying the Bond connection, and an engraved 007 on the clasp.
In the 2008 movie Quantum of Solace, Craig wears the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean with a black face and steel bracelet (42mm version). Another limited edition was released featuring the checkered "PPK grip" face with the Quantum of Solace logo over it. The third limited edition release from Omega came in 2012. This model was based on the Planet Ocean Ref: 126.96.36.199.01.004. It featured a textured dial with the 007 logo at the 7 o'clock position, and a 007 decorated rotor visible through the case-back.
In 2015 two commemorative models were produced for the 24th Bond film, Spectre: the Omega Seamaster 300m master co-axial Ref: 188.8.131.52.01.001. 7007 units were produced, and came with a NATO strap as well as the standard bracelet. The watch also featured a bi-directional bezel with a world timing scale rather than a diving scale present on the standard 300m. The second timepiece for the film was the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150m master co-axial Ref: 184.108.40.206.03.004. The watch was decorated with a textured dial based on the Bond family coat of arms, as well as with a rotor resembling a bullet and gun barrel with "James Bond" inscribed.
Omega has frequently been the official timekeeper for the Olympics, beginning with the 1932 Summer Olympics. It was the official timekeeper for the 2006 Winter Olympics, 2008 Summer Olympics, and 2010 Winter Olympics. In 2008, Omega brought out an Olympic edition with its logo on the second hand. Olympic swimmer and multiple gold medalist Michael Phelps is an Omega Ambassador and wears the Seamaster Planet Ocean. Omega is also the official timekeeper for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. In 2014 Omega became the official timekeeper of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. The brand was a Worldwide Olympic Partner at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Providing support to Emirates Team New Zealand and representing the team's official watch, in 2007 Omega introduced the Seamaster NZL-32 chronograph, with the name suggested by the name of the boat that won the America's Cup in 1995. The watch was developed in cooperation with Dean Barker, skipper of Team New Zealand and Omega Ambassador.
On July 1, 2011 Omega became the official timekeeper of PGA of America through the signing of a five-year agreement that was to carry through 2016. The brand also sponsors the Dubai Desert Classic and the Omega European Masters.
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