History of the Watch
Omega Seamaster De Ville, an early "waterproof" watch, with automatic movement and date, in 14k gold
The forerunner of Omega was founded at La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland in 1848 by 23-year-old 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. After Louis Brandt's death in 1879, his two sons Louis-Paul and César, troubled by irregular deliveries of questionable quality, abandoned the unsatisfactory assembly workshop system in favour of in-house manufacturing and total production control. Due to the greater supply of manpower, communications and energy in Biel, the enterprise moved into a small factory in January 1880, then bought the entire building in December. Two years later the company moved into a converted spinning-factory in the Gurzelen district of Biel, where headquarters are still situated today. Their first series-produced calibres, Labrador and Gurzelen, as well as the famous Omega calibre of 1894, would ensure the brand's marketing success.
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 within the group SSIH, Geneva. Under his leadership, and from 1955 that of Joseph Reiser, the SSIH Group continued to grow and multiply, absorbing or creating some fifty companies. By the seventies, SSIH had become Switzerland's number one producer of finished watches and number three in the world.
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 watchmaking giant Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG (ASUAG), principal manufacturer of ébauches (unfinished movements produced for a range of other Swiss watch assemblers) and owner of the Longines and Rado watch brands, was similarly saved a year later. After drastic financial cleansing and a restructuring of the two groups' R&D and production operations at the ETA complex in Granges, the two giants merged in 1983 to form the Holding ASUAG-SSIH. In 1985 the holding company was taken over by a group of private investors under the strategy and leadership of Nicolas Hayek. Immediately renamed SMH, Société suisse de Microélectronique et d'Horlogerie, the new group achieved rapid growth and success to become today's top watch producer in the world. Named Swatch Group in 1998, it now includes Blancpain and Breguet. Omega remains one of its most prestigious brands.
Movements and the co-axial escapement
In 1999, with the help of Calibre 2500, Omega made history by introducing the first mass-produced watch incorporating the co-axial 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 co-axial 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 co-axial escapement significantly reduces friction, theoretically resulting in longer service intervals and greater accuracy over time.
On January 24, 2007 Omega unveiled its new Calibres 8500 and 8501, two co-axial (25,200 bph) movements created exclusively from inception by Omega.
Omega watches in space exploration
The Omega Speedmaster
, the iconic Moonwatch, selected by NASA for all the Apollo missions
The selection of the Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronograph as the official watch worn by American astronauts was the subject of a famous space-race era rivalry between Omega and Bulova.
All subsequent manned NASA missions also used this handwound wristwatch. NASA started selecting the chronograph in the early 60s and automatic chronograph wristwatches were not available until 1969.
However 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.
First watch on the moon
The Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronograph was the first watch on the Moon, worn by "Buzz" Aldrin. This watch is now believed lost. Aldrin 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 a limited edition of 5,957.
. Sponsorship, product placement, advertising, and sport
The Omega Seamaster, a deep diving watch. The second crown (at 10 o'clock) is a helium release valve to allow helium out of the watch after diving at great depth. The watch is similar to that shown in recent James Bond films, in which this valve is transformed into improbable hidden gadgets.
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 high-profile 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).
Pierce Brosnan wore the Seamaster 300M Professional Chronometer in each of his Bond movies except in GoldenEye in which he wore the quartz Seamaster 300M Professional, model: 2541.80.00 .
For the 40th anniversary of James Bond (2002) a commemorative edition of the watch was made available (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 of Casino Royale, and Quantum of Solace also wears the Omega Seamaster: the Seamaster Planet Ocean (model 2900.50.91) in the first part Casino Royale, and in the latter part (from travelling to Montenegro,) and even goes so far as to mention Omega by name in the film when questioned by Vesper Lynd. In connection with the launch of the film, Omega released an 007-special of the Professional 300M, featuring the 007-gun logo on the second hand and the rifle pattern on the watch face, this being a stylized representation of the gunbarrel 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 newest movie, Quantum of Solace, Craig wears the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean with a black face and steel braclet (42 mm version). Another limited edition was released featuring the checkered "PPK grip" face with the Quantum of Solace logo over it.
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 and for the 2008 Summer Olympics, and will do the same for the 2010 Winter Olympics. For the 2008 Olympics, Omega bought 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.
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.
Omega also sponsored a number of golf tournaments.
The Seamaster Planet Ocean 600 M diving watch is currently Omega's newest version of the Seamaster Series.