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Omega, the pioneer spirit

Omega was founded in 1848 by Louis Brandt in Chaux-de-Fonds in the canton of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. This young businessman’s watches bore the brand name “Louis Brandt”.

The two heirs to the founder, Louis-Paul and César Brandt, tried their hand at industrializing the manufacturing process, an initiative that paid off.

Later, the two directors decided to set up shop in Bienne, in the canton of Bern, a region offering better logistics. A string of successful innovations soon followed, one after the other. The year 1894 saw the launch of the Omega 19 line caliber, which the company was later named after. Thus began the Omega legend.

Innovations, creations, and rewards followed. The boom lasted until 1907, when business slowed somewhat due to a downturn in the watchmaking industry. In 1909, however, Omega was up and running again at full speed, handling the timekeeping for its first major sports event at the Gordon Bennett Cup.

Then, once again, history overwhelmed destinies, with World War One and the labor movements in favor of reduced working time. As always, Omega bounced back, this time joining forces with the Tissot company. The two brands split the market, Tissot specializing in mid-range products and Omega targeting the high-end market. During the World War Two, Omega was the largest supplier of watches to Britain’s Royal Air Force.

At the end of the war, the brand won fame and became increasingly international. In 1969, Omega rose to the absolute pinnacle of its illustrious history: alongside Neil Armstrong and around Buzz Aldrin’s wrist, the Speedmaster was rocketed into space to explore the Moon. The entire world witnessed this incredible event: Man had now walked on the moon, with the Speedmaster, now nicknamed the “Moonwatch” in tow. In the following years, Swiss watchmaking hit hard times, and the brand struggled through a difficult period. In 1983, Omega was incorporated into SMH, today known as the Swatch Group.

“The Hayek Effect” did not take long: in the 1990s, Omega reorganized and rebranded itself, leaving the company free to produce its most beautiful models, a full range of lovely, technically innovative professional timekeepers.

Omega watches

Omega’s history is marked with great successes that still shine today. These icons are known as the Speedmaster, Seamaster, De Ville and Constellation, in other words, the brand’s 4 main lines. The Speedmaster enjoys a global reputation, rocketing to stardom in 1969 when astronaut Buzz Aldrin wore it on the moon. The Speedmaster, now referred to as the “Moonwatch”, was certified by NASA in 1965 for all manned space missions, a testament to Omega’s boldly stated pioneering spirit.

Another conquest stirred passions: exploration of the deep sea. In 1932, Omega launched the first “Marine” watch for divers. Since then, the Seamaster collection has given rise to several legends: the Seamaster Planet Ocean, the Seamaster 300 and the Aqua Terra. The De Ville and Constellation lines are more urban, more elegant watches for the chic. The De Ville Hour Vision, launched in 2007, was the first watch equipped with the Co-Axial Caliber 8500/8501 movement, created in-house by Omega.

Other less famous watches have also played a key role in building Omega’s reputation. One example is the RailMaster, designed for technicians, electricians and all professionals working near high-level electromagnetic fields. 

Sports and the Olympic Games

Omega has a symbiotic relationship with sports, and particularly with the Olympics Games. Omega was honored as the official timekeeper of its first Olympics Games in Los Angeles in 1932. Since then, Omega has chosen to build a close relationship with this one-of-a-kind event, and has handled the official timekeeping at 24 Olympiads. It even received the Olympic Cross in recognition of the outstanding service it has provided to the sports world. This commitment requires highly specific R&D to engineer precision tools that measure athletic performances as accurately as possible.

This alliance also requires maintaining a relationship built on trust and mutual esteem with athletes. Many top competitors, like Michael Phelps, have now become Omega ambassadors. In addition, Omega is particularly committed to athletes in sailing, tennis, swimming, and track & field. In 2012, Omega once again handled timekeeping duties at the London Olympics Games. In order to commemorate this unique event and etch it into our collective memory, Omega has launched a new “London Olympic Games 2012” collection of timekeepers.

Innovation, Omega style

A figurehead of the watchmaking industry, Omega’s technical innovation is never-ending. The brand is recognized for a string of events and inventions that have unquestionably shaped the course of watchmaking history.

First of all, Omega was precursor of industrial manufacture in 1879. The company then launched an incredible number of models and inventions, such as Liquid Metal® technology, the silicon spiral, and finally, the Co-Axial escapement, developed by George Daniels and showcased for the first time in an Omega watch in 2007. This new technology, a veritable revolution in the watchmaking world, addresses pendulum inversion and lubrication issues, some of the oldest and trickiest problems faced by timepiece manufacturers.  

Far from resting on its laurels, Omega looks toward the future. The conquest of the skies is still a hot topic for humankind today. In this aim, Omega designed the Solar Impulse, a prototype of a solar-powered aircraft whose wingspan is the same as that of an A340 Airbus. Even as a prototype, this craft is capable of flying all night long thanks to the energy collected during the day.

Going ever further, growing ever stronger, Omega is today working on designing a Speedmaster to be worn by astronauts during an excursion to Mars in 2030!

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