Omega is one of the world’s most recognized and highly-regarded watch brands. It comes from a country that still considers watchmaking a painstaking product of science and a work of art — Switzerland.
The foundations of Omega
“Omega,” of course, is the last letter of the Greek alphabet and represents accomplishment and perfection. These are the very qualities that have been inherent in every Omega watch since the company’s founding by 23-year-old Louis Brandt at La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland in 1848. Brandt assembled a key-wound precision pocket watch whose parts he obtained from local craftsmen. When he produced enough quantity of those pocket watches, Brandt sold them from Italy to Scandinavia via England, which was his main market.
Going to a new direction
Brandt passed away in 1879. His two sons, Louis-Paul and Cesar, were not satisfied with the late deliveries and the increasingly poor craftsmanship of the local craftsmen. So, following their father’s death, they decided to bring it all in-house and began manufacturing everything themselves. This was a huge step from the company’s traditional workbench assembly work that the company had been built upon.
Less than a year later, the company’s manpower increased, and its energy and communications were tremendously developed. Because of this, the enterprise decided to move their operations into a small factory in the city of Biel/Bienne. In 1882, the company grew even further; it relocated to a converted spinning factory in the Gurzelen area of Biel/Bienne. The new operating house also would also become Omega’s headquarters, which is where the company is still situated up to the present.
Some of the earliest products that the company produced include the first-series calibres Labrador and Gurzelen. The company also came with up with the first Omega calibre, which would guarantee the brand’s marketing triumph.
Omega going to greater heights
By the time Louis-Paul and Cesar Brandt both died in 1903, the company had already grown into one of Switzerland’s biggest watch manufacturers. It had an output of 240,000 watches annually and employing 800 workers. One of the handful of people chosen to overtake the operations of the company was Paul-Emile Brandt. Like his grandfather Louis before him, Paul-Emile was also 23 years old at the time he took over the company. But despite his young age, Paul-Emile Brandt took total command of the company. He brought it to even greater heights than what his peers expected of him.
World War I brought financial difficulties to the company, leading Brandt to work actively from 1925 toward the union of Omega and Tissot. This union then led to their merger five years later into one group SSIH (Société Suisse pour l’Industrie Horlogère) in Geneva.
Omega facing and overcoming challenges
Joseph Reiser succeeded Paul-Emile Brandt in 1955. Under Reiser’s administration, SSIH saw exceptional growth, taking over or creating about 50 companies that included Lanco and Lemania.
By the early 1970s, Omega became Switzerland’s largest watches manufacturer, and the third largest in the world. It managed to stay afloat despite emerging competition from the Japanese manufacturers, who introduced quartz movements into their watches. These became really popular throughout that decade and into the 1980s. Omega boldly faced this challenge — unlike fellow Swiss watchmaker Rolex who insisted on making traditional mechanical movements, Omega competed with the Japanese watchmakers with its own line of watches with quartz movements.
The recession during the 1970s led to SSIH getting bailed out by banks. It even came close to be taken over by Japanese watch manufacturer Seiko. Omega merged with another failing watch company ASAUG in 1983 to form a holding company. Two years later, the company was overtaken by private investors and renamed it SMH (Société de Microélectronique et d’Horlogerie). This merger ultimately became The Swatch Group, now Omega’s parent company. Over the course of the decade The Swatch Group grew exponentially and more importantly, brought Switzerland back into its position as the top watchmaker in the world.
A rock-solid reputation
Over the years, Omega has cultivated a reputation for accuracy and reliability. That reputation led the company to be adopted as the trusted brand of the Royal Flying Corps in the United Kingdom, as well as the US Army.
Omega has been the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games since 1932. Omega has also dislodged Rolex as the preferred watch brand of the world’s famous fictional spy, James Bond. Actors who played James Bond have been seen wearing an Omega watch in every Bond film since Goldeneye. Daniel Craig even mentioned Omega in Casino Royale, and you could say that was instant product placement.
In 1969, NASA chose Omega as their timekeeping choice, leading the brand to become the first watch on the moon — and that’s one of the biggest honors that Omega takes prides in. Several famous people of the past and present — including John F. Kennedy, Prince William, and Buzz Aldrin, to name a few — have worn Omega watches.
In more recent years, Omega has continued to build on its centuries-long reputation for precision, accuracy, reliability and innovation. The company owes a considerable part of its excellence to the quality of movement in its watches. The Omega watches are considered to be excellent and magnificent. They are considered highly deserving and special to be in any avid watch collector’s esteemed showcases.
A Few Facts about Omega
- The Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronograph is the first watch to travel to the moon and back.
- The two most recent actors to play James Bond, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig, both wore Omega watches in recent James Bond movies.
- A special Omega watch was released for the 40th anniversary of James Bond films.
- The Omega Ladymatic became the first self-winding watch for ladies in 1955.
- In 1970, the Omega Speedmaster was awarded the “Snoopy Award” for its part in saving the Apollo 13 mission.
- Omega launched the first Chrono-Quartz watch, which featured both analogue and LCD displays, in 1976.
- Apart from having gone to outer space, Omega’s watches have also sailed every ocean and have even delved into the deep waters. Its “Seamaster” line of watches was first launched in 1948 as a celebration of the company’s 100th anniversary. The design of these watches were inspired by the watches that the company had already created for the British navy and military men and women. Not only they’ve been worn by those who are into service, the Seamaster watches have also been donned by explorers as well as professional and amateur divers.