Somewhat lost behind the star-studded advertising campaigns of Omega over the past decade or so, is the slumbering essence of this brand – that of a dedicated watch Manufacture who ranks among the uppermost echelon in terms of innovation, quality, and prestige. Its good to be able to say with confidence that the real substance of this brand will soon be at the forefront once again.
If we look back into the late 19th century, we see a company who made minute repeaters and other exceptionally fine high grade pocket watches. In the 20th century, Omega produced movements of its own design which became legendary for their extraordinary precision – these calibers were also produced in large series, disproving the notion that quality and quantity were mutually exclusive. Along with Patek Philippe and Rolex, Omega was a dominant force at the prestigious chronometer competitions – a true “Golden Age” for mechanical watches, in which great watch brands brought forth their best efforts to further the development of superior movements. Although these competitions ended with the advent of quartz technology, students of watchmaking history justifiably find this period of time fascinating, and Omega was one of the key players.
Omega wrote history as an important maker of sports watches which were among the most famous of their time, including the Seamaster and the Speedmaster lines. The latter, of course, would become adopted by NASA, becoming “the watch worn on the moon”, as well as earn further stripes for its role in the triumphant reversal of impending disaster in the Apollo 13 mission of 1970. Omega’s renown for precision also made them the official timekeeper of numerous Olympic games, an honor which continues to the present day.
Despite these laurels, Omega – like the rest of the Swiss watch industry – hit difficult times in the 1970’s. As the sales of quartz watches annihilated mechanical ones, Omega’s production overwhelmingly shifted to quartz, a strategy which continued throughout the 1980’s. However, when the public appetite for “ticking watches” started to slowly breathe again in the 1990’s, Omega correspondingly shifted their focus, and iconic and popular lines were revived and increasingly outfitted with mechanical movements. The 1999 introduction of the innovative George Daniels’ Co-Axial escapement was another major step, and a significant flex of long dormant Omega muscle.
Now, Omega is ready to kick things into an entirely different gear. Omega’s president, Stephen Urquhart intends to reestablish Omega as a true prestige player. The watch which will light the way is the new DeVille HourVision. I’m really excited by the impetus behind this watch, and am greatly looking forward to seeing one up close and personal. Putting into use the Co-Axial technology which it incorporated in their ETA-based calibers, Omega’s 8500 caliber is entirely new, and proprietary to the brand.
Simultaneously robust in construction, and lavish in decorative details, the 8500 is designed to summarize the chief virtues which have distinguished Omega’s movements from the past, particularly in regard to timekeeping performance, longevity, and ease of service. The Omega Deville Hourvision watches look beautiful too, with their unique sapphire crystal inner cases (which allow some very cool views of the movement), fine dialwork, and truly intricate bracelets. Bravo Omega!
Its satisfying to see that a rich legacy can provide inspiration for a significant rebirth. There can be little doubt that this is but the first step in an exciting period of horological renewal for one of the world’s most important watch brands.