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In-Depth

THE COMPLETE CALIBRE GUIDE TO OMEGA

The Watches of Switzerland Group 9 Minute Read
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It all began in a small Swiss village in the 1840s, when a 23-year-old watchmaker, named Louis Brandt, opened his first workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds with an aim to produce highly accurate timepieces. Little would he know that this very same workshop would be the founding home for one of the very best luxury watch brands in the entire world. In our Complete Calibre Guide to OMEGA, we take a look at the history and heritage of the brand, the pioneering spirit, and the key collections of OMEGA today.

THE STORY OF OMEGA

Louis Brandt passed his passion for timepieces on to his sons, Louis-Paul and César, who took the reins of the business following their father’s death in 1879. Their first series-produced calibre was a success when it appeared in 1885, and it laid the foundation for them to create the world’s first minute-repeating wristwatch. This miniaturised version of existing pocket-watch movements chimed hours and minutes on demand and was an impressive achievement on its world premiere in 1892.

Created by the Brandts in 1894, the pioneering 19-ligne calibre set a new standard for watch making. Every component of the movement could be replaced, without modification, by any watchmaker in the world. The brothers named the movement after the last letter of the Greek alphabet, to symbolise both ultimate accomplishment and the ‘final word’ in accuracy and reliability. Following the movement’s success, the entire company was renamed OMEGA Watch Co in 1903.

Today, OMEGA continues to innovate and develop highly accurate timepieces, much to the admiration of enthusiasts worldwide.

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THE OFFICIAL TIMEKEEPER FOR GLOBAL SPORTING EVENTS

Come the turn of the century in the 1900s, OMEGA retained its reputation for accuracy and, as early as 1905, it was taking on the role of official timekeeper at sporting events both at home in Switzerland and abroad.

This exposure propelled the brand to gain global recognition for quality, and by the end of 1909 it had enlarged its distribution network to cover all six continents. Then, in 1931, an OMEGA chronometer set precision records in all six of the famously stringent chronometry trials held at the Geneva Observatory, keeping time more accurately in a range of conditions than any watch previously produced.

A year after this historic success, OMEGA became the first watchmaker to take on timing duties for an entire Olympic Games. A lone Swiss watchmaker arrived at the 1932 Los Angeles Games with 30 split-seconds chronographs and was entrusted to time all disciplines across the event’s many sports. Today, serving the Olympics an impressive 30 occasions since 1932, the Swiss brand remains the Official Timekeeper of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and has improved sports timekeeping from 1/10th of a second to 1/1,000th of a second through its pioneering innovations.

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OMEGA AND THE ARTS

Not only a timekeeper for sporting events, but also within the arts: OMEGA is recognised for regularly appearing on the wrist of the world’s favourite secret agent, James Bond. Oscar-winning Bond costume designer Lindy Hemming said: ‘I was convinced that Commander Bond, a naval man, a diver and a discreet gentleman of the world, would wear the Seamaster with the blue dial.’ She cast the watch for Pierce Brosnan’s 007 in 1995’s GoldenEye, and since then, James Bond has worn an OMEGA Seamaster for all of his big-screen outings – most recently in ‘No Time To Die’, which marked the launch of the OMEGA Seamaster Diver 300M 007 Edition.

HOROLOGICAL ADVANCES

Among OMEGA’s many game-changing inventions is the Co-Axial escapement, a design that reduces friction in the movement, resulting in superb long-term chronometric function. Launched in 1999, these chronometers are now achieving levels of accuracy previously unimagined for series-production mechanical watches. Many OMEGA models have proudly worn the prestigious Co-Axial Master Chronometer label on their dials since the Globemaster lead the way back in 2015.

OMEGA has continued to bring key innovations to the industry, never forgetting the original goal of Louis Brandt when he began his watchmaking career: precision. OMEGA Master Chronometer certification is given only to those watches that survive each of eight tests established by METAS, the Federal Institute of Metrology, ranging from the function of movement to average of daily precision and water resistance. The results of all tests, which can only be performed on movements that are already certified by COSC, can be viewed by the watch’s owner via the OMEGA website.

PATENTING THEIR OWN MATERIALS

OMEGA has patented its own materials, two of which were first seen on the market in 2013. Sedna Gold ™ is the brand’s 18-carat rose-gold alloy, created by blending the brilliance of gold with palladium and copper. Named after the planetoid Sedna described as one of the reddest in the Solar System, the metal has a long-lasting lustre and offers a high resistance to the colour fading over time. The brand also spent years perfecting Ceragold™, which involves bonding of 18-carat gold in ceramic. The process includes extreme heating and submersion in a gold electrolytic bath for 48 hours, and the result is a ceramic bezel with a gold diving scale that is completely smooth to the touch.

In 2019, OMEGA patented the ‘Moonshine™’, a gold alloy which offers a paler hue to conventional yellow gold and offers a high resistance to fading. It was first debuted on the Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary timepiece. As recent as 2022, OMEGA continue to set new industry standards the release of Canopus Gold™, an alloy of 18k white gold with platinum, rhodium, and palladium. The luxury brand first introduced the alloy on the Speedmaster Calibre 321.

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Dating back to the 1950s, the OMEGA Constellation collection has become one of the world’s most recognisable watches. The first models were created as a tribute to OMEGA’s many precision accomplishments throughout the early 20th century, including the World Records and competition victories achieved at the observatories at Kew Teddington, Neuchatel and Geneva. Crafted from the finest materials, including stainless steel, rose gold and luxury leather, OMEGA Constellation watches are a true example of superior craftsmanship.

If you're looking for a timepiece that exudes luxury and precision, the latest OMEGA pieces are heaven sent. One of the latest collections is the Constellation. A combination of new materials and a 41mm case brings this iconic and handsome watch bang up to date. I love how the hands and indices have been given a slimline update, taking inspiration from the Manhattan skyline and most notably the triangular facets of the Freedom Tower. Lisa Broun – Senior Luxury Watch Buyer

SEAMASTER

The Seamaster is possibly OMEGA’s most iconic timepiece, and is the longest running collection still in production by the brand. First appearing in 1948, the original design of the Seamaster was loosely based on a line of OMEGA watches that were produced for the British military towards the end of World War II.

The name has become synonymous with professional divers, due to its continual advancements and water-resistance. In fact, some newer models are able to perform perfectly at depths up to 1,200m. Famed explorer Jacques Cousteau was known to favour a Seamaster, with his team, wearing them on some of his most famous undersea expeditions. The Seamaster set a new world record in 2019 for the deepest dive watch, after an experimental OMEGA Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Professional survived a 10,928m journey to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

The style has also become closely associated with James Bond, after Lindy Hemming chose a Seamaster Professional Diver 300M for the character in GoldenEye. Bond has worn a Seamaster ever since.

SPEEDMASTER

The first watch on the moon. A quite remarkable feat, and one that was achieved by the Speedmaster in 1969. Later dubbed the ‘Moonwatch’, the Speedmaster was the only watch to survive NASA’s rigorous tests for the likes of temperature, vibration, and shock during trials for a timekeeper to assist on their space missions. The following year, the timepiece contributed to the safe return of the Apollo 13 astronauts on Earth: a disastrous explosion of an oxygen tank meant that the crew were stranded in space with minimal power. When the craft’s onboard timer failed, the crew used their Speedmasters to time the tricky return procedure. Firing an engine to correctly align the damaged aircraft, the crew successfully timed a 14-second burn, where just a few moments could mean the difference between a successful landing or a failure.

The new ceramic Speedmasters honour a proud past, but there's no doubt that these chronographs are all about the future.

DE VILLE

The De Ville collection is defined by classic and elegant style.

Since it was first released in 1967 the collection has undergone some truly innovative changes, as OMEGA paved the way for modern watchmakers. Indeed, the De Ville was the first ever to be equipped with the Co-Axial escapement, which remains a key feature of its various designs today. Each model boasts supreme value in all its components, from its chronometer to its strap. Whether you select a Tresor, Prestige or Hour Vision Co-Axial watch, you can enjoy a lifetime of dependable time-telling - all while staying chic.

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OUR BUYER’S HIGHLIGHTS

2021 Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional Co-Axial Master Chronometer

Presented on a polished-brushed five-arched-links-per-row bracelet, this 42 mm ‘Moonwatch’ in stainless steel features sapphire crystal glass on the front as well as on the caseback. Inspired by the 4th generation Speedmaster style worn on the moon, it also includes an asymmetrical case, black step dial with applied OMEGA logo and the famous dot over 90 on the anodised aluminium bezel ring.

The watch is driven by the OMEGA Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 3861, which powers the small seconds sub-dial, 30-minute recorder and 12-hour recorder, along with the central chronograph function. Inside this timepiece are the revolutionary components that guarantee the highest standards of performance. From the Co-Axial escapement for long-lasting precision, to the silicon balance spring for superior anti-magnetism, OMEGA has conquered every challenge that matters.

Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M Co-Axial Master Chronometer

The Seamaster Aqua Terra is a superb tribute to OMEGA’s rich maritime heritage. In this compact 38mm model, the symmetrical case has been crafted from stainless steel, with a wave-edged design featured on the caseback.

The sun-brushed dark green dial is distinguished by a date window at 6H and a small seconds subdial featuring an 18K white gold ring. The design is further complemented by rhodium-plated hands filled with white Super-LumiNova, as well as 18K white gold indexes that are shaped like sailboat hulls, with an iridescent mother-of-pearl inlay.

Presented on a polished and brushed bracelet, this timepiece is powered by the OMEGA Co-Axial Master Chronometer calibre 8802, certified at the industry’s highest standard by the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS).

New arrival – the Seamaster Diver 300m Co-Axial Master Chronometer

Launched just last month, the new Seamaster Diver 300m Co-Axial Master Chronometer continues the long line of OMEGA watches fit for diving adventures.

This 42 mm model is crafted from stainless steel and includes a green ceramic bezel with a white enamel diving scale. The dial is also polished green ceramic and features laser-engraved waves and a date window at 6 o'clock. The skeleton hands and raised indexes are rhodium-plated and are filled with white Super-LumiNova, while the helium escape valve has been given a conical design. The watch is presented on an adjustable stainless steel bracelet with extra diver extension, and is driven by the OMEGA Master Chronometer Calibre 8800, which can be seen through the sapphire-crystal on the wave-edged caseback.

Explore everything from OMEGA here at Mappin & Webb.

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