Omega, The Alpha
In 1894, Paul Emile Brandt, son of Louis Brandt founder of La Generale Watch Co.) and his brother Cesar tweaked their father’s watchmaking technique. Their revolutionary in-house manufacturing and production control system — a system that allowed component parts to be interchangeable — led to the inception of Omega as an imprint under La General Watch Co. By 1903, their imprint had become a self-sufficient company and Omega had been born.
Maintaining a reputation as the worlds most precise and innovative watch manufacturer meant a steady presence in the Geneva Observatory Trials. These trials were the proving grounds for watchmakers at a time before quartz and GPS. The trials focused on a chronometer’s ability to measure time precisely.
Omega saw much success and praise from these trials as the company’s 1931 victory in all six applicable categories solidified Omega as the world’s most precise timepiece. This notoriety caught the attention of a very promising organization.
In 1932 the International Olympic Committee appointed Omega as the official timekeeper for the Los Angeles Olympics. This was the first time in Olympic history that one brand had been given the responsibility to time all events. Timekeepers previously used their own pocket watches, causing conflict when participants would tie in a race. Omega provided 30 high-precision chronographs capable of measuring 1/10th of a second (first time in history) all of which had been certified as chronometers by the Observatory at Neuchâtel as well as the National Physics Laboratory in the United States.
Abraham Louis Breguet, an 18th century horologist, invented the Tourbillon in 1801. The Tourbillon effectively negated adverse effects of gravity on the escapements of the day by placing the mechanism within a rotating cage, thus reducing positional error. In 1947, Omega created the caliber 30I, the first Tourbillon wristwatch caliber in the world. Unlike its predecessors, which rotated every minute, the 30I’s cage rotated one time, every seven and a half minutes leading to more precise timekeeping.
Further, at the end of the Mercury program, NASA astronauts searched for watches to be used during training and flight. NASA hired a group of engineers to evaluate a range of watches provided by Omega, Rolex, and Longines-Wittnauer. The evaluations were designed to test watches to destruction. Omega secured the win and the Speedmaster reference ST105.003 was deemed “Flight Qualified for all Manned Space Missions”. On July 21, 1969, Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the Moon’s surface, wearing his watch, and the Omega Speedmaster Professional became the first watch to be worn on the moon.
These early successes allowed Omega to grow into the Swiss nation’s leading producer of finished watches in the 1970s. Known for their revolutionary and professional pieces, Omega rivaled Rolex as the “King of Swiss watch brands.”
When renowned English watchmaker George Daniels developed his now-famous co-axial escapement, Omega would make history again by introducing the first mass-produced watch that incorporated co-axial escapement. In 2007, Omega would outdo itself again by unveiling calibers 8500 and 8501, two co-axial movements providing even lower friction, upgraded mechanical efficiency, and a more accurate timekeeping performance.
2013 saw the creation of the world’s first watch movement resistant to magnetic fields greater than 1.5 tesla (15,000 gauss), far exceeding any numbers produced by its predecessors. A watch with this same movement, the Omega Seamaster Planet Oceans, was used by none other than Daniel Craig, aka James Bond. Omega and the British spy took their 22-year relationship to the next level in recent years, coming together to collaborate on commemorative watches that celebrate the history of James Bond while looking to the future of style (and espionage chic).