Omega SA / Omega Watches is a Swiss watch manufacturer, currently part of the Swatch Group's Prestige and Luxury division.
Foundation by Louis Brandt
The origins of the brand Omega go back to the Comptoir d´établissage Louis Brandt, which he opens in 1848 at the young age of only 23 years in La Chaux-de-Fonds. With the watches he travels through Europe in order to bring them personally to the appropriate customers. With the entry of his sons Louis-Paul and César Brandt the company name changes to Louis Brandt & Fils.
After the death of their father in 1879, the sons go to Biel, where they acquire a factory building in which they gradually build a modern production. It is the age of mechanization, and inspired by American manufacturing methods they equip the factory with modern machines. They also open up new markets, such as the American.
A separate company is created in 1880, Brandt & Frères, to produce less expensive cylinder escapement watches. These would later be marketed under the brand La Generale and Helvetia, and these trademarks would become the foundation of the General Watch Co. Between 1895 and 1906 the Brandt brothers separated their company and Omega from this lower-priced firm.
Throughout this time Louis Brandt & Fils grew rapidly. By 1889 it had a workforce of 600 employees and produced over 100,000 watches per year.
The brand "Omega"
1894 a new, 19-lignes pocket watch movement is developed. The banker Henri Riekel suggests the brothers to call it "Omega", after the last letter of the Greek alphabet, to represent the final stage of possible perfection ("Alpha to Omega").
The quality of the aforementioned pocket watch also corresponds to the awards it reaps: 1896 it receives the gold medal on the Geneva exhibition, and in the magazine published by the Fédération Horlogère one can read: "The Omega is a remarkable watch. It is certainly worth twice its price. That is the only thing one could complain about."
When both business owners die in 1903 the company is renamed to S.A. Louis Brandt & Frère, Omega Watch Co. and managed by six of their direct descendants. Due to the outstanding technical production equipment, they can not only keep pace in all emerging sectors of watchmaking, but even march ahead: wristwatches, sports watches, military watches, pilot's watches, navy watches, automotive watches, ladies watches and complications.
The year 1930 marks a major milestone not only for Omega, but also for the history of watchmaking, as Omega, at the initiative of Paul Tissot, who is also Managing Director at Omega, merges with the watch company Tissot, forming the S.S.I.H. (Société Suisse pour l'Industrie Horlogère) - a germ of the later Swatch Group.
1932 a well-known ebauche manufacturer, the manufacture Lémania, also enters the consortium. In 1983 follows the partnership with the ASUAG (Allgemeine Swiss Uhrenindustrie AG) (General Swiss Watch Industry Ltd.), to which belong further manufacturers.
In the service of sports timekeeping
The reputation that Omega had gained for its precision watches since 1848, early in the 20th century led the company to enter the world of sports measurement. In 1932 National Olympic Committee in Los Angeles decided for the first time to entrust a single watch manufacture - Omega - to organize and perform the entire Olympic timekeeping. Since then, Omega has been awarded this privilege 21 times, a record among all watch manufacturers.
The four main pillars of the model range
The Omega model range today consists of mainly four collections:
Important and well known watch models
With the Railmaster, presented in 1957, Omega strengthens an already existing strong connection to the railroad world. It is equipped with a special antimagnetic double caseback to protect the movement against the damaging effects of strong electric fields which often happen in this working area.
1969 Omega writes watch history with the model Speedmaster Professional. Now considered as the "Moon Watch", this manual winding chronograph has become a legend. Worn by Neil Armstrong at the first moon landing on 21st July 1969, it had been extensively tested on space qualification by NASA before and till now is the first and only watch on the moon.
Since 1995, Omega also sponsors the James Bond films. So Bond always wears the actual top model of the Seamaster series, and later on there is also a special Bond edition of this watch, launched on the occasion of the film series.
In the De Ville series mostly noble and classically elegant models are available.
The co-axial escapement
Omega causes a sensation in 1999 with the co-axial escapement, an invention of the Englishman George Daniels, which was further developed by Omega to mature for mass production. This escapement differs from the conventional 'free' lever escapement by a significant reduction of friction costs. As a result, the required escapement system needs less or no lubrication and is maintenance-free for a longer period. With the De Ville Co-Axial, a self-winding chronometer, the new technology is introduced for the first time to a larger market. In the following years it is increasingly used in models of the manufacturer.
New manufacture movements
After the movements of the Omega models over decades had been made by ETA (or by the Swatch Group owned ebauche producers Lemania and Frédéric Piguet), Nicolas G. Hayek announced his watchword also to offer in-house produced top-class manufacture movements, as major competitors like Rolex are continually doing. The self-winding chronograph movements of the series 33xx (eg Omega 3313) as well as the new self-winding movements Omega 8500, 8501 and 8601 fulfill this requirement with flying colors and caused a stir among watch connoisseurs, because in addition to the co-axial escapement with free jump-balance they offer further interesting innovations.
- Omega-Uhren. Kaleidoskop einer bekannten Swiss Marke; Author: Anton Kreuzer; ISBN 3853783546
- Omega- Modelle; Author: Anton Kreuzer; ISBN 3853784186
- Omega Sportuhren; ISBN 3871880817
- Das ZEITGEFÜHL-Uhrenbuch; Author: Gerd-Lothar Reschke; ISBN 3-938607-61-0
Rue Stämpfli 96
CH-2500 Bienne 4
Tel +41 32 343 92 11
Fax +41 32 343 93 29
- Omega, official website