The History of Omega Watches
Updated: Apr 18, 2020
An immortal member of the Academie Francaise describes Omega as "the ultimate letter of the alphabet spelt by human genius in the search for mechanical perfection."
Today, the Omega brand is known to 7 out of 10 people in the world. So, how has this legendary watchmaking company become a household name?
Starting in 1894
The company began as the Louis Brandt & Fils general partnership (founded in 1894). It eventually adopted the name of its influential 19 line caliber, called the "Omega". In 1903, the company was renamed Omega.
Omega took a daring step of introducing fully interchangeable components with mechanisation processes based on the Ingold systems employed in the United States. It became so successful that it could no longer satisfy demand; it produced around 100,000 items each year.
In 1900, their watches were equipped with ultra-precise chronometric adjustments and eventually won recognition at the Paris Universal exhibition.
In 1909, Omega handled the timing of the great Gordon Bennett Cup balloon race in Zurich. The firm then continued to build its reputation at other competitions, officially timing every event at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games (and all the Olympic Games that followed until today).
In 1952, Omega continued to carve its name into watchmaking history, as it was awarded the Olympic Cross of Merit at the Helsinki Olympic Games, for "outstanding service to the world of sport".
Marketing has always been one of Omega's strong points. Simple slogans like "Omega: The Right Time for Life", pulled on the public's heartstrings, further strengthening the brand.
However, the brand's greatest achievement, both in terms marketing and in horological significance, was its selection by NASA to supply watches for the upcoming space missions in the 1960s. The Omega chronograph, unveiled in 1957, made its first space flight on October 3rd 1962, worn by Walter Shirra on board Sigma 7 (today known as the Omega Speedmaster - First Omega in Space). He also took part in the 1965 Gemini program.
The watch passed every test, so it was then selected to accompany astronauts on the Apollo space missions. An updated version of the First Watch in Space, the Omega Speedmaster Professional was the first mechanical timepiece to land on the moon on July 21st, 1969. It was worn by Buzz Aldrin (not Neil Armstrong as he left his in the Lunar Module for safety reasons). Today, it is simply known as the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch.
It is the only piece of NASA equipment on sale to the public, largely unchanged since 1968. The current manual wind caliber, the 1861, has a direct lineage to the caliber 321 found in the original Speedmasters. It will therefore continue to be a collectors piece, and a desirable one at that. However today, the watch comes in many different flavours, such as the recent limited edition Omega Speedmaster Professional 50th Anniversary.
In the present day, Omega has also worked with English watchmaker George Daniels, to develop the Seamaster Planet Ocean Co-Axial 600m, worn in Daniel Craig's James Bond movies. In particular, their collaboration involves a unique type of escapement mechanism (a mechanism that translates rotational energy into lateral impulses).
Why not hire the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch? It is in our collection for hire, so why not see if it is the right watch for you? Or perhaps you just want to hire one for a special occasion?
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