Omega, the watchmaker that has officially timed the Olympic Games twenty-eight times, is currently timing its twenty-ninth at the summer games in Tokyo. And in case you missed it, Omega announced that in addition to three steel-cased ‘Tokyo 2020’ debuts it announced earlier, its final two ‘Tokyo 2020’ models are two gold-cased Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M watches.
These are the fourth and fifth official Omega ‘Tokyo 2020’ Olympic watches.
Echoing the top medal the Olympic athletes strive to take home, Omega’s fourth and fifth official ‘Tokyo 2020’ watches are cased in gold.
Omega offers the new Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M watches in 38mm or 41mm gold cases, both with blue leather straps. To underscore their Olympic designation, the watches have been laser-engraved with a pattern inspired by the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games emblem. The emblem is also visible on the back of each watch printed on clear sapphire.
Inside the new Seamaster Aqua Terra watches Omega fits its superb Co-Axial Master Chronometer Cal. 8801 (inside the 38mm model) and Cal. 8901 (inside the 41mm model.)
International Watch recently spoke with Omega CEO Raynald Aeschlimann, a watch industry veteran who first joined Omega in 1996 and who has led the watchmaking giant as CEO since 2016. He discussed Omega’s focus on innovation and precision, especially regarding the Master Chronometer certification process. In addition, we learn more about Omega’s celebrity sponsorships as well as its development of pre-owned Omega sales.
Read the full interview below.
By Vasken Chokarian
iW Magazine: Having been at Omega for more than two decades, how do you see your brand’s evolution to date?
Raynald Aeschlimann: When I first joined Omega in 1996, the brand was beginning to really make some important moves. It was around that time that we signed our first ambassador, Cindy Crawford, as well as forming new partnerships such as James Bond and Team New Zealand. It was a really critical era for growing our brand around the world.
Since then, I have been a part of so many fantastic changes and evolutions within the company. Especially in terms of Master Chronometer precision and the development of new materials and digital sales, we are constantly seeking to improve and lead the industry. I am very proud of the company we are today.
Omega invested quite heavily on in-house movement production and creativity. How important is that for the future direction of the product development and the Omega philosophy?
Precision has always been at the heart of Omega. It has always been our ambition to research, innovative and invest in better accuracy. To me, it shows the customer how much we care.It proves that we give everything possible to improve even the smallest margins of quality. For that reason, exceptional movements are a symbol of Omega’s identity and we will continue to maintain that philosophy into the future.
Tell us about the essence of the Master Chronometer certification at Omega.
To gain a chronometer rating, most watches in the Swiss industry are certified once by COSC (The Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute). They have specific criteria that a watch must pass. At Omega, we believed that our standards of precision, performance and magnetic resistance were even better than the COSC criteria.
To prove it, we developed “Master Chronometer” certification with the help of METAS (The Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology). Today, after passing the COSC tests, our Omega watches also face an additional eight METAS tests, which are much more stringent and with even finer criteria.
For the customer, this adds trust and confidence. They can buy an Omega Master Chronometer knowing that it has been double certified and proven at the very highest level of excellence.
After twenty-two years of the Co-Axial, what have you learned from both a technical and consumer perspective about this movement?
From a technical perspective, Co-Axial has been a massive success. It has showed that Omega is able to revolutionize the watch movement, not only in terms of quality, but also doing it on an industrial scale. That was the challenge that other brands couldn’t overcome. For our customers, it’s yet another improvement on quality.
The Co-Axial system produces less friction, and therefore less wear, so you don’t need to have the watch serviced as often. But it has also been the gateway to achieving more movement innovation, such as the silicon balance spring and other non-magnetic materials. All of these improvements are the main reason that our Omega watches are given a full and impressive five-year warranty.
There seems to be a migration of brands to the sustainable and/or carbon neutral approach. How will Omega engage if at all on these causes?
The environment is an important consideration for our brand. In recent years, we’ve partnered with organizations such as the GoodPlanet Foundation and NEKTON to raise awareness about the planet’s needs.
At a watchmaking level, we’ve also been making changes to the way we work. Our newest factory is perhaps the most impressive example. The sustainable development was built with an ingenious indoor climate and renewable energy concept, along with other beneficial systems. I think it’s important to adapt to this modern way of working.
Do you believe in the perception of investing in R&D is the way forward for a Swiss watch manufacturing brand? How challenging would that be with the business aspects of the industry?
I believe innovation is the key to any progressive business. Watchmaking is a traditional industry, but we still need to find ways of pushing ourselves forward and keeping our products relevant to the modern consumer. Investment is a big part of that, and the Swiss industry needs to maintain its position as the leader of global watchmaking. Every brand does it differently, but I know that Omega is always seeking to innovate. Having the support and expertise of the Swatch Group is a big part of helping us to do that.
How bad has it been at Omega with the global pandemic?
I wouldn’t use the word “bad”. Certainly, it’s been a challenging time and we’ve all ensured some unexpected months. But Omega is a company that has been going since 1848. We’ve witnessed massive global and economic upheaval during our lifetime, but we’ve always found a way to adapt and progress.
Right now, we’re adapting our strategy to what is going on, but I’m confident we’ll see more positive times ahead.
Are there plans for Omega to be involved in the pre-owned sphere of their own brand? If so, how?
Absolutely. In fact, we are already underway in this area. The interest in the pre-owned and vintage market is increasing rapidly around the world, and we feel we have a duty to help and support its growth.
Just recently, we launched the Certificate of Authenticity, which enables pre-owned Omegas to be checked and verified by our experts in Switzerland. It helps to create trust and confidence for those buying and selling, and provides a bit more transparency in the market.
Omega celebrity-ambassadors and sponsorships are a huge segment of Omega commitments. Do they add a lot of pressure to constantly perform year in and year out?
It’s not pressure, it’s enjoyment! The heritage and passions of Omega are unlike any other brand and they give us so much to celebrate every year. We have teams and experts dedicated to every area, so we’re always on top of each project. And with so much diversity, comes a lot of creativity. Things like James Bond, the Olympic Games and golf allow us to craft some very special timepieces that people around the world really love. If you plan well and use your time wisely, there shouldn’t be any pressure.
How committed is Omega to Swiss Made?
Omega is proudly Swiss Made, and it’s an important part of our identity. We see it as a mark of quality and a world-renowned symbol of excellence. Omega goes beyond the required Swiss Made standard, with almost every single part of our watches being made and assembled right here in Switzerland.
What challenges await the Swiss watchmaking industry and its future development?
Perhaps the most obvious challenge is keeping watches attractive to a new and younger generation of wearers. They have access to so much information, videos, blogs, reviews and opinions, so you have to be able to cut through. A big part of that is being authentic and having quality products they can believe in. It’s also important to build a digital presence, not only through social media and websites, but also the development of online sales and communication. I’m pleased to say that Omega is already well ahead in this regard.
The new 44mm chronograph, based on a 2019 Omega Seamaster Diver, has a blue ceramic dial with the collection’s familiar laser-engraved wave-pattern and white enamel diving scale on the bezel. Less familiar is the regatta countdown indicator ring in red anodized aluminum.
The indicator’s red anodized aluminum minute hand, with a shape inspired by a boat hull, provides the countdown indication, supplemented by a rhodium-plated small seconds hand at the 9 o’clock position. Chronograph hours are visible in a window within the countdown subdial.
Omega maintains the watch’s America’s Cup distinction with a central seconds chronograph hand, also in red anodized aluminum, that features an America’s Cup icon in red on the counterweight. More Cup tributes are visible on the back of the watch, including “36th America’s Cup” and “Auckland 2021,” both spelled in blue lacquer.
Also seaworthy, even beyond the already strong Seamaster Diver specs, is a helium escape valve and soft-touch red and blue rubber pushers, designed to work efficiently when wet. That efficiency is backed with a new chronograph lock-system that secures the chronograph functions when needed, presumably during a race at sea.
The new watch continues Omega’s longstanding relationship with the America’s Cup, which the brand also officially timed in 2000 and 2003. This newest watch is the second Omega has launched in support of the 36th America’s Cup, which takes place in New Zealand starting March 6. Last year Omega released the Seamaster Planet Ocean America’s Cup Edition.
New Quick Change
Omega offers the new Seamaster Diver 300M America’s Cup Chronograph with a metal bracelet and an additional rubber strap, both equipped with Omega’s brand new Quick Change system. The watchmaker says with the system, the owner can quickly “switch easily between the bracelet and the strap without having to use tools.”
Inside Omega fits its excellent Co-Axial Master Chronometer Caliber 9900, an automatic chronograph movement with column wheel and Co-Axial escapement. The movement is approved by METAS, resistant to magnetic fields reaching 15,000 gauss and features a silicon balance-spring and sixty hours of power reserve.
Omega kicks off the New Year with a gift to legions of Speedmaster fans. The watchmaker this week releases a Speedmaster Moonwatch with a new caliber, new bracelet and clasp, a newly detailed minute track and a choice of Hesalite glass or sapphire crystal material (for new steel-cased models).
Still very much the Speedmaster Moonwatch fans have come to revere since its qualification by NASA for manned space missions in 1965 and its trip to the moon in 1969, the new generation Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch is now equipped with co-axial, manual-wind caliber 3861. Omega has used the caliber previously only in a few limited edition Speedmasters.
First seen in 2019, the co-axial caliber 3861, with its silicon balance spring, will now protect the Moonwatch from extreme magnetic fields reaching 15,000 gauss. This is a much higher level of protection than that offered by the caliber 1861 Omega utilized for decades to power its Speedmaster Moonwatches.
In addition, Omega now ensures that the entire watch is certified as a Master Chronometer, the brand’s own high-level specification that promises accuracy to five seconds per day.
On this update, Speedmaster fans will recognize the historical Speedmaster’s asymmetrical case, stepped dial and double bevel caseback. Closer inspection reveals the dot over 90 and a dot diagonal to 70 on the anodized aluminum bezel ring, both details expected by Speedmaster purists. Fans will however note a difference within the minute track around the dial, which is now split by three divisions, as opposed to the five divisions used on previous models.
Around the wrist, Omega has added a new five-link brushed steel bracelet and a new Omega clasp (with new oval pusher) set with a polished brand logo on a satin-finished cover. You might have seen this bracelet previously on the recent Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition watch.
In a 42mm steel case, Omega offers the new watch with either a Hesalite crystal ($5,950 for a strap and $6,300 on a bracelet) or with a sapphire crystal and clear caseback ($7,150 on a bracelet and $6,800 on a strap). A 42mm Sedna gold model ($34,800 on a gold bracelet and $24,600 on a strap) and a Canopus white gold model with silver dial ($45,300 on a bracelet and $30,400 on a strap) are also available.
Omega supports the Orbis eye-hospital charity with a new steel-cased DeVille Trésor, available with or without a diamond bezel.
The 40mm watch sports a domed gradient blue dial, polished hands and applied 18-karat gold indexes that are also domed to match the dial.
To clearly reference Orbis directly on the watch, Omega has replaced the number 8 on the date indicator (at 6 o’clock) with an Orbis Teddy Bear.A second reference to the mascot can be seen on the seconds hand, colored to match the Teddy Bear.
Sales of either the diamond-set or polished bezel version of the new watch benefits Orbis, an international non-profit NGO committed to preventing avoidable blindness in the world’s poorest regions. Purchasing one of the new Omega Trésor watches funds the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital and its team of medical professionals.
Omega has placed a luxury version of its Calibre 8511 with 60-hours of power reserve inside each watch. The caliber is the manual-wind version of Omega’s in-house ‘Master Co-Axial’ movement. It features a the Omega Co-Axial escapement, strong anti-magnetic properties, a free-sprung balance with silicon balance spring and two barrels mounted in series. The luxury designation means the movement features an 18-karat red gold balance bridge.
Both watches have a blue leather strap with polished buckle. As an added bonus, Omega has created a presentation box and a Teddy Bear key holder that will arrive with the watch.