History of OMEGA
16 August 2017 by Aleksandra Kurek
Characterised by immaculate design, pioneering spirit, and sterling quality - OMEGA has established itself as one of the very best watchmaking brands in the world, setting new standards in horological excellence.
Since its early beginnings in 1848, when Louis Brandt, a descendant from a watchmaking family opened a small shop in La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland, the brand had numerously reconfigured itself before it became known under its iconic name - OMEGA.
The business was first registered in 1877 under Louis Brandt et Fils. Following the death of its owner, it was bequeathed to his sons Louis-Paul and Cesar who subsequently relocated the company to Bienne.
The brothers abandoned the original workshop method of comptoir d’établissage - a manner of assembling watches from separately bought specialist parts, in favour of a modernised system of pure manufacture. This resulted in a dramatic increase of sales, transforming the company into one of the largest factories in Switzerland. In effect, they produced close to 100,000 watches a year.
This anticipated an important milestone in the history of watchmaking - the creation of the first minute-repeating wristwatch in 1892. By 1900 OMEGA commercialised the wristwatch, becoming the first brand to do so.
In 1903, after the death of both owners, the company entered the hands of six direct descendants and became registered as Louis Brandt et Freres – Omega Watch Co. Rumour has it, that the name, being the last letter of the Greek alphabet and the symbol of ultimate achievement, sought to coincide with the company’s ambition of becoming the very last word in watchmaking.
Modernisation and rapid expansion allowed OMEGA to truly exceed in the field. By 1909 OMEGA watches were being sold all around the world, with distribution on six continents.
Its growing reputation and constant pursuit of perfection, established it as synonymous with meticulous precision. It is exactly for this reason, that in 1932 OMEGA assumed the role as the Official Timekeeper to the Los Angeles 1932 Olympic Games. Never before has a single brand been entrusted with the timing of every Olympic sport.
This outstanding performance and reliability guaranteed its role as the largest watch supplier for the armed forces of Great Britain in 1940. Thanks to technological progress developed by OMEGA watchmakers, these robust timepieces were water-resistant, shock-proof, and anti-magnetic.
Growing out of the tradition of exceptional durability, 1948 witnessed the rise of the Seamaster which coincided with the brand's 100th anniversary. This being the oldest line in the OMEGA collection, it maintains a timeless design while featuring a remarkably sturdy casing. It is the most versatile model amongst the OMEGA watch collection, suitable for town as well as country.
In 1952 the company introduced the Constellation line, which soon became known as the ‘Swiss Watch’. Proclaimed synonymous with luxury and horological excellence, Constellation remains OMEGA’s most popular and publicised brand. Named after a group of stars, it is available as an automatic chronometer as well as quartz.
Following the launch of the Constellation line, in 1955 OMEGA introduced the Ladymatic - a model that became one of the world’s most popular automatic chronometers for women. In 2010, the company revived the name for a new line of watches which successfully unify horological precision with unparalleled aesthetic sophistication, thus making it one of the very best women’s timepieces on the market.
A giant leap in watchmaking occurred in 1957 with the introduction of the ‘Moonwatch’ - OMEGA’s famous Speedmaster, which became the official watch used by Apollo flight crews. Deemed ‘qualified for all manned space missions’, the Speedmaster accompanied Neil Armstrong on the 21st of July 1969 during his lunar landing.
Staying true to its remarkable heritage, OMEGA remains a leading watchmaking brand by maintaining its avant-garde approach, and setting new standards of excellence. In 2013, the brand introduced Co-Axial technology employed by the Swiss chairman Nicholas G. Hayek, after acquiring the rights from inventor George Daniels. This resulted in the launch of the Master Co-Axial calibres - the most advanced mechanical watch movement, resistant to magnetic forces greater than 15,000 gauss.
As a consistent pioneer in the field, OMEGA continues to combine unparalleled durability with trend-setting aesthetics, making it a distinguished expert in the art of horology. Unsurprisingly therefore, the brand has been a favourite amongst prominent individuals including world leaders such as John F. Kennedy, music icons like Elvis Presley, and even secret agents such as 007, who’s been associated with the brand since 1995.
Keeping in mind this extraordinary legacy, each OMEGA timepiece is a proud testimony to the brand’s reputation, guaranteeing irresistible splendour to its possessor.