OMEGA’s Far-Reaching Past
OMEGA is not just one of the most prominent watch brands in the world. They’re also one of the most historically significant. OMEGA is widely known for being the first watch on the moon and the official watch of the space program. However, they were also the first official watch of the United States Army in 1918. They’ve served as the official timekeeper for over twenty Olympic Games. In addition, they have solidified their place in pop culture as the official watch of James Bond. For over 170 years, OMEGA has been a potent force in the watchmaking industry. It all began in an unassuming workshop in Le Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland.
Transforming from Family Brand to Global Brand
Louis Brandt established his business in 1848. For three decades, he maintained a modest workshop, selling his watches to customers from around the world. Brandt passed away in 1879, and his sons took over the company. They immediately saw promise in their dad’s work for something more. They decided to expand the operation and begin making their own parts. Their work quickly paid off. Within just a few years, they were able to relocate the workshop to Bienne. Here, they had a better opportunity to grow their workforce. Today, OMEGA’s headquarters are still located in this region.
In 1885, the Brandt brothers launched their first mass-produced caliber, the Labrador. Shortly after, in 1892, they created the first minute-repeating timepiece. Just two years later, they introduced the 19-line OMEGA caliber. This innovation helped to establish a reputation for their work in the watch industry. Eventually, it would also give the company its name.
A few short years later, tragedy struck the Brandt family. Within just six months of each other, the Brandt brothers passed away. The fate of the company was uncertain. Only four other family members remained, the oldest of whom was only twenty-three. However, the eldest, Paul-Emile Brandt, quickly rose to the challenge and began working tirelessly to carry on the family business. Just two years later, the brand began serving as the Official Timekeeper at sporting events across Switzerland. In 1909, they served as the timekeeper for their first international event, a balloon race called the Gordon Bennett Cup. This partnership is particularly significant because it led to the distribution of their watches in six continents.
The Growth of OMEGA Throughout the 20th Century
In 1932, OMEGA solidified one of its most important timekeeping partnerships. For the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, they entrusted one brand to be the Official Timekeeper. That brand was, of course, OMEGA.
Just over a decade later, OMEGA released the first edition of one of its most iconic watches: the Seamaster. The first Seamaster debuted in 1948 in conjunction with the brand’s 100th Anniversary. To this day, this model is one of the most popular watches in their family.
In 1962, OMEGA made history. That year, astronaut Wally Schirra wore a Speedmaster on the Sigma 7 mission of the Mercury Program. This marked the first OMEGA in space. It also led to a significant endorsement from NASA just three years later. In 1965, the Speedmaster became their official chronograph for space missions. Then, in 1969, the Speedmaster made its first journey to the moon on the wrist of Buzz Aldrin. The Speedmaster continued to be a crucial tool for NASA. It helped the astronauts of the Apollo 13 mission to return home safely. For this, NASA granted them the prestigious Snoopy Award in 1970. Today, Omega and space programs around the globe still work in tandem to develop effective tools for the trade.
Thriving as a Superior Brand Today
More recently, OMEGA has continued to be a leader in the industry. In addition to their continued work with the Olympics Games, NASA, and Bond franchise, the brand has notched a number of other partnerships and accomplishments. In 1999, they launched the first movement to feature the legendary George Daniels co-axial escapement. They became the Official Timekeeper of the PGA in 2011. And, in 2030, they hope to make history as the first watch on Mars. Through sports, space, pop culture, and superior watchmaking, OMEGA has maintained a reputation as one of the most prestigious watch brands for over 170 years.