OMEGA has just introduced us to its latest novelties across a range of collections. Swisswatches Magazine had the opportunity to get OMEGA CEO and President Raynald Aeschlimann’s take on OMEGA’s brand new pieces, plans for the future, and how the horology house coped with change throughout 2020.
On preserving its icons…
Early into the conversation, Aeschlimann points out the importance of history at OMEGA. He explains that not only does OMEGA have numerous historical pieces, but also that its four main collections all hark back to the past, with each boasting a strong heritage. During the last five years, he says, OMEGA’s mission has been to streamline each collection. Starting with the Speedmaster, OMEGA began by taking out a number of the old models. It then started cutting down on many limited editions, while simultaneously aiming to always bring something special – Aeschlimann gives the Silver Snoopy Award as an example. In other words, the goal at OMEGA right now is to improve coherence within each and every collection.
On the new Seamaster 300…
For Aeschlimann, it was very important to have this watch (based on the original Seamaster models) back in the collection. The three models are available in stainless steel or “Bronze Gold”. Aeschlimann tells us of his insistence that the brand use the latter, its brand new alloy, for one of the models. The aim with the 2021 Seamaster 300, he says, was to create a kind of sub-line of Seamaster – one that has a very clear link to the past, yet one that was also not simply vintage in its style.
The new watch is the same size as the Seamaster 300 from the past [41 mm], yet with a different design to make it a bit more modern. While keeping the DNA of the original models, Aeschlimann did not want to simply make a re-edition, which would literally copy an old model. Rather, he is hoping this new Seamaster 300 will endure as a long-term model. This way, OMEGA can avoid constantly bringing out new editions that simply copy a previous specific model.
On “Bronze Gold”…
The OMEGA CEO and President’s mission was to build upon his company’s history and success, not by simply making a new gold alloy, but rather an “OMEGA-level” bronze one. OMEGA strived to avoid encountering the usual problems of bronze, e.g. a greenish, greyish tint over time. Thus, the goal was to create a “Bronze Gold” alloy – as opposed to “Gold Bronze”, emphasises Aeschlimann – that could take bronze to a whole new level. The reason the alloy, consisting of “Bronze-Au375 Gold”, qualifies as “Bronze Gold” is thanks to its 9-carats (37.5 percent gold), which is combined with 50 percent copper, plus small amounts of other noble metals including palladium and silver.
On using the alloy for other models in the future…
“We might use “Bronze Gold” for other models because we are very, very happy with it – it’s quite amazing.” says Aeschlimann. “Of course, patina will appear – but it will become a watch with something that we all like. The feeling of bronze is something incredible; bronze has a touch that makes it very unique. That’s why reaching “Bronze Gold” was a very important, positive moment for OMEGA. We can use it – and really market it – as a metal that is something very different to all other gold [alloys] – something that has the “OMEGA value”. That means perfect, and without problems that other bronze products might have.”
On OMEGA, James Bond and the pandemic…
“If I think about last January, everything was set to be an incredible year for us,” says Aeschlimann. “The biggest issue with the pandemic for me was all of our people, everywhere in the world. Almost every day, we had to close, then open, then close. Right now, 30 out of our 160 boutiques are still closed.”
Aeschlimann also laments the postponing of the new James Bond film, No Time To Die. “We launched a James Bond watch in December with Daniel Craig in New York, and even today, we have back orders on this watch. OMEGA is customer-centric, and James Bond is an amazing way of getting to customers everywhere in the world and making them aware of who we are.” The whole organisation of Bond-related events was complete, he adds, before having to be entirely reorganised due to the pandemic.
On producing only Master Chronometers…
“We are a company selling between 600,000 and 700,000 watches per year. 99.9 percent of any new products – we have even now applied this to the Speedmaster Moonwatch – are going to be made into Master Chronometers. This is the vision.” According to Aeschlimann, this is something every company in the Swiss watch industry should be supporting. “This is the future of the watch industry. It’s very important.” That said, OMEGA is also focusing on stream-lining its collections and improving clarity within the lines. Therefore, for Aeschlimann, it’s a question of growing and balance. “Give me a bit of the time – I’ll be working on 100 percent [Master Chronometer] very soon.”
The Verdict: What did we learn from Aeschlimann?
For one thing, it appears that OMEGA has not suffered too badly with the pandemic. As we spoke, the backdrop behind Aeschlimann revealed serene OMEGA watchmakers hard at work. Aside from the masks, one would never guess that this is a company still facing a number of closed boutiques, with many of its markets facing a plunge in GDP growth.
Refining of collections
Interestingly, the word “streamlining” and “coherence” came up several times. OMEGA is moving to reconsider which models are worth keeping around, as well as how many limited editions they want to be producing – all the while taking into account the pre-owned watch market, supply, and demand. Aeschlimann’s motivation for “streamlining” will also evidently provide a new level of coherence for both customers and the brand alike.
In terms of this year’s novelties, it is clear that the new “Bronze Gold” alloy is Aeschlimann’s pride and joy. It’s been a while in the making, and both OMEGA and fans will likely agree that it has been worth the wait. The new “Bronze Gold” Seamaster 300 model is undoubtedly attractive, and certainly unique.
Furthermore, alongside the new ceramic Seamaster Diver 300M Black Black model, these particular novelties signal OMEGA’s step into new territory. It is clear that OMEGA is joining the many other luxury Swiss watch brands increasingly experimenting with innovative new materials.