Omega is one of the oldest and most celebrated manufacturers of luxury timepieces, and is famed for crafting state-of-the-art watches that have a high degree of mechanical precision. The Swiss company started out in 1848. Louis Brandt began crafting timepieces using parts produced by local craftsmen, and these were sold widely, with Brandt finding his primary market among England's elite. Brandt's two sons (who inherited the family business) choose to manufacture parts in-house so that they could have complete control over the quality of the timepieces created. Since then, Omega has grown to become one of the world’s foremost luxury watch producers.
Omega has claim to a number of impressive achievements in the watchmaking history. In the early 20th Century, the company was chosen by the Royal Flying Corps, the air force of the British Army, as the Corps’s official supplier of wristwatches. The American army followed suit in 1918. Since then, Omega has made more watch-making history: Omega watches were the first timepieces on the moon, as NASA chose the Omega Speedmaster Professional to supply to its astronauts.
Another distinction held by Omega is that the company has been selected as the Official Timekeeper for the Olympic Games 26 times since 1932. For the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Omega has created countdown clocks that are placed across several famous Russian cities, including Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. The record of Omega’s participation in watch-making precision trials explains why the company has been chosen as Official Timekeeper for so many of the international sporting events. Throughout the 20th Century, Omega was awarded first place in more than 10 annual watch trials measuring precision in high end watches.
The Omega Speedmaster Professional chronograph, which Buzz Aldrin wore as he walked on the moon, is one of the company’s most historic and sought-after designs. The original watch worn by Aldrin was destined to be exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum, but when Aldrin sent it to Washington, D.C. the watch went missing en route. The Speedmaster Professional features counters for measuring time elapsed in minutes as well as hours, and the bezel also functions as a tachymeter, which measures miles per hour in combination with the stopwatch feature. The contemporary Speedmaster design has a nearly identical appearance to the original, and also has the full chronometric functions of its precursor.
From space missions to spy missions, Omega has been the go-to watchmaker. In the James Bond film franchise, the suave hero has worn an Omega watch since Pierre Brosnan played Bond in GoldenEye, in 1995. In SKYFALL, the most recent Bond film, the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M and the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra were the two watches featured. The waterproof Planet Ocean is able to withstand submersion to depths of 600 meters, and both watches are chronometers which contain Omega’s self-winding calibre 8500 movement.
Omega’s Seamaster watches have played an important part in the history of diving. While early timepieces offering water resistance were sealed using lead or shellac, which were vulnerable to sudden changes in temperature, the Seamaster introduced rubber sealing components which resembled those used in military submarines. After the introduction of the Seamaster range, the 1932 Marine was worn by Yves Le Prieur – considered the ‘father of modern diving’ – on many of his aquatic explorations. Another famous diver, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, wore the Seamaster 300 while diving in the Red Sea. This history is what has made the Seamaster a favourite watch for people who lead adventurous outdoor lifestyles.
Luxury timepieces that are precise as well as fashionable appeal to wealthy, trend-setting celebrities. The legendary ‘King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’, Elvis Presley, wore an Omega Constellation. In 2012, Presley’s gold and black watch sold for a record $52, 500 at an auction in New York. The legend goes that Elvis once gifted this rare watch to a friend from his army days, who had repeatedly expressed admiration for the timepiece's elegance. Famous actors who have worn the Omega Speedmaster Professional, following in the footsteps of Buzz Aldrin, include Tom Hanks and Jon Hamm. For a number of years, Hollywood A-lister Nicole Kidman has been an ambassador for Omega. Kidman has worn watches from the Omega Ladymatic series, as well as the Bond favourite, the Seamaster Planet Ocean.
Not only people in the entertainment industry wear Omega watches. Prominent politicians have also invested in elegant Omega timepieces. Mikchail Gorbachev, the former Soviet statesman and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, owns a gold Constellation, while the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, wears a Bond Seamaster. Proving that Omega watches are fit for a prince, Prince William of England has been photographed wearing a Seamaster professional.