A Tick­ing Swan Song

Just be­fore news broke of his re­tire­ment, the leg­endary stephen urquhart spoke pas­sion­ately of omega’s new­est move­ment

DA MAN - Caliber - - INSIDERS -

eo­ple of­ten say that, at the end of the day, a great name is built by great peo­ple. That say­ing is re­mark­ably true for Omega. Stephen Urquhart, ex-pres­i­dent of the Swiss watch man­u­fac­turer that takes pride in pre­ci­sion and ac­cu­racy, had been a pow­er­ful driv­ing force be­hind the brand’s evo­lu­tion. Last April marked his of­fi­cial re­tire­ment, a month be­fore his 70th birth­day at the end of May.

Urquhart has quite an in­ter­est­ing his­tory with the brand. Fol­low­ing his early ed­u­ca­tion in Eng­land and later in Switzer­land, he joined Omega in the com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­part­ment back in 1968 be­fore it was taken over by the Swatch group. As a mat­ter of fact, he could even re­call some of the most im­por­tant mo­ments tak­ing place dur­ing those years, such as the aborted Apollo 13 mis­sion. But in 1974, Urquhart moved to Au­d­er­mars Piguet, and 15 years later to Jaeger-LeCoul­tre and then Blanc­pain. It was in 1999 when he was sum­moned by the late Ni­co­las Hayek, co-founder of the Swatch Group, to man­age Omega, Blanc­pain’s sis­ter com­pany.

Through­out his ten­ure as pres­i­dent for 16 years, Urquhart has not only suc­cess­fully pro­moted Omega’s use of coax­ial es­cape­ments, but also cham­pi­oned fur­ther in­no­va­tions such as the world’s first “cage­less” move­ment with anti-mag­netic re­sis­tance of up to 15,000 gauss in 2013 and, cur­rently, the Master Chronome­ter move­ment that sets a new qual­ity stan­dard for watches, on top of the well-known COSC cer­ti­fi­ca­tion re­ceived by the brand.

Con­sid­er­ing his long list of im­pec­ca­ble achieve­ments, it was quite sur­pris­ing to learn that Urquhart, an avid golfer, was ex­tremely hum­ble and ap­proach­able dur­ing our meet­ing at the launch of the Globe­mas­ter in Los An­ge­les ear­lier this year. He was equally tact­ful and dis­cern­ing in an­swer­ing ques­tions—he main­tained that only he and the brand’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cers were qual­i­fied to speak on be­half of the com­pany. For a man of that age and with such wis­dom, Urquhart is defini­tively a liv­ing leg­end who per­fectly rep­re­sents what Omega re­ally is. DA MAN: With the Globe­mas­ter, Omega is cel­e­brat­ing a new stan­dard of move­ment that is the Master Chronome­ter. But why did the brand bor­row de­sign ref­er­ences from the Con­stel­la­tion line, in­stead of cre­at­ing a com­pletely new piece? Stephen Urquhart: We must not for­get that the Con­stel­la­tion was the orig­i­nal fam­ily Omega used for all of the watches that pass pre­ci­sion records and in­ten­sive

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