Leading the way with progressive inventions, Omega proves itself as one of the top players in the watch industry, marrying classic style with cutting-edge technology. By Cai Mei Khoo.
Omega continues to prove itself as the industry’s top player
It’s cold and drizzly in Basel, Switzerland – so much for sunny days and daytime temperatures in the mid-teens. You can’t quite rely on weather forecasts these days but a little rain is no matter at all. I’m standing in front of the shiny, new exhibition hall complex, designed by internationally renowned Basel architects, Herzog & de Meuron, whose aluminium structure beckons to visitors from around the world, in town for one of the most important events in the watch and jewellery industry, Baselworld.
Exhibition stands at Baselworld are not your typical space – ‘stand’ is probably not even the right word. We’re talking two to three floors per exhibitor, with different sections or rooms for product display, presentations, and interviews. The Omega stand itself is three stories tall, displaying over 200 pieces from its watch and fine jewellery collections, and also includes a bar with champagne and canapés for guests. Think of it as a huge mall for luxury watch and jewellery brands, showcasing the latest and the finest of their creations, and at Omega, there were quite a few of these.
Known for its pioneering spirit, Omega has created a new alloy, what it calls Sedna gold, its name taken from a trans-Neptunian object, and also the name of an Inuit goddess who is said to live at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean. A creative blend of gold, copper, and palladium, the Sedna is an 18-karat rose gold, which means it has a minimum 75 percent gold content. The beautiful pinkish-red hue is a result of the right proportion of copper, while the palladium ensures that the colour will be particularly enduring.
A couple of watches have been made with the Sedna gold – the Cons tel lat ion Sedna, a lovely limited edition of 1,952 pieces to mark the year the Constellation line was launched, and the Ladymatic Diamonds and Pearls watch, which Omega ambassador Nicole Kidman wore to the jury photocall at the recent Cannes Film Festival. Made just in time for this year’s Baselworld, the Ladymatic Diamonds and Pearls is a stunning jewellery watch that features a spectacular bracelet of 52 Akoya pearls, Sedna ‘pearls’, and diamonds scattered throughout.
“We’re definitely reaching out to a new type of woman with the Ladymatic,” says Stephen Urquhart, president of Omega. “Previously, you had women who either liked a smaller, more feminine watch, to whom the Constellation range caters to, or women who preferred men’s watches. The Ladymatic is a beautiful watch that houses a fantastic mechanical movement, geared towards a woman who’s independent. Someone of a higher level, not necessarily income-wise, but in intellect, someone who appreciates the finer things in life.”
First launched in 1955, the new Ladymatic watch redefines grace and elegance. Originally one of Omega’s first self-winding watches specially designed for women, the new Ladymatics are equipped with the brand’s legendary Co-Axial
movement. Highly regarded in the industry as one of the best mechanical movements in the world, the Co-Axial calibres are designed to produce less friction and greater mechanical efficiency, which means longer service intervals and better performance over time.
New for the year are the bi-colour Ladymatic watches, which feature a combination of stainless steel and 18-karat red or yellow gold – a trend that is pretty big in watches this year. The dial comes in either deep brown or pure white mother-of-pearl that’s decorated with a supernova pattern, with diamond indexes and a date counter at 3 o’clock. Feminine and sophisticated, the Ladymatic is definitely made for the woman with a taste for the finer things in life.
“Traditionally, the name and history of the brand was more geared towards men’s watches, with the landing on the moon, Bond, and even the Co-Axial movement – it’s a man’s thing,” says Urquhart. “But then Cindy [Crawford, Omega ambassador since 1995] and the Constellation changed all that in the mid-Nineties.
“I recently went for an Omega exhibition in China where they showcased all the ladies’ watches from the past and it’s unbelievable how many Omega ladies’ watches there are,” he shares. “It’s a young, aestheticsensitive person who’s now buying our products. Someone who’s more interested in something of lasting value. We’re talking to a new type of woman who’s more independent.”
When asked about the renewed focus on the Co-Axial movement, with the worldwide release of a new 3D animated film about the movement, Urquhart says that Co-Axial has always been the main message. “It’s important for people to remember that Omega is always all about the movement,” he stresses. “We felt that the time was right this year as we don’t have the Olympics and there’s no Bond movie, either. The animated film places an artistic value to the idea of Co-Axial and creates an emotional interest. Through the film, people learn about Co-Axial and from the Co-Axial, and because of it, we’ve managed to produce a new calibre, the Omega Co-Axial calibre 8508 that’s resistant to magnetic fields greater than 1.5 tesla.”
Housed in the new Seamaster Aqua Terra 15000 Gauss, the stainless steel watch is highly resistant to magnetic fields, something that’s always been an issue for watchmakers. “We’re constantly trying to address the everyday problems of the watch,” explains Urquhart. “Waterproof has been done, shockproof has been done, and the next issue is anti-magnetism. Not many people realise this, even myself for that matter, but when watches come in for servicing, more than 50 percent of the problem is due to magnetism.” Developed by a team of engineers, several patents are pending for this breakthrough movement which relies on the use of non-ferrous materials to negate the effects of magnetism. “The Co-Axial calibre 8508 has long-term implications for the entire industry as it takes magnetic resistance to levels far beyond those previously achieved by any other movement.”
Ground- breaking indeed, Omega has certainly pushed the design envelope with its Baselworld 2013 launches, reminding us why it was the chosen brand for the first astronauts that were sent out into space. “We have an incredible product – a mechanical wristwatch – something that nobody needs today but has been around for 250 years. The less people need it, the more they want it. It’s a unique product, watches. It’s a people business,” Urquhart muses.
“The products we are presenting in Basel reflect Omega’s on-going dedication to quality and innovation and make a bold statement about the strength and ingenuity of our brand.” It’s a statement that’s easily worn on the wrist; just pick the Co-Axial calibre of your choice.
The Omega stand at Baselworld
Nicole Kidman wearing the Ladymatic Diamondsds aand Pearls watch at thee 2013 Cannes Film Festival ival
De Ville Ladymatic Lad Diamonds and Pearls w watch in 18-karat Sedna gold, gold Omega
Ladymatic watch in 18-karat red gold and stainless steel, Omega
LEFT: A vintage Omega Ladymatic advertisement, showcasing the classic brand’s timeless appeal. BELOW: Limited- edition Constellation Sedna in Sedna gold, Omega