“We get a lot of feedback that people who buy this watch are fascinated by the movement”
Ladymatic collection and the one launched in 2010 are the materials and the colours. There is a new bicolour model that blends steel and 18-carat gold in the case and comes with a choice of dial colours in either a deep brown or white mother-of-pearl. There’s also a new leather strap with a satinbrushed finish in pale blue, brown and purple. According to Urquhart, gold watches are extremely popular with women. “A gold watch is maybe what most ladies want to buy, but it’s not always possible because the price of gold has gone through the roof.” The new leather strap therefore creates an entry into the brand at a much more attractive price. The Ladymatic collection starts at about $7600 and goes up to $97,025 for an all-gold model set with diamonds. Given the success of this line for Omega, it’s fair to assume there will be many more colour and material variations to come.
Omega, which was founded in 1848 by Louis Brandt in La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland is part of the Swatch Group, which also includes brands such as Longines, Rado, Tissot and Breguet, making it the world’s largest watchmaker. The company can list many watchmaking firsts including being the first watch on the Moon (the Speedmaster was worn by both the US and Soviet astronauts), the first official timekeeper of the Olympic Games (1932) and the first mass-produced calibre (1885). But the brand’s reputation took a beating in the 1970s when the industry shifted from mechanical movements to quartz, or battery-operated, mechanisms. It was thought that quartz movements, which never need winding and are always accurate, would be the future of the industry. Keen to be at the forefront of innovation in watchmaking, Omega went headfirst into this new technology.
When Omega finally emerged from the quartz crisis, the damage to its brand had been done. Then in the early 1990s, Swatch Group chairman Nicolas G. Hayek acquired the rights from the English master watchmaker George Daniels to his prototype of the coaxial escapement that he invented in the 1970s. The first practical new watch escapement to be invented in about 250 years made its debut in 1999 in the Omega DeVille watch and replaced the traditional Swiss lever escapement. Often described as the beating heart of the watch, the escapement transfers energy to the timekeeping components of the watch in precisely measured and regular intervals. The problem with the Swiss lever escapement is that it needs lubrication to run smoothly and as the lubricating oil thickens over time it leads to a slower movement and therefore inaccurate timekeeping and more maintenance.
“It [the coaxial movement] has become synonymous with Omega and it has taken us back to our roots because Omega has always been devoted to what is inside the watch,” says Urquhart. “I think the coaxial has become an inherent part of our culture and has allowed us to offer a better product and command a higher price because there is intrinsic value there, and that, for me, will play a key role in everything we will do. We get a lot of feedback from our stores around the world that people who buy this watch are fascinated by the movement. It might not be the thing that brings them into the store but it is the thing that makes the final decision. They have to like the watch, sure, and it has to be pleasing to the eye, but the fact that there is a beautiful movement inside and the sales staff will explain that and talk about it, there is a lot more interest in watch movements from women than you can imagine. There is a heart and you can listen to it and you can see it, which is why we put sapphire crystal backs on our watches as much as we can.”
Ladymatic is not only a pure women’s mechanical watch, it is the primary timepiece Omega can sell to women. Given that the female market is a major focus for watch companies and that brands such as Omega have myriad collections for men, could this be the first of many female-focused models? The short answer is yes. “We have more ideas in ladies’ watches, but we have to be careful,” says Urquhart. “I think there is room and we have some ideas for something in between a sports watch and something more fashionable and contemporary.’’
In the meantime, Urquhart is looking at other baskets to put some eggs in and all roads seem to lead to booming Brazil. After the event in Vienna, Omega opened three stores in Brazil, two in Rio and one in Sao Paulo, in preparation for the Olympics. “Brazil is a no-brainer,” says Urquhart.