WATCH: A TIMELY VISION
Attending Baselworld for the first time as Omega’s President and CEO, Raynald Aeschlimann shares his views on the brand’s milestones, reaching its production goals, as well as the roster of Omega ambassadors.
Raynald Aeschlimann shares his views on Omega’s legacy
Taking one of the most prominent spots at the fair each year, Omega and Swatch Group continues to have a dominant presence at Baselworld this year, as has been the way for the past decade. There to present the brand's latest lineup this year was Raynald Aeschlimann, who, not long ago, was appointed president and CEO of Omega. Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Seamaster and the 25th anniversary of the Seamaster Diver 300 M, as well as the ongoing partnership with the James Bond saga, there's plenty for Aeschlimann to be proud of this year.
We caught up with him at the show where he shared his favourite launches this year, his love for the James Bond genre, as well as his hopes and dreams for the Chinese market.
What are some of your personal favourites and highlights from Omega this year? I'm quite amazed to see the fair once again is a symbol of Omega growing, but with some incredible sense of coherence and continuity, we are celebrating 25 years of the Seamaster Diver 300 M, the so-called James Bond watch. It's a design that has made history 70 years ago and has been received very positivity. The other launch that I love this year is the Railmaster, for the first time we pair it with a denim strap.
The brand has set goals to incorporate the in-house Master Chronometer movement into all timepieces by 2020, is this still on track? This is this is something that we were very proud of; we're making progress in waterproof technology, precision as well as anti-magnetic capabilities. We've just reached 200,000 watches with the incredible Master Chronometer certification. So my target is about getting us as quickly as possible to this goal because there are a lot of requests from customers to have this in existing collections, but at the same time, there are new collections being introduced.
Omega has built a new factory in Biel, Switzerland to deal with this demand. What's the update since the opening six months ago? If I look at the last six months, we've had double-digit growth. It's thanks also to high demand. We still have a lot of back orders, but it's thanks to the factory that now have 18 crafts under the same roof which has greatly enhanced our in-house production capacity. Thanks to this new factory, we're actually able to deliver more than expected. The James Bond franchise has been linked to Omega for years; the Seamaster Diver 300 M was the first watch to ever appear in the series, on the Seamaster's 70th anniversary, can you reflect on what the relationship means to Omega? The Seamaster Diver 300 M is as much a symbol for James Bond as it is for Omega. The watch is very recognisable for the younger generation, but also for an older audience like myself. It's one of the best examples of how we can continuously be successful. The watch is not only about the image of James Bond, it's also a very high-quality watch. That's why I always emphasis this is not a product placement of an Omega product, because we're not just putting our name on our product. There is the whole spirit of James Bond surrounding the piece. Don't forget, too, that Daniel Craig is a brand ambassador for Omega and we understand the James Bond family very well, and we're very much a part of that.
What are some other examples of Omega contributing to the artistic vision of a movie? There are times where it's not just about putting a watch on. With vintage watches in many movies– it's about contributing to the emotions. In Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan wanted pilots in their Spitfires to have watches; we delivered 100,000 watches to the Royal Air Force during that time in history. And he [Nolan] wanted to have those watches. It has nothing to do with product placement, it's just history, and if you want to be historically accurate, you have to have an Omega in certain settings, because we were a part of that history.
Watches, for many people are emotional purchases, what are your thoughts on the fast-paced smart watch market? Smart watches are not really watches because for me. We have so many talented people that are creating, working to give birth to something that is different from a phone. And we're not trying to create small phones for the wrists. Smart watch producers are at the service of people who wear them to the gym or other functional purpose. That's why I'm very happy that some people are sometimes wearing different watches for different occasions and purposes. That goes back to the invention of Swatch by our late chairman Nicolas Hayek, who invented the Swatch to be a second watch. They might go for a vintage watch that's been in the family for many years, and they might wear another piece for some other purpose. These pieces always come with emotions, but a smart watch, that's not a watch. A watch has a soul, history and emotion. A watch has something that makes it different from any electronic instrument.