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.

The Peak (Hong Kong) - - Contents - STORY GLO­RIA FUNG

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.

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