Omega Company History – WORLD OF LUXURY

Omega Company History

Omega SA is a Swiss luxury watchmaker based in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland. Omega is one of the most known and recognized watches in the world. Omega watch was the choice of NASA and the first watch on the Moon in 1969. Omega was the official Time Keeping device of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. James Bond has worn it in films since 1995; other famous Omega wearers are John F. Kennedy, Prince William, George Clooney, Nicole Kidman and Cindy Crawford. Omega estimates that 7 out of every 10 people have heard of Omega watches.

Omega has always been driven by its pioneering spirit: six lunar landings; the first divers&aqute; watch; the world&aqute;s only certified marine chronometer wristwatch. No watch company in the world holds more records for accuracy. Omega is also a world leader in sports timekeeping. We are proud of this legacy and of the commitment to innovation which led to the launch of the exclusive Omega Co-Axial calibres. These achievements are products of the drive and spirit which have made Omega one of the world&aqute;s leading watchmakers.

In its more than 160-year history, Omega has been part of some remarkable adventures: the conquests of space and the oceans&aqute; depths, a century of high-profile sports timekeeping, and more precision records than any other brand.

The forerunner of Omega was founded at La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland in 1848 by 23-year-old Louis Brandt, who assembled key-wound precision pocket watches from parts supplied by local craftsmen. He sold his watches from Italy to Scandinavia by way of England, his chief market. After Louis Brandt’s death in 1879, his two sons Louis-Paul and Cesar, troubled by irregular deliveries of questionable quality, abandoned the unsatisfactory assembly workshop system in favour of in-house manufacturing and total production control.

Due to the greater supply of manpower, communications and energy in Biel/Bienne, the enterprise moved into a small factory in January 1880, then bought the entire building in December. Two years later the company moved into a converted spinning-factory in the Gurzelen area of Biel/Bienne, where its headquarters are still situated today.

Louis-Paul and Cesar Brandt both died in 1903, leaving one of Switzerland’s largest watch companies — with 240,000 watches produced annually and employing 800 people — in the hands of four young people, the oldest of whom, Paul-Emile Brandt, was not yet 24.

Brandt was the great architect and builder of Omega. His influence would be felt over the next half-century. The economic difficulties brought on by the First World War would lead him to work actively from 1925 toward the union of Omega and Tissot, then to their merger in 1930 into the group SSIH, Geneva.

Under Brandt’s leadership and Joseph Reiser’s from 1955, the SSIH Group continued to grow and multiply, absorbing or creating some fifty companies, including Lemania, manufacturers of the most famous Omega chronograph movements. By the seventies, SSIH had become Switzerland’s number one producer of finished watches and number three in the world.

Weakened by the severe monetary crisis and recession of 1975 to 1980, SSIH was bailed out by the banks in 1981. During this period, Seiko expressed interest in acquiring Omega, but nothing came out of the talks.

Switzerland’s other watch making giant Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG (ASUAG – supplier of a large range of Swiss movements and watch assemblers) was in economic difficulty. It was the principal manufacturer of Ebauche (unfinished movements) and owner, through their sub-holding company GWC (General Watch Co), of various other Swiss watch brands including Longines, Rado, Certina and Mido.

After drastic financial restructuring, the R&D departments of ASUAG and SSIH merged production operations at the ETA complex in Granges. The two companies completely merged forming ASUAG-SSIH, a holding company, in 1983.

Two years later this holding company was taken over by a group of private investors led by Nicolas Hayek. Renamed SMH, Societe de Microelectronique et d’Horlogerie, this new group over the next decade proceded to become one of the top watch producers in the world. In 1998 it became the Swatch Group, which now manufactures Omega and other brands such as Blancpain, Swatch, and Breguet.

In more recent years, Omega has continued to build on its reputation for precision and innovation, presenting the world’s first self-winding wristwatch with central tourbillon (launched in 1994) and the revolutionary coaxial escapement sur developed in conjunction with renowned English master watchmaker George Daniels first offered in limited series in 1999.

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