OMEGA – At the forefront of Chronometry

Omega watches, much like the value that comes with the Rolex brand, can command strong prices at the point of auction, resell or through pawnbroking. Suttons and Robertsons Pawnbrokers in central London takes a look at the Swiss watchmakers to discover why they have stood the test of time. 

Although Suttons and Robertsons are well known for high-end pawnbroking from their London premises, they are also a key player in London’s top of the range watch retailers, promoting brands including Patek Philippe, Rolex and, of course, Omega. 

Omega is a luxury Swiss watchmaker based in Bienne, Switzerland. Launched in 1848 as the La Generale Watch Co, the company rebranded as Omega in 1903, with their watches gracing the wrists of the military, astronauts, sport stars, movie stars and one very famous British spy.

The Omega brand began life as an offshoot of La Generale Watch Co, which used a production control system that allowed component parts to be interchangeable. Omega became such a dynamic concept that it became a brand in its own right in 1903, the same year that the company’s leaders – Louis-Paul and César Brandt – died. Producing 240,000 watches annually and with a work force employing 800 people, Omega suddenly found itself in the hands of four young people, with the oldest – Paul-Emile Brandt – was only 23. 

Brandt was a great businessman and understood how to weather the post-war period, with his first coup in bringing the Omega and Tissot brands together as SSIH, Geneva. The SSIH Group enjoyed strong growth, incorporating many of the companies behind Omega’s chronograph movements. By the 1970s, SSIH was Switzerland’s number one producer of finished watches and number three in the world, outselling Rolex, its main Swiss rival.

With the rise and rise of quartz watches, Omega competed with brands, including Seiko and Citizen, with watches using Swiss made quartz movements.

The 1980s saw a number of mergers and takeovers across the Swiss watch industry, in an attempt to bring stability to the Swiss watch-making industry. By the late 1990s, Omega had become part of the Swatch Group.

What made Omega so special?

Traditionally, Omega placed great importance on Chronometry and ensuring that chronometers would measure time precisely. With only Patek Philippe and Omega taking part in the annual trials, Omega gained a reputation as a company of precision and innovation.

Omega has played a large part in 20th Century history, with the Speedmaster selected for use in space. Also known as the ‘Moonwatch’, the Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronograph was worn by Buzz Aldrin and is known as the first watch on the moon. All subsequent manned NASA missions used the handwound Moonwatch. 

Omega watches are hugely popular with many celebrities, with actors such as Bond actors Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig fans. Sports stars gravitate towards Omega’s outstanding performance with oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau, and yachtsman, Eric Tabarly, opting for the Omega Marine Chronometer. Omega also attracts statesmen and world leaders, with JFK, Mikhail Gorbachev and, interestingly, Mao Zedong – as in Chairman Mao – gave power to the people of China as the founding father of the People’s Republic of China while wearing an Omega for 31 years.

Time’s Up, Mr Bond…

With Q behind the hidden gadgets within Bond’s watches, Omega has been behind the Bond watch since Pierce Brosnan joined the franchise in 1995. Wearing the Omega Seamaster Quartz in GoldenEye, he then wore the Omega Seamaster Professional Chronometer for later films. 

For the Bond’s 40th anniversary of James Bond in 2002, a commemorative edition of the watch was made available with a blue watch dial and a 007 logo inscribed across it and machined into the caseback. 

Daniel Craig’s Bond goes one further, swopping from the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean in the first part of Casino Royale, to the Seamaster Professional 300M when he travels to Montenegro) and even namechecks the Omega brand when questioned by Vesper Lynd. Omega continues its partnership with Omega, releasing commemorative watches to tie in with Bond film launches.

Omega’s sporty numbers

Omega has frequently been the official timekeeper for the Olympics, beginning with the 1932 Summer Olympics as well as supporting teams from the America’s Cup in 1995. With a strong performance in golf timekeeping, Omega was the official timekeeper of PGA of America for 5 years until 2016 as well as the sponsors of the Dubai Desert Classic and the Omega European Masters.