Every year, we get something like closure by racking our brains over, what else, the Revolution Awards. To grease our ruminations, this year we have also created a few categories to be decided by the public. We’ve unveiled a series of timepieces on our prize list; now as we continue our countdown to the end of 2019, it’s time to honour the individuals behind these stellar creations.
Brand of the Year
What if today Aston Martin launched a special series of DB4 Zagatos, their lightweight aluminum panels hand beaten to the exact design specifications of Ercole Spada incorporating the stunning double air tunnels in the car’s distinctive bonnet. But then instead of the old 1960-63 straight six, managed to shoehorn in the 4.0 liter AMG sourced twin turbo V8 in the DB11? Well that’s pretty much what Omega did this year when it unveiled its 50th anniversary tribute to the iconic BA 145.022-69, the brand’s first gold Speedmaster issued to commemorate the moon landing in 1969, in that they created a watch that at first glance is a faithful homage to the original, yet is belied by an armada of technical advancements, the best of the best of Swatch Group’s innovations.
Aluminum anodised bezel ditched for scratch proof burgundy ceramic unit? Check. Calibre 861 retrofitted with silicon escapement and balance spring making the movement impervious to magnetism? Also check. Creation of case, dial and bracelet in a proprietary gold alloy known as Moonshine Gold. Yes! Good to go. And if it had been just this one act of horological magic it would have been enough to secure Omega’s place as brand of the year. But wait.
Because in 2019 Omega also announced that it would restart production on the mythical Calibre 321, the single most famous chronograph movement in horological history and the calibre beating inside every single timepiece issued to the Mercury and Gemini astronauts by NASA. But in its ever wonderfully obsessive compulsive way, Omega didn’t just use an existing Lemania ébauche. Instead it used X-Ray tomography on the movement in Gene Cernan’s watch from their museum, as well as old technical diagrams to essentially reverse engineer the movement from scratch. Further the 321 will be built in a workshop dedicated specifically to it. Then to take this movement and place it inside a ravishing platinum case complemented by an onyx dial with no less than meteorite subdials. I say godamn! The result was nothing less than resplendent.
But that’s not all because the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing was also celebrated by the steel model Speedmaster, replete with Moonshine Gold details and with an image of Buzz Aldrin descending the lunar module in the continued seconds subdial. All 6,969 watches were sold out in a heartbeat with units commanding massive premiums on the secondary market. And that’s before we even get into the regular production 2019 Omega models, including the brilliant titanium-and-ceramic Seamaster Diver 300 and the yellow gold and malachite Seamaster 300, which are two of the best watches of the year.
So why is it that Omega is able to produce timepieces that hit dead center in our emotional matrix, in a period where brands are making and marketing increasingly cookie-cutter products? Why are their watches just so damnably good? This has everything to do with the leadership at Omega, which has nothing to do with your run-of-the-mill INSEAD grads who seem to be taking over Swiss watchmaking, but are real die hard Omega enthusiasts that are as passionate as its most loyal fans. Specially CEO Raynald Aeschlimann, Jean-Pascal Perret and Gregory Kissling. Together they are human beings who love watches and make watches for other human beings who also love watches. The fact that they are also three of the nicest, most approachable and brilliant individuals in the watch industry also helps create a winning trinity at what has to be the most innovative and on the pulse brand today. Full stop.