The very first watch in more than a decade and a half that I’ve paid over retail for is a smallish sized, blue-and-white-dialed chronograph with an old warhorse of a chronograph movement called the Omega CK2998. And more than any other watch in recent memory, it makes me smile each time I look at it. Why? Because it’s as if Omega had reached into my subconscious, extracted and made manifest the exact watch I hoped they would make, even before I actually realized it. The stepped two-tone panda dial offset by — check this out — one of two ceramic bezels in the world with a luminous tachymetric scale (the other is on the Omega Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award”), means that calculations can be made even in low-light conditions. It is perfect because it forges such a salient connection with the brand’s past — the CK2998 being one the brand’s most cherished vintage Speedmasters — while the blue colorway and ceramic bezel infuse it with a daring sense of dynamic modernism. This watch and the emotional hold it has over me is all very much due to a man named Raynald Aeschlimann, and he has won this year’s Revolution Man of the Year award for his inimitable ability to perfectly bridge the past and the future like no one else.
If you’re searching for another example of Aeschlimann’s unique ability, look no further than this year’s 1957 Trilogy, comprising of the breathtaking 1957 Speedmaster 60th Anniversary Limited Edition tribute to the CK2915, as well as the 60th Anniversary Railmaster and Seamaster 300, commonly considered to be the best sports watches of 2017. Apparently the team at Omega scanned every component of the original watches to perfectly understand the dimensions and nuances before designing the new watches. And while these watches may have been vintage in theme, the way Omega has communicated them through its web and social-media platforms has been thoroughly modern.
As a third example of how Aeschlimann perfectly marries the past and the future, in September 2017 he unveiled the latest face of Omega’s women’s watches — Kaia Gerber, a young lady who has electrified the fashion and social-media world. At the same time, he continues to collaborate with Gerber’s mother Cindy Crawford, making him the first CEO to capitalize on the strength of simultaneous multi-generational marketing. Says Aeschlimann, “Forging a path into the future doesn’t mean rejecting the past. Quite the opposite, it is about cherishing your history and connecting it dynamically with the audience of tomorrow through the language of today.”
Early in January 2017, Aeschlimann demonstrated that no single individual in the watch world speaks the language of today with greater fluency, when he became the first CEO in the Swiss watch industry to launch a unique special-edition watch through social media. The Speedmaster “Speedy Tuesday,” created in collaboration with website Fratello Watches, relates to a hashtag used on Instagram by Omega Speedmaster lovers to show images of watches both new and vintage, get-togethers and all else related to the lore of the fabled Speedmaster. Offered online, the entire 2,012-piece run of the Speedy Tuesday watch — a tribute to the 1978 Alaska Project III — sold out in four hours and created such critical mass and resulted in such oversubscription that it almost broke the Internet and flooded Omega’s inbox with a titanic deluge of requests. It will be looked back at as one of the most revolutionary moments in Swiss watchmaking history, and an articulate demonstration of the fact that while Aeschlimann clearly reveres his brand’s past, he is piloting it with irrefutable accuracy into a very bright future.