Why Omega Won’t Launch A Smart Watch

Article by Matthew Drumond GQ Magazine 


Global boss of Omega, Stephen Urquhart, is one of the smartest watchmakers in the world. But when asked about the battle between mechanical watches and smart (or connected) watches he admits his reply sounds a bit stupid. 

“God gave us two wrists,” he tells GQ Australia. “If people want to have a connected watch, they can put it on one and have a beautiful mechanical watch on the other.”

Or put another way, the CEO and President of mighty Omega doesn’t feel any threat from smart watches, at least not yet. “I still think when anybody buys a good watch, the reason is emotional,” he tells GQ Australia.  Urquhart who started his career at Omega in 1968 and has been president there since 1999, is sticking to his knitting, creating mechanical pieces that keep time as perfectly as possible. While he’ll never say never, he says has no plans for Omega to join the connected watch trend.

The mood in Baselworld – the world’s biggest and glitziest watch fair – was a touch somber this year with sales for Swiss watches down, mostly due to expensive watches falling from favour in China and Hong Kong. Urquhart says the segments where Omega plays are thriving, but he admits to being a bit worried about the state of the world. “You’ve got terrorism in France, there’s massive immigration problems in Europe. There are a lot of problems around. At the end of the day watches are an emotional product. You have to be in a good frame of mind to make that step to buy one.”

Which is perhaps why watchmakers, more than ever, are riffling through their archives for inspiration from the legends and icons of their past. In Omega’s case that means the Speedmaster, the watch worn by Buzz Aldrin when he landed on the moon. What could be more legendary than that?
Omega’s new Speedmaster Moonphase features on many of the short lists of the best new watches on show at Baselworld 2016. It also picks up two of the big trends – moonphases and navy dials.  The bezel is made of blue ceramic with a liquid metal tachymeter. The dial is a sun-brushed blue with a couple of judiciously placed red highlights.  

The 44mm chronometer has 368 components and three subdials – one with a minute and hour recorder, one that shows the second hand and the date and the third showing the cycle of the moon. The moon, as ancient Egyptians figured out, has a cycle of 29.5 days, which is pretty hard to record in a watch designed for hours and dates. Somehow Omega makes that lunar cycle work so well it only needs to be adjusted once every ten years. To boot: the moon is drawn up from actual NASA maps and should you have a magnifier handy, you can spy Buzz Aldrin’s bootprint in the Sea of Tranquility.

“We had this cool idea of having the foot print,” Urquhart says. “It’s a great story, the Apollo mission. “No one is going to go around with a magnifier glass looking at the moon print. But it’s a tongue in cheek reminder of the story behind this watch.”

Urquhart started at Omega just a year before Buzz Aldrin’s landing. As President he’s ensured Omega is one of Switzerland’s best performing watch companies, helped by its association with events like the Olympics and James Bond 007. The brand is also making a virtue of its timepieces’ superior anti-magnetic properties and has worked with Switzerland’s government metrology institute, METAS, to create a new standard in watch-keeping, the Master Chronometer. Omega will release 62 new Master Chronometer watches in 2016 – the Moonphase among them – and the brand is on track to have all its watches certified by METAS by 2020. 

“We have to be consistent, that’s what people want in a world that’s a little bit scary, Urquhart says. “They want to be assured.”

Read the original story at GQ http://vst.to/yv1B7Z

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