Omega has more than 170 years of history dotted with ground-breaking achievements. However, your average watch fan will associate Omega first and foremost with the Speedmaster, the watch that made it to the Moon. While the association is warranted, this Swiss company is so much more than that. So, to kick-start Omega Week, I’d like to put four of Omega’s other long-standing partnerships and their linked watches in the limelight. Our first stop will be in the world of sports.
When Every Millisecond Counts: The Olympic Games
Omega has served as the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games and its sister events since 1932, when it partnered with the 10thSummer Olympics held in Los Angeles. They sent 30 chronographs to Los Angeles, each accurate to within nearly 1/10thof a second and featuring a split-seconds function. At the time, this was the pinnacle of watch technology. To avoid biased results, several judges would measure the time for each event using their Omega pocket watch. These times were then added together and divided to determine an average time.
Obviously, chronographs and watches have evolved quite a bit since then. Omega has been responsible for keeping the time at 28 Olympic Games to date. In that time, they’ve witnessed numerous historic moments in sports – and resolved some very controversial race results. In 2004, Nick Hayek, CEO of the Swatch Group, expressed what their role as the official timekeeper meant to Omega and the Swatch group as a whole, “Our commitment to the Olympic Games is much more than just a name on a display board or a screen. All of the Swatch Group’s companies share the core philosophy of the Olympic Movement, which celebrates humanity more than anything else.”
Omega regularly releases special editions commemoratingeach Olympics, certain anniversaries, or significant historic achievements. Each piece is unique in its design and purpose. One example is the Omega Speedmaster Olympic Edition. While its basic design is obviously that of the Speedmaster, the dial, hands, and case back have all been given the Olympic treatment. The dial is white (a nod to the first Olympic Omega pocket watches with enamel dials) and stamped with the vintage red Omega logo and name. The counterweight of the chronograph second hand is the five Olympic rings, which you’ll also find on the case back alongside the Omega logo and the words “Official Timekeeper.” All in all, this is a special watch that you don’t come across very often.
On the High Seas: Accompanying Sir Peter Blake
In addition to sponsoring the Volvo Ocean Race, Omega proudly supports the Swiss sailing team Alinghi and Emirates Team New Zealand, which represents the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. However, perhaps the most notable yachtsman that Omega ever supported was Sir Peter Blake, one of the founders and leaders the iconic New Zealand racing team. Omega’s partnership with Sir Peter Blake started in 1995. It was a great fit for both him and the Swiss brand.
Listing all of Sir Peter Blake’s achievements would require a much longer article. Most importantly, he worked as a professional sailor, explorer, and researcher, alongside his role as an environmental ambassador for the UN. He put a lot of effort into raising awareness about environmental issues affecting the Earth’s waters. Sadly, Sir Peter Blake was shot and killed at the age of 53 after his crew came under attack by pirates in the Amazon in 2001. Though his life was cut far too short, Blake was able to leave a legacy that lives on to this day. His success with the New Zealand sailing team made him a household name and beloved figure for Kiwis around the world.
The result of Omega’s collaboration with Blake is the now-iconic Seamaster model. A modern classic, this Seamaster 300M perfectly blends vintage and modern design elements. The bezel, sword hands, and large luminous indices are all details you’d expect to find on a Seamaster from the 1960s. However, the case, helium escape valve at 10 o’clock, and wave pattern on the dial all add a modern touch to this Seamaster 300M. It looks as good on a rubber strap as it does on a bracelet, and is sure to come in handy for any diver or sailor. It’s no coincidence that Sir Peter Blake was chosen to be the “face” of this watch back in the mid-90s. Funnily enough, the timepiece looks just as modern now as it did over 20 years ago.
Lifting Off: Raising Awareness about Orbis
If you have sound vision, it’s hard to imagine life with impaired sight. That’s where Orbis comes in. The NGO is dedicated to fighting avoidable blindness. One of their projects involves sending their Flying Eye Hospital around the globe. Located inside a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 jet airplane, the doctors and nurses on board travel to developing countries to assist and train local medical professionals. This great cause partnered with in Omega in 2011. Today, awareness campaigns, such as documentaries narrated by Omega brand ambassadors Cindy Crawford and Daniel Craig, draw attention to Orbis and their work. More importantly, Omega has created three watches specifically for Orbis. A portion of the proceeds from each sale goes to this amazing organization so they can continue their life-enriching work.
No matter your taste in watches, Omega truly has something for everyone. The current collection has options for both men and women. The men’s model is 39.5 mm in diameter, has a deep blue dial, and comes on a leather strap or stainless steel bracelet. On the other hand, women can choose from a 32.7-mm Co-Axial model with a white dial or a 27.4-mm quartz timepiece with a deep blue dial, both with 8 diamond indices. All three models share blue details in the same tone as the Orbis logo. Another common element is the teddy bear pattern on the dial. Omega supplies young Orbis patients with this cuddly friend during their treatment. You’ll also find an engraving of the bear on the case back.
In your search for an Orbis timepiece, you may also come across the Speedmaster 38 edition with a Co-Axial chronograph caliber. This timepiece has a dark blue dial with Orbis blue subdials and details. The teddy bear is a bit more subtle on this model, playing the role of the chronograph hand’s counterweight. Again, this model also has a teddy bear engraving on its case back.
A Man on a Mission: James Bond
Perhaps Omegas most notable collaboration, at least since the mid-90s, is with a fictional character. Of course, I’m talking about Ian Fleming’s famous agent in service of Her Majesty, James Bond. Fleming created Bond by mixing his own physical features and personality with those of other friends and acquaintances he had met while serving in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. James Bond is an educated and handsome man with a mysterious past. He’s impeccably dressed, eloquent, and charming, but he isn’t afraid to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Since Goldeneye(1995), 007 has been a loyal wearer of Omega watches. Costume designer Lindy Hemming was convinced that the Seamaster was the best watch to meet all of Bond’s needs. Whether it’s the Seamaster Diver 300M, Aqua Terra, or Planet Ocean, he wears every timepiece with class and style, no matter how risky the situation.
The first Omega James Bond (as portrayed by Pierce Brosnan) ever wore was a beautiful quartz-powered Seamaster 300M with a blue bezel. Since 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies, 007 has been wearing the same model but with a mechanical movement. Both versions are 41 mm in diameter and have a blue bezel, skeletonized sword hands, and a deep blue dial with a wave pattern. While some prefer the convenience of a quartz movement, others are fond of the complexity of mechanical movements. Regardless of which you choose, both are amazing timepieces and a great addition to any watch collection.
Most partnerships between watch companies and other brands or individuals only last a few years before fizzling out. However, Omega breaks the mold with their many decades-old partnerships. This is largely due to the fact that Omega takes time to find partners that embody their values and share a mutual respect for the other’s work. I also find the versatility of their collaborations particularly interesting. Beyond the entertainment industry, Omega also seeks out socially important initiatives that might not be the most profitable for the brand. When viewed as a whole, it’s clear that Omega is so much more than just the brand that sent a watch to the Moon.