The Omega Museum - part 1

The Omega Museum - part 1

Recap of our visit to the Omega Museum

06 September 2013 | OMEGA ,

The Omega Museum - part 1

One fine August morning you arrive at Rue Jakob-Stämpfli and you immediately realize that you are in what may be the most magical area of Biel/Bienne. One look around and you just know that you’re in the right place:

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You can almost taste the perfume of watches and all you have to decide is whether to follow the fragrance of the future or immerse yourself in the history of a legend. We were there for the latter temptation (hoping that one day we may discover the hidden mystery of the future). A tiny sign with the famous logo, hidden from view, situated at the entrance to one of its historic sites, where a museum now occupies the first and only floor. You enter the main hall and for a moment you are in awe, for it is here that you realize that everything you may know about this particular brand name is only a very small, though significant, part of the whole. And this is only the beginning because, as we are told, the manufacture and the museum are the focus of a strategic restoration and expansion to take place over the next three years. Our visit to the Omega museum is more surprising than we would have expected and an authentic discovery because, in a relatively small space, we experience such an astonishing and tightly condensed quantity of the history of innovation in watch making, broken down into product lines and sporadically interrupted by experimental models that tell the story of highly advanced and unceasing Research and Development.

To the extent of forcing us to divide this report into several chapters: our voyage leads to the discovery of models so far unknown to even the most devoted fans that, if reissued could, in our opinion, vastly expand the horizons of the brand, attracting new clients and further heightening their brand awareness (which we will discuss later). But let’s start with a model that is the true standard-bearer of Omega throughout the world: the Speedmaster.

Launched in 1957, selected by NASA in 1965, the Speedy, as they call it on the other side of the ocean, becomes the famous "Moon Watch" only in 1969. The first Speedmaster has the manual caliber 321 with a column wheel chrono function switching mechanism designed by Lemania (Albert Piguet). An immediate success: this is an exceptional caliber in quality and finish, the prominent leader in chronographic calibers (with industrial level production) of the era.

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It would later be replaced by the 861, still in production and labeled 1861, with the single exception (sigh!) of eliminating the column wheel and replacing it with a cam, a decision that certainly simplified the mechanics but made it less rare. The case, originally with straight lugs and triple register layout and "broad arrow" hour hand will later be replaced by the 1959 version (similar to the 1957, 2915-3 version), featuring "Alfa" hands, tachymeter scale on aluminum ring and O-ring on the pushers. It was this version that, through its numerous upgrades and refinements, served as the basis for the Speedmaster CK2998, a watch that on the wrist of Wally Schirra will become the first (and stock...) Speedmaster to go into space, along with the famous Velcro wristband (dear Omega, why not come up with a line of accessories that will let us personalize our Speedmaster?). There followed an unending series of missions all leading up to the famous moon landing of 1969.

The history of this series and its connection to space travel continued. Remember that the Omega collection includes some very rare models, including the Speedmaster 125, with its elastic band, worn in 1977 by Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Dzhanibekov:

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An interminable series of versions and upgrades, of limited editions dedicated to the many space missions in which the Speedmaster took part, the conversions of straight to helical lugs, we could continue on and on to talk of a watch that when worn is so easily recognizable even from afar and that remains the irreplaceable companion to all space missions of the modern era. The voyage of discovery of the Omega could not have had a better beginning...

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(Photo credit: Horbiter's proprietary photo-shooting)

Gaetano C. @Horbiter - Watches & Luxury

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