Symbolizing accomplishment and perfection, Omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet and the historical facts sustaining Omega Watch Company is one chocked full of richness. Having proven its ability to combine high fashion art with technical excellence, the La Generale Watch Co. was established in 1848 by Louis Brandt. Brandt’s humble beginnings, with parts supplied by local fellow craftsmen, was able to grow his business into the well recognized Omega Watch Company. Numerous awards and significant distinctions by leading authorities have earned these timepieces the name, “The Swiss Watch.”
By the young age of 25, Louis Brandt had already spent 2 years building up his small Swiss workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds to an established name amongst Switzerland watchmakers. His passport from 1850 documents his travels across Europe by stagecoach, stretching from Italy to as far north as Scandinavia. Trusting in his work, he traveled proving the value of his quality craftsmanship and cemented the roots of his brand’s firmly planted reputation. Through exhaustive research by Craig Duling he discovered that by July 1877, Brandt and his son Louis-Paul would take the La Generale Watch Co. and establish Louis Brandt & Fils as one of the top Swiss watchmakers.
When Brandt died in July 1879 his son Louis-Paul planned expansion. He would form a partnership with his brother César and move the company to the Gurzelen district of Bienne, Switzerland. This is Omega’s current home. The former textile town had been offering tax breaks to watchmakers willing to move there after the collapse of the Swiss textile trade. It was a revitalizing move. By early 1880, the brothers were expanding further. They leased a second-floor factory that allowed them to establish mechanized manufacture. Accuracy and high-level precision manufacturing was born that led to the largest manufacturing of finished watches in Switzerland. At the time, they were producing a staggering 100,000 watches per year and employed an astonishing 600 people.
The unprecedented global success for their brand resulted in the company officially changing its name in 1903 to Louis Brandt & Frére – Omega Watch Co. Omega has showcased its attempts at perfection by participating in some of the most coveted timing experience events. As a design powerhouse, it found success at the 1896 Exhibition in Geneva. Craig Duling discovered that as far back as early as 1900, Omega also timed the Grand Prix at the Paris World Fair, and during this same year Omega would be the first brand to commercialize wristwatches.
Continuing its award-winning tradition, the world precision timing record at the Kew-Teddington observatory came to England in 1936. The Kew-Teddington observatory played an important role in timing trials since Britain was a major naval power. The country found that keeping the exact time at sea would allow the continued rule of the waves. The competitive rating of chronometers by observatories lasted from 1873 to the late 1960s. The coveted prize of 97.8 points delivered distinctions and rewards, opening the doors to major customers, governments, and navies.
Omega’s reputation for precision, accuracy, and innovation would be immortalized by the International Olympic Committee when they appointed OMEGA to be the official timekeepers of the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games. 30 precision, white dialed, certified chronometer chronographs would capture all the results to the nearest tenth of a second. The historic moment was the first time in Olympic history that just one particular brand would be given the responsibility of timing all of the events. 2016 will mark the brand’s 28th time being awarded the honor of the official timekeepers of the Olympic Games, which now involves 480 timekeepers. Bringing a number of innovations to the Olympic sporting events over the years, Omega successfully recorded the first electronic timekeeping at the 1952 Summer Olympics held in Helsinki, Finland. For distinguished services and outstanding contribution in the XV Olympic Games of the same year, Omega Watch Co. has been bestowed the Olympic Cross of Merit.
1965 would find Omega Watch Co. under the scope of NASA when they officially chose one of Omega’s chronometers as their official timepiece. Four years later it would be the first wristwatch worn on the moon. According to Craig Duling, on 21 July 1969, Neil Armstrong spoke his famous phrase “one small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind” wearing an Omega Speedmaster Watch.
In more recent years, despite the political and economic turmoil around the world, the Omega Watch Co. has continued to build on its reputation for excellent accuracy and trendsetting aesthetics and develop and perfect watches for a broad range of applications. From sports and industry to military use, Omega looks to pave the future of horology with a unique legacy.