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The Omega offensive
Beginner's Guide

The Omega offensive

Thursday, 20 October 2011
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

“The desire to learn is the key to understanding.”

“Thirty years in journalism are a powerful stimulant for curiosity”.

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3 min read

With new store openings, mechanical watches specifically for its women customers, an extension of the famous Co-Axial movement across the collections, and heavyweight sponsorship deals, Omega leaves no stone unturned in assuring the brand’s presence.

While aficionados happily admit that the Jean-Claude Biver method has worked wonders for Hublot, which is visible on all fronts, it isn’t the only brand to be leading a conquest of horological terrains far and wide. Omega, under Stephen Urquhart, is also branching out. Is it a coincidence that the two men both spent a number of years at Swatch Group, one with Blancpain, the other with Omega? With customers lurking in the most unlikely places, the unwritten rule today is that brands have to be everywhere at once. But how many have this ability to be omnipresent?

The power of history and tradition

“Omega’s long tradition gives us something of an advantage,” declared Stephen Urquhart earlier this year. “Often, our customers have a personal connection with the brand. Our involvement in the conquest of space might strike a chord, or they may be James Bond fans. These and numerous other factors help us build a special connection. We have a lot to thank the internet for too, as potential customers are now better informed than ever.” Indeed, it would be impossible for anyone to claim not to know Omega’s omnipresence in sports timing, exploration of the ocean’s deep, or the technological breakthroughs behind the famous Co-Axial calibre, now with added silicon. The movement is expected to equip some 400,000 Omega watches this year, which is close to half total production.

Personally, I don't wear a watch to tell the time…
Stephen Urquhart

But where do watches fit in with all this? Says Stephen Urquhart: “Time is everywhere today. I’m sure that most people have a number of devices either on them or in their bag that tell the time with ample precision. Obviously, mechanical watchmaking has no intention of competing with these technologies. Wearing a quality watch is akin to walking around with a sculpture, a painting, even a poem or a piece of literature on one’s wrist. Personally, I don’t wear a watch to tell the time…”

A third of Swatch Group sales

Swatch Group, which owns the brand, can be glad of these Omega watches that don’t give the time. According to Kepler Capital Markets estimates, they account for CHF 2 billion of the Group’s annual global sales (CHF 6.4 billion in 2010), or roughly 30% of revenues. Which makes it a brand worthy of no end of attention and investment. In fact Omega is now pretty much in the same league as Rolex, its direct competitor, to which Vontobel Bank attributed revenues of around €2.5 billion for 2009. Analysts also calculate that the brand is fast increasing its market share in the Far East. Who could forget the classic line in the James Bond movie Casino Royale. Complimented by Vesper Lynd, alias Eva Green, on his “Rolex?”, 007 retorts “Omega.”

At the end of the day, if the mere mention of a brand in a film that grossed USD 600 million – the biggest Bond box office to date – is enough to position a product, then everyone knows what that brand is. Namely, a well-oiled horological machine that hasn’t finished rolling out the red carpet…

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