There are many people who may have only been made aware of Omega when a certain member of MI6 ‘casually’ dropped into conversation that he was wearing one, while on a train on the way to a certain casino.
Bond has, traditionally, shown more fidelity to Rolex than he has to any woman, but, in 1995, Pierce Brosnan strapped on an Omega Seamaster Professional and a new love affair was born.
However, Omega has been part of the watch world since 1848, when it was started by a watchmaker called Louis Brandt, though the brand wasn’t formally known by its Greek alphabetical moniker until 1894.
Since then Omega has made its name in a few different fields. First up was sports timing, which Omega first got involved in in 1909, when the first Gordon-Bennett balloon race happened in Zurich.
One of Omega’s greatest sports associations is the Olympic Games, which the brand started timing back in 1932 and for which it has done more than just record who won. It has actually used its expertise to devise superior gadgets, such as a new starter pistol for the 2010 Games in Vancouver and starting blocks and swimming touch pads for the 2012 event in the UK.
Benedict Cumberbatch wearing his Omega Olympic Collection Seamaster 2012
As well known as Omega has been for its sporting associations, it is space with which it has the most poignant links.
Rather acquire this association with Nasa via the usual route (being asked by the space agency to develop a product specifically), the Omega Speedmaster was not designed for space flights. It got its place on a mission thanks to Wally Schirra, who took his own watch aboard the Mercury-Atlas 8, which left US soil on October 3, 1962.
Following that flight, Nasa actually made the unprecedented step of going out and purchasing these chronographs for use on the Gemini and Apollo programs.
It was on July 21, 1969 that Omega took its place in history when Buzz Aldrin wore his during his first moonwalk (Neil Armstrong left his in the landing module because the electronic cockpit chronometer had broken down).
Buzz Aldrin wearing his Omega Speedmaster
But it was on the doomed Apollo 13 mission, in 1970, where Omega really proved its mettle.
When the craft was crippled by the rupture of a Service Module Oxygen tank, it was Jack Swigert’s Speedmaster that was used to time the critical 14-second mid-course burn, which allowed the crew to slingshot around the moon and return home safely.
For its part in this mission, Omega received the Snoopy Award – the special award given out to Nasa employees and contractors for outstanding achievements related to human flight safety or mission success – which it used on its watch dial for this year’s incarnation of the Speedmaster.
Omega Speedmaster featuring Snoopy that launched at Baselworld 2015
The other thing that makes Omega noteworthy also ties it to the most British of watchmakers (in the purest sense of the term) – George Daniels.
Back in 1974, Daniels designed a new type of escapement. It was the first time any real advancement had been made on this part of a watch since the 1800s and avoided the need to oil the escapement due to low friction, so eliminating problems caused by oil thickening over time. By 1980 Daniels had patented his invention, but no one was really that interested in using it in mass production in any form.
The Co-Axial Escapement (left) and it inside the Omega Speedmaster Co-axial Chrono Calibre 9300
Thankfully, the Swatch Group’s Nicholas Hayek decided to adopt the concept for Omega and by 1999 it had unveiled its first watch using Daniels’s invention; an invention that is now the beating heart of most of the brand’s output.
Obviously Omega has had its downs, such as the Quartz crisis, which saw it lose ground to the Japanese then damaging the brand’s reputation by launching cheap models into the US.
And it is definitely worth mentioning that Omega doesn’t only make watches for men; it has some stunning styles for women particularly in its De Ville and Constellation collections, as modeled by such ambassadors as Nicole Kidman and Cindy Crawford.
Nicole Kidman modelling her Omega De Ville Ladymatic
For the past 167 years, it has gained renown as a brand that is a stalwart of the watch world, famed for its solid watches that you can depend on, whatever fix you find yourself in. No wonder Bond doesn’t leave home without one.