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OMEGA CEO, Stephen Urquhart Talks The Survival Of Artisan Watchmaking

Baselworld is just around the corner and as a precursor we got to sit down with the CEO of OMEGA, Stephen Urquhart, for a chat about their latest collaboration with Eddie Redmayne for the new Globemaster, the survival of artisan watchmaking in the face of technology and his opinion on women wearing men’s watches.

OMEGA

Award-winning actor Eddie Redmayne recently helped launch the new OMEGA Globemaster which has achieved the status as the world’s first Master Chronometer.

In explaining the new Hollywood partnership, Urquhart believes that Redmayne is the perfect ambassador for the Globemaster brand in today’s market. It all comes down to an air of humility in both the man and the watch.

“Most of its values you can’t see because it’s in the movement,” says Urquhart.

“Eddie Redmayne is the face for this sort of market today because it’s a contemporary and forward looking watch. He is humble and this is a good thing in a world of showmanship.”

For OMEGA, the new Globemaster marks a significant milestone in the Swiss brand’s history. This is namely because they deliberately avoided taking too many cues from the past as most luxury watchmakers do. This strategic move, Urquhart believes, is an underlying value of the OMEGA name which have seen their watches become part of the Olympics and space travel to the moon during the early days.

“The OMEGA Co-Axial movement started in 1999 which was our way to get the brand back to where it should be in terms of mechanical watchmaking,” he explained.

“It took a lot of time, but we created our own Co-Axial movements in-house by 2007, then used silicon in 2008 and now we’ve mastered the magnetic problem which is rampant in the world today where people don’t realise.”

The Globemaster may sound like a traveller’s timepiece, but Urquhart tells us that this is certainly not the case. Interestingly, the name was a household name used by OMEGA in the 1950s for early constellation models. Trademark regulations meant that they couldn’t use this name in the United States and so, the Globemaster remained dormant for forty years in the vault.

“When my team and I decided on this watch, we couldn’t believe no one had used it [the name]. If you don’t use it, the name loses all of its value. So we brought it back.”

The resurrected timepiece now carries a lasting and forceful aesthetic to design which Urquhart believes is at the heart of every OMEGA piece without having to rely on the overused heritage tag. The 39mm specification was itself a true testament to this statement.

“We just felt that 39mm was the right size for that shape,” says Urquhart. The older watches from Omega were the bigger models such as 41mm and this new push for more streamlined watches is a big first step for the brand. Fans of bigger timepieces need not feel worried though. Big watches will still be OMEGA’s passion and their new collection of the Seamaster Planet Ocean will be a showing of this.

Women’s watches will also be a key target for OMEGA in upcoming pieces. Asked about the growing trend of women wearing smaller men’s watches, Urquhart buoyantly supported this idea.

“Yeah, sure. Why not? I mean women drive men’s cars. A BMW is a man’s car. A woman’s car is a car.”

On the innovative material front, Liquidmetal is one of the latest developments to come out of the OMEGA house. Given that the brand is a forward-thinking name, we had to find out what was in store for the future of material advancement in watchmaking.

As an example, Urquhart told us that OMEGA was now working on a new alloy for a prominent golfer. He added that the goal was to make a watch that the golfer wouldn’t feel on his wrist at all.

“I don’t want to give away too much on movement, but I think there’s a whole new world out there. It’s important to keep the same technology of a wristwatch which has been around for 300 years, but with new ways of expressing it. It’s challenging.”

Technology it seems, has not taken anything away from the OMEGA heritage. If it’s done well without compromise on quality, Urquhart will gladly embrace it.

“In the case of our Dark Side Of The Moon timepiece, we’ve been told for the last fifteen years by everybody that we needed a black watch. Everybody has black watches, PVD and of all that,” he recalls.

“We waited. We don’t want to bring out a black watch which can’t be repaired or handed down in fifty years time. So I think done in that respect it’s very important.”

Achieving pure aesthetic form from cutting corners is one thing, but for OMEGA at least, going against this trend and building watches that help to keep its lasting value is the only way.

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