Ever since he took over the reins of Omega five years ago, Raynald Aeschlimann has been on a mission to infuse cutting edge technology into the historic watch brand’s portfolio while staying true to its storied heritage. Under his watch, most of the watches from the brand’s various lines have received the Master Chronometer certification, which adds an extra layer of assurance to an Omega owner. While the Seamaster range received this upgrade back in 2018, the most significant move was the announcement of the Master Chronometer certified Moonwatch early this year. Considering the colossal following the model has, any update had to be foolproof, with minimal chances of ruffling purists’ feathers. Aeschlimann managed just that, showing he has his fingers right on the pulse of the community by bringing back historic elements such as the step-dial and the DON bezel into the new Moonwatch, along with upgrdes such as the 3861 movement and a new bracelet. We catch up with the top Swatch Group executive for a chat ranging from the use of quartz, smartwatches and more.
With the onslaught of smart wearables, mechanical watchmaking finds itself in a sort of crossroads now similar to that of the quartz era. Where do you see the Swiss watchmaking industry going from here?
I don’t believe these two industries intersect as much as people think. Of course, people can purchase smart devices for telling time. Alternatively, they can check their smartphones. However, a Swiss-made mechanical watch is an aspirational object that maintains or even gains in value over time. It can enhance a look or complement a lifestyle in a way that a digital device cannot. What’s more, an OMEGA watch has a rich legacy, a story to tell. This is not often the case with smart wearables, which are here today, gone tomorrow - and often quite uniform in appearance.
Will Omega ever ditch quartz altogether and get back to being a maker of purely mechanical watches?
It wouldn’t make sense for us to ditch quartz altogether as these movements can be the best option when making smaller, thinner watches with simpler displays. There is still a huge demand for these watches and although they are not mechanical, they are still OMEGA watches, Swiss-made with a high level of care and attention.
As much as it’s the brand’s strategy to get Master Chronometer certified calibres into every watch, do you think you should have left the Moonwatch alone?
Aesthetically, we did leave the Moonwatch essentially alone - and always will. We made some subtle changes in the design, but not just for the sake of it. Any visible changes made are about enhancing the much-loved design, not overturning it. As for the movement, well it pays to remember that the Moonwatch is famous for the first lunar landing, which was a pioneering moment. So I don’t think it’s fitting for such a watch to “stand still” in terms of its technology.
Will you be content updating your current line of watches going forward, or will you be adding new model lines altogether?
We are always experimenting and innovating, but never at the expense of the brand’s DNA. Every watch we make in the future will have links to our past. Therefore, we can assure our customers that our watches will continue to surprise and delight - but will always have a familiarity to them.
With all the history, heritage and innovation behind the Omega brand, it isn’t the market leader among Swiss watches in terms of sales. Do you see the brand reclaiming its leadership position in the near future?
We strive to be the market leader, but again, we can only achieve this within the parameters of our brand DNA. We have our drives and ambitions but we are also respectful of what an OMEGA watch represents. We would never take a complete U-turn on design or quality just to increase sales in a short-term sense.
Where does the Middle East stand in terms of market significance for Omega?
It’s a robust market and an important region for OMEGA. We are title sponsors of two important golfing events in the Middle East and we have many friends and passionate collectors in that part of the world. It is a region with its own pioneering spirit, which resonates with our brand.
Will we ever see a smartwatch from Omega?
Not in the near future. I think our loyal customers are happy for us to continue doing what we’re doing, which is making watches of exceptional quality tested at the industry’s highest level. We make products to be treasured. In this fickle and rapidly changing world, I would call a watch of that quality the smartest watch of all.