Tuesday 12 April, 2011 - 10:50 AM EDT
The forerunner of Omega was founded at La Chaux - de - Fonds, Switzerland in 1848 by 23-year-old Louis Brandt, who assembled key-wound precision pocket watches from parts supplied by local craftsmen. After his death in 1879, his two sons Louis-Paul and César abandoned the unsatisfactory assembly workshop system in favour of in-house manufacturing and total production control. In January 1880, the enterprise moved into a small factory buying the entire building in December. Two years later, the company moved into a converted spinning-factory in the Gurzelen district of Biel, where headquarters are still situated today. Their first series-produced calibres, Labrador and Gurzelen, as well as the famous Omega calibre of 1894, would ensure the brand's marketing success.
Louis-Paul and César Brandt both died in 1903, leaving one of Switzerland's largest watch companies in the hands of four young people, the oldest of whom, Paul-Emile Brandt, was not yet 24. Brandt was the great architect and builder of Omega. His influence would be felt over the next half-century. The economic difficulties brought on by the First World War would lead him to work actively from 1925 toward the union of Omega and Tissot, then to their merger in 1930 within the group SSIH, Geneva. Under his leadership, and from 1955 that of Joseph Reiser, the SSIH Group continued to grow and multiply, absorbing or creating some fifty companies. By the seventies, SSIH had become Switzerland's number one producer of finished watches and number three in the world.
Weakened by the severe monetary crisis and recession of 1975 to 1980, the two giant watchmaking groups' R&D and production operations at the ETA complex in Granges merged in 1983 to form the Holding ASUAG-SSIH. In 1985, the holding company was taken over by a group of private investors under the strategy and leadership of Nicolas Hayek. Immediately renamed SMH, Société suisse de Microélectronique et d'Horlogerie, the new group achieved rapid growth and success to become today's top watch producer in the world. Named Swatch Group in 1998, it now includes Blancpain and Breguet. Omega remains one of its most prestigious brands.
THE OMEGA HERITAGE
1884: Louis Brandt creates a pocket watch assembly workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.
1889: Relocated in Bienne, with 600 employees and an annual production of 100 000 pieces, Louis Brandt & Fils becomes the largest watch company in Switzerland.
1894: Louis Brandt 8 Fils develops the ingenious " Omega " is - calibre - for which the company is named.
1917 – 1918: OMEGA is the official watch supplier of the British Royal Flying Corps and theU.S. Army during World War I.
1932: OMEGA times the Olympic Games for the first time, in Los Angeles. Since then,
the most important sports events throughout the world are timed by OMEGA.
Launch of the " Marine " watch with double case, the first OMEGA diver watch.
1939: OMEGA is the official watch supplier of the British Royal Flying Corps during World War II.
1952: Introduction of the first OMEGA " Constellation " chronometers (precision, reliability, design), soon to become the brand's top line.
1957: Creation of the " Speedmaster " chronograph.
1965: After rigorous testing of several brands, the NASA space program chooses
OMEGA'S Speedmaster Chronograph as its official watch.
1969: On July 21 st, the OMEGA Spedmaster Profesional chronograph becomes the first and only watch ever worn on the Moon, as the world marvels at Neil Armstrong
setting foot on the Moon.
1970: OMEGA receives the "Snoopy Award " from NASA for the crucial role played by the Speedmaster in the saving of the Apollo 13 mission.
1981: Launch of the " Omega Seamaster 120 m ", an elegant diving watch (screwlock
crown, mineral glass bezel ring), successfully tested on the wrist of the French diver Jacques Mayol during his famous record dive without scuba to 101 meters' depth off the coast of Elba Island, November 4, 1981.
1989: The Speedmaster Professional becomes the official watch of Soviet Cosmonauts.
Launch of the "Seamaster Professional Chrono-Diver Watch" (30o m/1000 ft), equipped with helium escape valve, the world's first mechanical diver chronograph (with chronometer certificate) with push-buttons which works underwater to a depth of 30 meters.
1994: Launching of the world's first self-winding wristwatch with Central Tourbillon.
1998: OMEGA introduces the Speedmaster Professional X-33, a watch designed in coordination with astronauts and professional pilots, integrating the latest technical features required by top specialists in manned space missions.
1999: Introduction of the world's first industrially produced coaxial escapement movement in the OMEGA De Ville Co-Axial Watch, providing long-lasting
accuracy and requiring greatly reduced lubrication servicing.
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