BaselWorld is the place the world’s finest watchmakers meet. It’s an annual opportunity for brands to highlight their technical achievements and to launch revisions to their collection. As the 2012 edition opened, Mahmoud Kerbaj sat down with Omega’s President and CEO Stephen Urquhart to learn more about his brand’s approach to the exhibition, and Omega’s current take on the market.
As one of the world’s leading watchmakers, what do you believe makes your product unique, year-round, compared to others of its caliber?
Today, what really makes Omega stand out is a result of the time and work we are investing in design, new materials, new promotions and new markets. A perfect example of this is seen in the introduction of our Co-Axial escapement. Other Swiss brands had looked at this technology, but could see no way to pursue it and make it work. Whereas we wanted the best-performing series-produced movement in the world, and our group has the technical and the industrial capacity to put these plans into action. Even with all our resources and dedication, it still took from 1999 until 2007 for us to perfect it and bring it to the market. Today, our mechanical Omega watch uses the Co-Axial escapement, with the sole exception of our Moon Watch.
Which of Omega’s latest developments and innovations will be showcased at Baselworld 2012?
We have many, although we are not a brand who feels it necessary to launch new models every year. Last year we introduced the LadyMatic, but because Omega’s strength is in our iconic models you won’t see new models every year. This year we’re focusing on upgrading the collection, for example with the Day-Date Constellation, the GMT, and Seamaster lines. In terms of materials, for the first time we have worked gold in with a ceramic bezel; it is completely integrated and quite remarkable. One of our highlights is the inclusion of a replica of the first watch in space, an achievement that dates back to 1962.
Taking that Baselworld is the largest networking platform for the watch and jewelry industry, and with approximately 1,800 exhibitors at the event, how do you ensure standing out with your products?
Everyone coming here is looking to establish their brand, in our cases it gives us the opportunity to highlight our depth of technical expertise and design quality - look again at the Co-Axial movement. It is also an opportunity for us to show our uniqueness – here you can look at our involvement with the James Bond franchise and golf’s Ryder Cup. Baselworld provides an exceptional platform for us to do this.
In regard to branding – does the market continue to respond to your celebrity endorsements?
I think in the beginning, when we first used Cindy Crawford in the mid-90s, it was purely about the celebrity. Today we have more than celebrity endorsements, our co-operations today have perhaps a greater practical use. I’ve mentioned the Ryder Cup, and we’ve also completed a film with Yann Arthus-Bertrand. This will be premiered in Rio in June, and will show the importance of water to mankind. We’ve also worked together with Daniel Craig and supported Orbis International and their ‘Flying Eye Hospital’. Our ambassadors are very important to us, but the watch remains the star.
120 years of watchmaking – Omega presents a balance between heritage, classics, technology and contemporary style. Which Omega watches of today do you think are the collector’s pieces of the future?
Well, quite simply, anything that is produced as a limited edition is an essential piece, they certainly have added value. But our limited editions should been seen a far more than mere marketing pieces – our limited edition are remarkable, and collectable, because they often mark significant events in human history, the moon landing for example, of they can mark technical achievements within the field of watchmaking. We’re not simply making watches for people to invest in – we produce watches that are wearable and yet they do increase in value.
You’ll find Omega watches in Kuwait at Marina Mall, Avenues Mall Phase II, and Salhiya Complex.
First Published in Men's Passion Issue #40 May 2012