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A visit to the museum for Omega watches in Switzerland

03-Jun-2011 • Collecting

A visit to the Omega Museum is a must if you want a peek into the brand’s rich heritage, which dates back to 1848 when watchmaker Louis Brandt started his business on a bench, reports The Star.

Located across Omega’s headquarters in Biel, Switzerland and opened in 1984, it is the oldest watch museum dedicated to the history of a single brand. Along with some 4,000 watches, the remarkable collection includes movements, clocks, instruments, tools, photos, engravings, posters, signs, awards and certificates.

The first watch, which had the name “Omega” on its dial was produced in 1894 and featured the 19-ligne calibre created by Francois Chevillat. Incidentally, the first special orders came from railroad administrators who wanted to time the trains, and shooting associations, which purchased watches for their members and winners of their competitions.

“Our first wristwatch appeared in 1900, which was also the world’s first industrially manufactured wristwatch. Omega’s strength lies in its ability to industrialise watches so that it can be repaired anywhere in the world,” says curator Brandon Thomas.

Over the years, Omega’s Speedmaster watches have been to the moon and back with Apollo astronauts. Edwin Aldrin wore the first watch on the moon in 1969 when he followed Neil Armstrong onto the lunar surface. Since then, Omega watches have accompanied American astronauts on all their space missions.

“We make the watches for NASA and we’re constantly improving the Speedmaster to withstand the extreme range of temperatures on the lunar surface. The numbers can go from –148°C to 260°C ,” explains Thomas.

On display at the museum, along with these “Moon Watches” are models of space shuttles, a lunar rover model, an astronaut’s spacesuit, photographs taken from the moon and sew-on NASA patches.

If you’re a fan of 007, then there’s no better place to view the collection of watches worn by the various actors who starred as James Bond in the movies. Since 1995, any actor who takes on the Bond role immediately becomes one of Omega’s brand ambassadors. Currently, Daniel Craig’s posters and pictures dominate the “Bond” area. The curator proudly points out that Omega also lends its watches to many film companies.

Besides the watches, visitors can view the numerous tools, watchmaker’s lathes, large-scale models of escapements and devices used to test water-resistance.

The entire spectrum of time measurement devices for athletic events is also comprehensively displayed. These include the slender Muybridge threads that were snapped by racehorses as they sprinted to the finish line, automatic triggers, electrical starting pistols, light barriers, time recorders and the photofinish system, which was introduced in 1949.

Part of Omega’s palette is the debut of a 24-ligne watch for the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the United States. There is an impressive display at the museum of how the timepieces work as athletes race to beat the clock.

“We were the first company to time every event in the Olympics using chronographs and stop watches. In 1932, almost every record was broken. To reduce human error, we now have one timepiece at the start and another at the finish line. For example, in swimming, the athlete has to touch the contact pad to stop the clock. This simple new technology reacts only to the touch of the swimmer and is not affected by water splashes,” explains Thomas.

Omega’s most recent development in timing technology was to bring sports timekeeping into the Internet age with live timing of swimming events, which allows anyone with Internet access to view swimming and diving competition results in real time on the Omega Timing Internet site, www.omegatiming.com.

Today, Omega watches can be seen on the wrists of kings, queens, presidents, explorers, visionaries and celebrities.

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