OMEGA and Creation: putting the "art" in the art of timekeeping
For many people, the words 'Omega watch' conjure up technical performance, record precision, Olympic timekeeping and Moon landings. And there's no question that these are all key, defining elements of the brand. But along with the technical innovations and the adventures, Omega has also been obsessed with the aesthetics of its watches. From its beginnings, the brand set the standard in jewellery, jewelled watches and luxury watchmaking.
Omega's designs have led to numerous coveted awards since 1896. It collected gold medals and grand prizes at international and universal exhibitions in Brussels, Paris, Milan and Barcelona. It also claimed the Decorative Arts of Paris prize in 1925 at the exhibition that gave art deco its name. Add to that its Diamonds-International Awards, seven Golden Roses of Baden-Baden and its Prix de la Ville de Genève, and another important part of Omega's legacy is recalled.
Omega has always seen time and beauty as inseparable. The artists who have created masterpieces for the brand were not only concerned with making stunning watches and clocks whose designs would endure but were also fascinated by the mystery of time. They were intrigued by the transient, fleeting meaning and beauty of a moment and giving it a sort of immortality through their art. Did they succeed?
If you were to take a leisurely stroll through the Omega Museum, you might very well select a different set of watches as the best representatives of the aesthetic face of the brand's timekeeping but . . . we don't think you'll argue too vehemently with the choices on these pages.
The Greek Temple watch, 1900
In 1900, just six years after the Omega movement was introduced commercially, the company created the Greek Temple watch. It claimed both a Gold Medal and the Grand Prize at the Universal Exhibition. It represented the façade of a Greek temple with various motifs in relief. The enamel dial, which was painted in black and terra cotta tones depicts, appropriately, Chronos, the Greek god of time. Other Greek gods and warriors decorate the 18 Ct gold case and two winged griffins protect the temple.
Omega's luminescent ladies' luxury . . . made in France! 1946
In 1946, Omega introduced an 18 Ct red gold diamond-set wristwatch that was the first to feature a “tubogas” bracelet, a feature later used by many brands within the industry. This very rare model of French production is created by Maison Brandt Frères Paris It was memorialized in an advertisement with a characteristic drawing by the era's leading fashion illustrator, René Gruau. This iconic advertisement finishes with the words "Union of precision and the aesthetics," an idea that has always characterized OMEGA.
The Omega Flowers, 1955
One of the stars at Baselworld in 1955 was the Omega "Flowers" lady's jewellery secret watch. It was a unique model in 18 Ct mauve and yellow gold set with 38 brilliant-cut diamonds and 17 coloured diamonds. It was the first watch in the world created with mauve gold. At the time, Omega described it this way: "The tasteful blend of jonquil and cognac diamonds that enhance this model make it an absolutely original piece, one that could not be reproduced. One of the meticulously shaped flowers, opening in the middle, uncovers the watch. While the bracelet is in yellow gold, the leaves are made of mauve gold. This is a style of the precious metal that has never been applied to watches; up to now, only creators of jewellery have occasionally used mauve gold to obtain nuanced and delicate effects with light." It's easy to understand why it could never be duplicated!
The Omega Grand Luxe, 1956
The Omega Grand Luxe jewellery watch from 1956 was created in 950 platinum. It's bezel and lugs were set with 32 baguette, square or conical diamond with a total weight of about 2.5 carats. The bracelet was set with 48 baguette and trapezoid sapphires (about 12 carats). It took about a year to assemble the necessary quantity of sapphires of identical colour.
The Moldavita, 1964
One of the most prestigious of Omega's jewellery pieces was the Moldavita, designed for the New York World's Fair in 1964. It was designed by Gilbert Albert who, as a winner of ten Diamonds-International Awards, had distinguished himself as one of the world's most talented jewellers.
It conveyed a vision of the future by pairing an extremely rare 7.5 gram gem-quality moldavite – a type of glass formed following the impact of a meteor – set on the pendant and Omega's smallest and most accurate ladies' automatic movment. The extraordinary piece took its name from the moldavite. The example in the Moldavita is amazingly symmetrical and it turns bright green when light passes through it. The chain and the rest of the pendant consist of 18 Ct yellow gold and platinum.
The "Harvest" from the "About Time" collection, 1970
Andrew Grima, who designed the "About Time" collection, was one of the world's best known jewellers. He had been honoured with an impressive array of prizes including twelve Diamonds-International Awards and his clients included the British royal family. He was commissioned by Omega to create a highly aesthetic avant-garde collection. Grima was given a free hand and chose to stick to one principle: he would create the watch around the dial, no matter what its form or dimension. The collection ultimately consisted of 55 watches and 30 matching pieces of jewellery. The unique "Harvest" pendant in the collection was inspired by wheat sheaves and featured a facetted quartz crystal. It had a solid gold dial with riveted baguette hour markers at 12 and 6 o'clock, black baton hands and a case on hinges at 9 o'clock.
The Premonition of Drawers, 1973
One of the best-known of the creations in the Omega Museum is a sculpture called Prémonition des Tiroirs (The Premonition of Drawers) by Salvador Dali. Dali was one of the fathers of surrealism and some of his best-known paintings featured melting clocks. When he created this bronze sculpture in 1973, the founder of the bronze came to Omega for the movement. Luigi Viando, who was the brother of the founder, was Omega's head designer. The female figure depicted in the sculpture has a number of drawers coming from her chest, stomach and leg. As is so often the case with surrealistic art, you are left to interpret the sculpture's hidden meanings.
Other artistic treasures
Considering some of the watches described here serves as a reminder of just how artistically creative Omega's designers have been over the years. It was suggested earlier in this article that you might find some watches in the Omega Museum that you would choose as the best representatives of Omega's tradition of aesthetic excellence. We hope that you'll take the opportunity to visit and let us know which models in our collection strike you as the most compelling.