Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of visiting Omega’s renovated museum space across the street from the brand’s headquarters in Biel, . Omega has a history that stretches back to 1848 and the museum tells the story of one generation to the next with great pride and impeccable curation. With a brand that conjures images of James Bond, Astronauts and the Olympics, it’s easy to overlook its modest founder and historic manufacturing abilities. The museum handles the task well though, devoting space and attention to each chapter in the ’s evolution. In the museum you will see some of the most important Omegas ever made – the watches that made it into outerspace, those that were part of the Alaska project, those that were issued by the British military, and even a few from COMEX.
From the outside, the museum would be easy to miss were it not for a small sign behind a bush showing the Omega’s original logo. The ground floor serves as a lunch room for headquarter employees, the only hint at the museum upstairs is a replica moon rover under the stairs. Once upstairs however, the space opens up to three areas, one for the’s beginnings and manufacturing abilities, one for historical models and the last for modern examples.
Browsing the collection yields a few surprises and untold stories, thanks to the museum’s highly knowledgable manager, Brandon Thomas. One pleasant surprise was a 1947 tourbillon movement, which is in fact the very first tourbillon movement ever made for a wrist watch. Also on full display are their advancements made in precision timing devices, many made specifically for use at the Olympic games. From the pool mounted pads for timing the swimmers, to the cameras that put the timing line right on the TV, each has a place of its own.
After a spot of lunch with Omega President, Stephen Urquhart (who was surprisingly candid about the brands aspirations and future plans), we were allowed access to a portion of the museum collection for handling and photographing. See a selection of my photographs after the break.
If you’re an Omega fan, you will appreciate the experience that Omega has created with their new museum. All but the most hardened of experts will find the visit educational and insightful to the vast history of Omega. Next time you find yourself in, put this place on your “must see” list.
Olympic starting gun.