Besides its long history and classic style, the main factor that has made Omega a favorite with some of the most influential people of the past century is that plain and simple, it is just more accurate than any other watch on (or off) the planet.

The Last Name in Watches

To claim the name Omega – the final letter in the Greek alphabet – might seem hyperbolic. But when the first Omega appeared, they employed such innovative technology that they seemed to represent the final word in timekeeping. The technology was developed by the two sons of Louis Brandt, owner of Swiss watchmaker La Generale Watch Company. It used groundbreaking interchangeable components in a revolutionary production system that allowed them to mass produce highly sensitive and accurate watches in house.

Within just 20 years of the brand’s existence, it had a global reputation for durability and style. Reliability was added to that reputation in 1919, when Omega won 1st prize in international observatory trials designed to test the precision and accuracy of timepieces – a feat it repeated so often in ensuing years that by 1931, the company earned the tagline, “Exact time for life”.

Into the Culture

Omega first entered popular culture in 1932, when the company was chosen as the official timekeeper for the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Omega supplied all of the precision chronographs used to time that year’s competitions, becoming the first company in history to be trusted with that responsibility.

By the late 1950s, some of the biggest celebrities in the world had taken notice of the brand’s distinctive look. Buddy Holly and Ringo Starr were both spotted wearing Omega watches. John F. Kennedy was even seen wearing an Omega watch when he was inaugurated as the 35th President of the United States in 1961.

That same year, Elvis Presley was gifted an Omega watch by RCA records in commemoration of 75 million records sold. On a whim, The King later traded that watch with a fan. That 44 diamond encrusted, manual-wound, Caliber 510 watch is scheduled to be auctioned off in May of 2018. The high estimate being around $100,000.

From the Sea to the Stars

Glamour and politics aside, what originally established Omega’s reputation was performance. In 1963, the company sealed that reputation once again when the famous ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau chose the Omega Seamaster Professional model for use in a series of submersion experiments in the Red Sea. It was such a success that the British Special Boat Service adopted the Seamaster as their official watch.

Two years after conquering the sea, Omega conquered the stars, when NASA selected it as the official watch for their astronauts to wear on missions. To earn that accolade, the Omega Speedmaster beat out several other watches in a series of grueling stress tests, to the point of destruction.

In 1969, the Omega Speedmaster worn by Buzz Aldrin, the lunar module pilot on Apollo 11, became the first watch worn on the moon. (The first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, left his Speedmaster in the module.) And the Speedmaster’s space credentials were again immortalized when the Apollo 13 astronauts used their Omega watches to time their jet blasts in order to safely re-enter Earth’s atmosphere after their onboard timers malfunctioned.

Licensed to Thrill

Considering its reputation for glitz, precision, and raw power, it is no surprise that in 1995, Omega became the official watch of super-spy James Bond. To date, Bond has worn Omega watches in eight films. Two have sold at auction, each fetching more than $250,000.

The Omega auction record of $1.4 million was set in 2017. Considering all of the famous names that have been associated with the brand, it might stand to reason that the record breaking Omega watch must have been associated with a celebrity. But in yet another testament to the primary allure of this watch – its mechanics – the vintage Omega that fetched that sum was actually just a prototype. It was the only version of a tourbillon watch created for a series that never made it to production.

Of course, since the pre-auction estimate of that $1.4 million Omega was just $207,000, it is worth wondering whether that $100,000 estimate for Elvis’ Omega might be a bit low. But the nice thing for prospective Omega buyers is that the brand is accessible to almost anyone. New Omega watches start in the $4,000 to $10,000 range. So even if you are not in the mood to spend six (or seven) figures on an Omega, the most precise and culturally recognized watch brand is still easily within your reach.

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