When Louis Brandt founded Omega in 1848, his ambition was to make the most precise watches in the world. A successful goal, in particular thanks to the iconic calibers of the house!
Louis Brandt, The Founder of Omega
1848. Louis Brandt founded the company in La Chaux de Fonds in the canton of Neuchâtel, which in 1894 took the name Omega. But in the middle of the 19th century, we were talking more about the Louis Brandt establishment counter – a house whose goal was to manufacture the most precise watches in the world.
The master watchmaker would go on to understand the operation of timepieces in search of the secret of precision. On his death in 1879, he bequeathed his sons Louis-Paul and César Brandt his trading post, and his goals.
From 1879, the two sons of Louis Brandt threw themselves into the industrialization of the manufacture of watches. Renamed Louis Brandt & Fils, the house moved to Biel, in the canton of Bern. In a short time, and knowing how to take advantage of the city’s dynamism in terms of logistics, they were going to launch two innovations that would overturn the world of watchmaking.
First, it is the first caliber of the house to be mass produced. Labrador – a technological innovation that facilitates chronometric performance. Revolutionary for its time!
Then, it is the invention of the iconic caliber of the house. A caliber that sketched the Omega legend. In 1894, the Brandt brothers launched the Omega caliber 19 lines. Mass produced using new technologies, the movement revolutionized the precision of watches.
The Omega 19-line caliber largely redefined the standards which then naturally applied to other watchmaking houses. It was this invention that gave the name to the Omega house.
Iconic Omega Calibers, Watchmaking Revolutions
The caliber that launched the Brandt brothers’ house is the one that gave its name to the Omega house. A mechanism which, in addition to being a great novelty for the time, inaugurated a system still used today.
The First, The Omega Caliber 19 Lines
The revolution of the Omega 19-line caliber is first and foremost a technical revolution. With the use of this caliber, each piece becomes easily replaceable by any watchmaker. Caliber 19 also makes it possible to combine the functions of winding and setting the time at the crown and stem. This system is still in force today!
When the Brandt house imagined the Omega caliber 19 lines on the basis of Labrador- 19 lines indicating its 43 mm diameter, it innovates in a spectacular way. Its manual mechanism allowed the time to be set by the winding stem. This winding stem inspired, for example, sunglasses, in 2020.
Named Omega, in reference to the last letter of the Greek alphabet, the caliber embodies the accomplishment of the two brothers. An accomplishment which, two years later, in 1896, allowed the house to obtain its first recognition of the trade. The gold medal at the Swiss National Exhibition in Geneva. Imposing thereby this manufacturing system on almost all Swiss watchmaking houses.
This caliber has therefore raised the house to the rank of a key player in the watchmaking world. A success such as in 1903, the house was renamed Louis Brandt & Frère – Omega Watch & Co.
So much so that at the beginning of the 20th century, the Omega house produced around 100,000 watches per year. Enough to make it one of the most important watch manufacturers in the world. The legend can now be written.
Omega Calibers, Revolutions throughout history
Omega is behind many firsts – the first minute repeater wristwatch in 1892, the first full calendar watches with large dates in 1893, and the Carillion repeater system in 1894. The first marine watch, too.
But in 1931, the house set a new milestone in the world of watchmaking. The first automatic movement using two oscillating masses. Result? This innovation allowed a bidirectional winding of the movement, and improvement of its efficiency.
In the same year, Omega won first place in the six categories of the competition organized by the Geneva Observatory. To uphold the values that have earned it this honor, the house adopted this mantra in its advertising campaigns – “Omega – Exact time of life”.
We can read the whole legacy of the founder’s primary ambition.
In 2019, Omega celebrated its caliber 19. “Today, we are very proud to represent this symbolic name. Omega is the only watchmaker to bear the name of one of its movements, proof of its unfailing commitment to the art of precision. This name has also become famous in many other fields, from space exploration to that of the oceans, including the Olympic Games and cinema, with the James Bond saga. We could not miss this anniversary” explained the CEO of Omega, Raynald Aeschlimann.
The Omega house can definitely boast about having launched a number of innovations thereafter, like the Liquid Metal technology and the silicon balance-spring. This is the Co-Axial escapement initiated by George Daniels constituted the most recent demonstration.
Presented in the 2000’s on an Omega, the Co-Axial escapement, in fact, makes it possible to resolve one of the oldest concerns in watchmaking – the problems of balance swing and lubrication.
As we can see, the Omega house has been able to realize the ambition of its founder through the creation of exceptional calibers. An ambition which aimed to manufacture the most precise watches in the world. And indeed, what could be more precise than the watch which accompanied the footsteps of the first men on the Moon, the Moonwatch.