Interview Stephen Urquhart (CEO Omega), Basel 2015
Not so long ago Stephen Urquhart visited Warsaw for grand opening of the brand’s first official boutique in Poland. We managed to again “catch him” during busy times of Baselworld to sit down and talk. It was – as always – a great pleasure.
Tomasz Kiełtyka: It’s been the second time during this year that we meet for an interview. The CH24.PL portal must be very lucky I guess (laugh).
Stephen Urquhart: I’m very pleased to see you again.
TK: First, I’d like to ask about the references to the Moon in Omega watches. You’ve shown the Speedmasters dubbed the Dark Side of the Moon, the Grey Side of the Moon, and during this year’s Baselworld fair the White Side of the Moon was demonstrated, although white is not the color to be spotted on the Earth’s satellite. Are there any other shades we do not know about?
SU: Purple, blue… of course I’m joking (laugh). But going back to the topic – in fact white is not associated with the Moon.
TK: Frankly speaking I thought that this watch will be called „Milky Way” or „The Light Side of the Moon”.
SU: Indeed, we could have come up with a better name. And how do you like the white Speedmaster?
TK: To tell you the truth – I think it is not really a color for men. If the diameter was smaller, it would be great for women’s wrists. I keep wondering, though, whether the Dark, Grey and White trio is exhaustive, or you are planning to launch some other models in the future?
SU: Never say never. Let’s see what the future brings (smile).
TK: OK. If we’re discussing the collection in which you made use of ceramics, I would like to know whether you’re going to use it also in the remaining lines, such as e.g. Planet Ocean?
SU: We’re considering that.
TK: Let me guess – nex year we’re going to see a ceramic Omega Planet Ocean? (laugh)
SU: I cannot reveal the secret of when and what, but patience pays. Meanwhile, we use ceramics in other models to produce bezel inserts. This is a marvelous material – it retains the color, it is resistant, and in combination with gold (Ceragold) it offers great possibilities.
TK: So now let’s talk about Snoopy. The limited Speedmaster model is one of the finest watches showed this year. Two colleagues of mine managed to place an order for it in the nick of time. I’m saying in the nick of time because on the second day of the fair the whole limited edition was already sold out.
SU: This is not our first approach to Snoopy. A few years ago we had a version with its silhouette on one of the subdials. Now we’ve used ceramics, and Snoopy appears on the dail as well as on the caseback. It’s worth adding that we’re also launching limited editions dedicated to the Olympic Games or to James Bond. The last watch dedicated to Agent 007 has got a rotor, the central part of which imitates a back of a shell casing.
TK: Let’s talk for a while about the star of this year’s fair – „Master Chronometer” (MC) certificate. During the interview last year you said that there was a plan that by 2017 all Omega watches should be equipped with anti-magnetic mechanisms. How does it relate to the MC certificate?
SU: It’s quite similar. The 2013 anti-magnetic mechanism requires minor modifications in order to get the Master Chronometer certificate. By the end of the decade practically all our watches are going to be certified in this way. It is important to know that we’ve been bound to precise time measurement for many years. For a long time we’ve also used the most popular chronometer certificate which is issued by COSC. As you know COSC conducts tests on bare movements – without a case or a rotor. If the mechanism passes the test – it comes back to us and the watch is finished. Every movement we produce must be subject to such a test. Following the test, it is going to be subject to more tests done together with METAS, where it must fulfill 8 demanding criteria. The tests are going to be conducted partly on the mechanism and partly on a completely assembled watch. Only when the watch has passed all the trials can it be awarded the Master Chronometer certificate.
Łukasz Doskocz: Let’s go back to ceramics. I remember that when you showed Omega Planet Ocean with a ceramic bezel insert, you wanted it to be orange. Did you succeed with orange on an industrial scale?
SU: We’re very close. We already have orange color, but the tone of orange is not what we wish. Ceramics is very difficult material in this respect – it is difficult to find an appropriate tone. Not every color goes well with every watch. We have e.g. blue ceramics, which you’ve seen in Ploprof, but that color will not suit any classical model.
LD: And what is the future of Globemaster? Do you plan to develop the line with models including additional complications?
SU: Maybe. For example a model with a yearly calendar. But in that case Omega was inspired with models from the past, whose form was exceptionally clear: three hands and an optional date.
TK: The Globemaster model features a medallion integrated into the glass cover, which is very interesting. Is this idea applied also with respect to other collections?
SU: Indeed – the idea is very interesting. On the one hand you can see the mechanism, and on the other hand you have a nice and characteristic additional feature of the watch. We’ll see, however, if the medallions are going to be added to the other models. In the past, a lot of Omegas did not have a glass cover, but they featured the emblem in the center, which is now seen on the Globemasters.
TK: After the Globemaster’s launch I looked into the archives to study historical models of Constellation, which is the reference for the contemporary version. Their fluted bezel was much narrower. Did you widen it on purpose?
SU: Yes. Thanks to this move the watch has a better look.
ŁD: What is your opinion about complications? Do you think they can be Omega’s asset?
SU: Yes and no. In the past we used to produce watches with tourbillon or minute repetition, so this is not anything new. Now we are part of the group which includes brands which are specialized in it, e.g. Breguet and Blancpain. We as Omega have got a model with central tourbillon, something with annual calendar and indicator of the Moon phase. Although this is not a complication. By the way – I do not like the word, because it means nothing. Moreover, ‘complications’ are usually useless – even a chronograph.
TK: Well, on these grounds we can say that mechanical watches are all useless, because we have cell-phones with very precise exact time indicators (laugh).
SU: I meant using the complications. How often do you turn on the chronograph in your watches? (laugh). Ok – what is the most useful complication in your opinion?
SU: But this is an indication rather than a complication. In my opinion, the most useful complication is signaling the time with a sound, but people do not want to buy such watches – chiefly because if you look at the watch you do not know what’s happening inside. That’s why they prefer models with tourbillon – because you can admire it working. We live in such a world and we must accept it. Let’s take a chronograph – statistically no one uses it, but it looks cool: dials, buttons… it works (laugh).
TK: So finally let’s go back to James Bond. You’ve already shown one watch dedicated to him. However, pictures from the set of “Spectre” available on the Internet show that 007 wears a Seamaster 300 with NATO strap.
SU: Really? I do not know anything about it (laugh). Daniel Craig received a watch from us for his birthday – 5 years ago. This was a Seamaster 300 from our museum. Maybe its pictures are on the Internet. Because in his everyday life Daniel Craig often wears this very watch.
TK, ŁD: Thank you very much for your time.
SU: Thank you, and remember me to all the watch fans from Poland.