Spotlight on India’s luxury watches

Omega: Back to the future

OMEGA’s Jean-Claude Monachon on the new Constellation Manhattan and the Swiss watchmaker’s horological tribute to the Apollo 11 mission

It was 1982 — the year ET hit cinemas, music CDs entered the market and colour television came to India. At the OMEGA headquarters in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland, an ingenious design element became part of a new women’s watch collection, Constellation Manhattan. The model had four claws that held the sapphire crystal and gasket against the case, assuring water resistance. Legend has it that the brand’s product manager got the idea while shaving, when he spotted similar claws clasping a mirror.

It not only put the Constellation series (first introduced in 1952) back on the map, but it also emerged as an iconic design in the Swiss watchmaker’s illustrious stable — their watches have been part of lunar missions and official timekeepers at the Olympics. A decade after its last update, Constellation Manhattan — launched in India in April, at OMEGA’s revamped Bengaluru boutique — gets a modern makeover with 101 new models in six dial colours, three types of metals, and three widths: 25 mm, 28 mm, 29 mm.

There’s bevelled edges, slender bezels and claws, thinner Roman numerals, and hands that resemble a skeletonised leaf. “Slimmer watches are trending in the women’s segment because they look more ergonomical,” says Jean-Claude Monachon, Vice President - Product and Customer Service, OMEGA. The calibres of the 29 mm models also carry a Master Chronometer certification that assures superior precision and magnetic resistance.

Omega: Back to the future

The India market

Reports suggest that Swiss watch exports have shown growth globally in recent times. In India, OMEGA, along with Rolex, features among the top three luxury watch brands. “We’re seeing more Indian businesswomen buying our watches,” says Monachon, 61, who has 40 years of experience in the luxury watch industry and heads the team in charge of design and new movements developments.

But has the recent spurt of international outfits offering luxury watches on subscription and rental made a dent in the market? Monachon doesn’t think so. “Instead of rentals, pre-owned watches will have a bigger impact on the luxury watch business in the coming years,” he says. What about smartwatches? “Where’s the emotion in them?” he retorts. “We’re focussed on exceeding the expectations of customers in terms of quality and service. You can’t do that with a smartwatch.”

Interestingly, in the digital age, the brand is reviving its pocket watches featuring the iconic OMEGA 19-ligne calibre of 1894 — one of the first Swiss watch movements designed to be produced on an industrial scale. “They’ll be revealed by end of the year,” says Monachon, of the movements that will be recreated using original and modern parts, adding, “In this day and age, we don’t need a pocket watch but making them is an art. It’s the best way to speak to audiences of today and show them that we can still make a timepiece associated with the birth of OMEGA, but with new technology. That’s a cool thing to do.”

Omega: Back to the future

To the moon and back

In horological history, OMEGA stands strong with its Speedmaster Professional, which reached the moon in 1969, courtesy the Apollo 11 mission. The brand is now gearing to send its timepieces back to the lunar surface through a mission planned with NASA, though Monachon states that he “can’t reveal anything at the moment”.

Meanwhile, to celebrate the mission’s golden jubilee, OMEGA has recreated the gold Speedmaster timepieces they’d produced between 1969 and 1973. The limited-edition anniversary series will have 1,014 pieces (the exact number they’d created in the four years), which will be powered by a manual-winding movement and crafted using Moonshine gold — a proprietary 18-karat gold alloy in a slightly paler hue than the traditional yellow gold. “This gold is made in-house. Its shine and lustre lasts much longer than regular gold pieces,” Monachon concludes, adding that a few pieces are slated to arrive in India later this year.

The Constellation Manhattan collection is priced between ₹ 2.5 lakh and ₹ 18 lakh.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 6:13:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/luxury/omega-back-to-the-future/article27933607.ece

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