At the end of March 2022, CEOs from the majority of the world’s most prestigious watch companies gathered under one roof in Geneva. The occasion was a lavish trade show, the highlight of the best Omega replica watches business calendar, where brands launch their new models – hundreds of millions of pounds worth of stock – an event that goes a long way to determining the size of their profits and the position of their brand equity for the year. It’s where deals with retailers are done, promotional appearances by celebrity ambassadors take place and PR demonstrations to the world’s media are orchestrated. (There are also a lot of backs being slapped and glasses of champagne being swigged.)
One journalist who was there hit upon a novel idea. Sensing they were unlikely to find so many CEOs in the same place anytime soon, they set about asking each one the same question. Not about their own brands, but someone else’s.
Two other companies, Omega and Swatch, who were not part of the fair, had six days earlier announced a collaboration via Instagram. (The timing was not a coincidence and effectively thumbed its nose at the enormous budgets the others had spent setting up shop at the week-long extravaganza.) Swatch, the well-liked but underperforming brand best-known for its pop-coloured quartz 1:1 UK Omega fake watches and being big in the 1980s, had teamed up with Omega, which was essentially the opposite –an increasingly respected maker of prestige timepieces, second only in sales to Rolex.
As well as being both popular and well-respected, Omega had built its reputation on three pillars of money-can’t-buy marketing gold. It had been the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games since 1932, the official partner of the James Bond franchise since 1995 and, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked onto the lunar surface in 1969, it’s high quality replica Omega Speedmaster Professional watches (or ‘Moonwatch’) became the first watch worn on the Moon. The company had seldom missed a marketing opportunity to remind people of these milestones – and who could blame them? – but for 2022 it had a new idea.
In teaming up with Swatch it released 11 versions of a model it called the MoonSwatch – a replica of its Moonwatch made out of a hybrid material called bioceramic, that looked and felt like plastic. Cheap copy Omega’s Speedmaster Moonwatches Professional retails for between £5,700 and £46,500, depending on the model. The MoonSwatch would cost £207. (Swatch and Omega are owned by the same company, the Swiss giant the Swatch Group, founded in 1983.)
The journalist’s question to all the rival CEOs was a canny one. What did they make of the collaboration?
The opinion of 17 of the 18 was unanimous. It was an appalling idea. The Moonwatch was the jewel in Omega’s crown. Why on Earth would you cheapen it with this nonsense? It would devalue the brand, put off serious watch collectors, and generally make a mockery of a watch unanimously agreed to be a classic of 20th-century design. It wasn’t quite Skoda x Rolls-Royce but… you get the idea.
The 18th CEO declared it a brilliant move. He called it right.
Not only did the MoonSwatch prove such a hit to shut down shops in London, Tokyo and New York during its simultaneous release, it caused actual riots in the street, the police were called in as crowds surged to 2,000-plus in New York and at least one person was hospitalised. It made the front pages of newspapers. Within hours prices for the MoonSwatch on the secondary market had reached £8,100. In other words, more money than the “real” thing.
All of this had a precedent in streetwear collab culture, of course, where intentionally limited stock commands queues around the block, fierce reselling prices but also a hype that quickly moves on. Except: two things. As we round out 2022, prices aren’t quite so high as they were in March, but business is still brisk on the resale market for the MoonSwatch. And second, it’s impact on Swiss made Omega replica watches was overwhelmingly positive – anecdotally, traffic increased significantly to Omega boutiques in the weeks around its launch.
According to one insider, Swatch sales, which at their 1980s peak stood at around 15m a year, had fallen to the tens of thousands. The same analyst estimates the MoonSwatch helped Swatch’s total sales reach 500,000 in 2022. (The MoonSwatch was only available in Swatch shops.)
It may seem like First World News – indeed, it is – but you can bet the rest of the Swiss watch business, responsible to exporting a record £18 billion in China Omega fake watches in 2021, took good notice. The MoonSwatch collab remains the most talked-about launch of 2022. One media outlet called it “without question, the biggest watch release in decades”. You can imagine it being taught as a test case in business schools for years to come.
But Omega, who like other watch companies continued to build on its portfolio through the year, with a steady stream of updated versions of current models, had a few more tricks up its sleeve.
In October it announced something else that had never been seen before – a pair of chiming watches, or ‘minute repeaters’, developed with another Swatch Group brand, Blancpain. One was a version of its 2023 replica Omega Speedmaster Moonwatches Professional, the other a replica of a stopwatch produced for the 1932 Olympic Games. Both were made from 18k solid gold and had an unprecedented and eye-watering retail price of £500,000. The latter was so complicated to make, production was said to be limited to five a year. It contained 575 components, more than 20 of them world-firsts.
Then one month after that, Omega released a new model in its James Bond line of top Omega Seamaster super clone watches. The partnership has been one of most enduring and successful in marketing history, and 2022 marked the Bond franchise’s 60th year. Omega had been on board since Pierce Brosnan wore a blue Seamaster 300m Quartz in 1995’s GoldenEye, and the new watch cleverly linked design elements from that model, with the most recent iteration worn by Daniel Craig’s outgoing 007 in 2021’s No Time To Die. Most notably, its case back used the seconds hand to drive an animation style known as moiré – so a Bond figure appeared to turn and fire at you down a gun barrel, as per the films’ title sequences.
The big beasts of the Swiss watch world are not necessarily known for busting out innovative and head-scratching ideas. It’s a world where a slightly different case size, the use of a new type of metal or the reissue of a vintage model can be considered that year’s big news. To illustrate the point, in 2020 Rolex added 1mm to the case size of its Submariner – up from 40mm to 41mm – and generated acres of global media coverage in the process.
That may sound ridiculous – it is ridiculous – but when you have Rolex’s portfolio of deathless design classics, why chance your arm on some avant garde new moves?
(The blanket attention this non-event caused only underscored the point. No one is about to suggest that Rolex doesn’t know exactly what Rolex is doing.)
Yet something similar could be said of Omega. It doesn’t need to take a chance on a set of plastic best quality Omega replica watches, or spend six years developing 18kt gold models almost no one can buy, or bother making James Bond jump around on the back of its biggest cash cow. That might be seen as a cool gimmick – but it’s possibly not something for every watch collector out there.
On paper, any of these ideas could have blown up in its face. Indeed, back in March, those 17 CEOs laughed that it would. As the old line goes, presumably they’re not laughing now.
“People were saying to me ‘Because of Covid, you should just slow down’,” Raynald Aeschliman, Omega’s ebullient and likeable President and CEO, tells Esquire. “To the contrary. The Chrono Chime [the pair of minute repeaters] was the longest secret I ever had as a CEO. And I am somebody who likes to talk! I loved that idea! I had to convince a lot of people that it would still be a good idea in five years’ time, with the whole revolution of technology [that would come in between]. It showed the magic of our brand. The magic of people understanding that we are not a brand [built on] selling half-a-million pound fake Omega watches for sale. But, because we are Omega, it was a good way of showing that we could do that. It’s not strange to our DNA. Our success doesn’t just come from [something as basic as] changing dials.”
Indeed, perhaps more than any other brand Omega has a history of producing watches apparently for no other reason than they seemed like a cool idea at the time – a glance through some of its “space age” models of the 1960s and 1970s provides the very definition of experimental and outlandish. The enormous Ploprof diving watch, the 1969 Flightmaster that looks like a prop from 2001:A Space Odyssey, the 1976 analogue-digital wholesale replica Omega Seamaster Chrono-Quartz watches that echoes the Montreal Olympics scoreboard of the same year.
You get the sense that these were not models born out of extensive market research or accountants crunching sales figures.
Even given that, 2022 was an exceptional year for what people once liked to call ‘mic drop’ moments.
“It was a big year,” Aeschliman says. “Because usually the big years for Omega are Olympic years [when there’s always tie-in products released] – and let’s not forget we had the [Beijing Winter Olympics] too but in terms of new product development, 2022 was a very big year.”
By all accounts, the MoonSwatch was a Swatch-driven project – the idea of Nick Hayek Jr, CEO of the whole Swatch Group.
How does Aeschliman view it now? It’s great that it was a success– but presumably punch-ups and shops being shut down weren’t part of the plan?
“When I first discussed it with Mr Hayek it was clear there were a lot of options [for different models], but that option was the best ever.”
“Because [the Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional] is an inspiring watch. And to put it at a price level that is unique is very democratic. It’s the strengthening of two brands, without having any shadow side. And, come on! It’s a new way of showing Speedmaster to a generation in a different way. And that was its success.”
That’s how it turned out. But it could have gone the other way, couldn’t it? Some people certainly thought so.
“Maybe!” chuckles Aeschliman. “From the beginning I was not sure about the huge success. It would we too arrogant for me to say ‘We knew it!’ You know, the production might have been much bigger [ie: maybe we should have released more units, avoiding riots]. But we’re back to the customer-centricity. I was sure that customers would be very sensitive about every single detail. We would do the watch the Swatch way, but with every single detail – up to the case back, the way we hid the battery – that goes back to what we do [with the Speedmaster]. We are a product-driven company. If it had just been ‘a collab’, then people would have not queued up. It was more than just a collab.”
“It was a very smart strategy to launch products that were so diverse this year,” says Oliver Müller, a strategy consultant with the Swiss watch firm LuxeConsult, who produces an annual report for Morgan Stanley on the watch industry.
“If you do an interview with [CEO] Mr [Georges] Kern at Breitling, or my friend [CEO] Jean-Frédéric Dufour at Rolex, they will all tell you that it doesn’t make sense. I don’t agree with that. The MoonSwatch was like when Karl Lagerfeld did his collaboration with H&M. Did it damage Mr Lagerfeld’s reputation? No, it didn’t. On the contrary.”
Müller’s contention is that risk-taking doesn’t just help make Omega become more famous, it makes business sense.
“Omega’s average retail price worldwide these days is about €7,000, more or less. Twenty-five years ago the price of that was one-third, not even. So you see how quickly the brand has gone up. The second point is, they make a watch [the Chrono Chimes] that cost €50,000 and you say ‘those guys are crazy’. Yes, they are. But they did it right. With this kind of watch you don’t have to do that every year. You only have to do it once. I don’t know how many years they will wait until the launch of the next extraordinary piece. But it gives it credibility and it gives it legitimacy and it helps further push up the brand.”
If you’re wondering why other brands don’t follow Omega’s high-wire strategy, there is perhaps a simple answer. They can’t. Because AAA Omega fake watches is owned by the Swatch Group, it has the resources of the Swatch Group at its disposal. Not only does it employ 36,000 people across 50 countries, it owns watch brands both high-end and entry-point, famous and obscure, including Blancpain, Breguet, Tissot, Rado, Hamilton and Jaquet Droz. Most of those brands have developed their own IP – Rado is an expert in ceramic cases, Blancpain can make a solid argument for inventing the first modern dive watch in the 1950s. So if Omega wants to team-up with experts in poptastic plastic watches, Swatch, or make an incredibly complex chiming watch with Blancpain, with expertise that dates back to the 18th Century, it can. (One theory suggests the movement that drove Omega’s Chrono Chimes was intended for a Blancpain model, who had, after all, spent six years working on it, but got seconded to its more famous sister brand). Other Group-born innovations include the Master Chronometer certification, a watch that has been certified for accuracy by both COSC (the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute) and METAS (the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology), a repurposing of Breguet’s in-house hand-wound chronograph movement as the celebrated Calibre 321 movement, and R&D innovations with materials including silicon, and others.
“I spend between 10 and 12 hours a day at Morgan Stanley looking at almost everything that is happening on the watch market – high, low, middle. And there are very few brands where you feel there is a consistent brand strategy,” Müller says. “Breitling is very clearly defined, Audemars Piguet is another one. Rolex is at an excellent level of industrial knowledge. But in terms of R&D, Omega has the strongest in the world at that price level.”
Of course just because you can do any of this, it doesn’t mean you should. Another aspect of Omega replica watches site that sets them apart is a sense of why-the-hell-not? Or, to put it another way, fun.
Its Swiss movements fake Omega Speedmaster Moonwatches Professional might have been “the first watch on the Moon” but that doesn’t mean it had to produce a version featuring NASA’s mascot Snoopy rocketing through space on its case back and doing a dance in a spacesuit on the dial, as it did for 202o’s ‘Silver Snoopy Award’ 50th anniversary model.
That’s not a product suggestion you can see coming across well in the boardrooms of some of its more austere Swiss rivals.
“They’re taking away all the seriousness that you expect from a high-end complication at Patek Philippe, for example,” Müller says. “It’s the opposite. They’re saying ‘I’m not competing with those guys’. ‘This is our interpretation of watchmaking’.”
Raynald Aeschlimann joined the brand in 1996, after the horrors of the 1980s quartz crises that almost did for mechanical watchmaking. Before long he was vice president of international sales, before becoming CEO in 2016. His grandfather was a watchmaker.
I ask Oliver Müller, who considers Aeschlimann a friend, how much of Omega’s current character comes from its CEO.
“If you’re the guy who helms the brand it’s not about ego,” he says. “It exists before you are the CEO and a long time after you’re not the CEO anymore. But he has a big influence. He is very intelligent and he has the intelligence to surround himself with an excellent team, like [head of product management] Gregory Kissling who brings the technical expertise. Listen – the funny thing is, that until the beginning of the 1970s Omega was the Number One watch brand in the world. And my personal opinion is that right now it has huge potential to grow.”
“I did a presentation in front of the best doctors in Switzerland the other day,” Aeschlimann says. “They said, ‘You can talk about anything you want’. So I said, ‘I’m going to talk about the connection between technology and emotion’. Because sometimes you can be the greatest scientist in the world and yet [your social skills are so underdeveloped] you can’t even say hello. I said, ‘This is Snoopy!’ Snoopy is all about emotion. Because the [‘Silver Snoopy Award’ 50th anniversary model] Speedmaster would not be so successful if the technology had not helped increase the emotion. The doctors thought I was crazy. But our customers, they understand that.”
All of which leaves one obvious question. How does replica Omega watches shop follow 2022?
“I should not tell you,” Aeschlimann says. “But already, by the end of January, we will have a new state-of-the-art watch which will have a very big value for the watch industry. We’ll come with a new innovation. Because it’s part of us. We make products that make people smile.”