Marking the 50th anniversary of man’s first steps on the moon, Omega has introduced two new limited edition timepieces. President and CEO Raynald Aeschlimann tells us there is a lot more in store
It’s been 50 years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped foot on the moon and enraptured the world. Their journey was a great leap forward for mankind and a milestone moment for luxury watchmaker Omega.
The Swiss maison’s Speedmaster Professional Chronograph played a special role aboard Apollo 11 as the watch worn by the astronauts. When Armstrong took his first steps on the lunar surface, he left his Speedmaster inside the lunar module as a backup electronic timer. But Aldrin wore his as he ventured out 19 minutes after Armstrong, propelling the timepiece into the annals of watchmaking history.
“It was a big moment for us,” says Raynald Aeschlimann, president and chief executive officer, Omega. “Being worn by the astronauts on the first moon landing is an amazing story!”
The Speedmaster was originally conceived as a chronograph of choice for motorsports aficionados, but after its lunar debut, the model became universally known and has since been referred to as the ‘moonwatch’.
To commemorate the golden anniversary of this out-of-this-world horological moment, the brand raised the curtain on a limited edition Speedmaster in March. Every bit as spectacular as the original moonwatch, the Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary MoonshineTM is limited to just 1,014 pieces.
Rendered in 18-carat MoonshineTM gold – a unique alloy paler than yellow gold – the watch features a new hand-wound movement fashioned out of modern materials. Design features on the caseback such as the “1969-2019” engraving, a world map that looks down on Cape Canaveral and a domed lunar meteorite representing the moon, pay tribute to its lunar success story.
To the watch community, the launch came as no surprise as it was known that 2019 would be a big year for Omega. But it was only recently revealed that the Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary MoonshineTM would serve as the opening act to a year of big Speedmaster releases.
Following its golden sibling, the Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition was unveiled last month. Yet another remarkable feat of engineering, the model is created in stainless steel with a black ceramic bezel ring and limited to 6,969 pieces. Honouring the Apollo 11 mission, the digits “11” feature in 18-carat MoonshineTM gold at 11 o’clock, while the subdial at 9 o’clock shows Buzz Aldrin climbing out of the lunar module onto the surface of the moon. The inner caseback shows an astronaut’s laser-engraved footprint on the lunar surface with an engraving of Armstrong’s legendary quote: “That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.”
Taking a cue from the Speedmaster’s legacy, it seems that there will be a lot more in store for the remainder of the year. Aeschlimann says: “We’ve got some great exhibitions planned and, of course, a few more lunar-inspired products to unveil. There will be some big events and plenty of marketing, which I hope will remind people of Omega’s unrivalled moon heritage.”
But as the brand continues to look back on its decades-old lunar legacy, Aeschlimann has his sights firmly set on the future with a forward-thinking approach that will ensure many more decades of success for the storied brand.
“We’ve come off the back of a very strong 2018, when sales performed exceptionally well. The first quarter of 2019 has been equally positive and we’re confident for another good year ahead. We are focused on bringing ourselves much closer to consumers through more e-commerce and online sales and we’re developing more and more products with the industry’s highest standards of design and technology. Combining that with a robust marketing plan, I’m confident for what’s to come.”
With its roots firmly steeped in Swiss watchmaking heritage, you’d be forgiven for thinking that keeping things strictly traditional is the norm. But playing it safe has never been part of the brand’s DNA and Omega isn’t shying away from embracing a modern approach to connecting with the customer.
The brand delivered some groundbreaking firsts since Aeschlimann took over the reins in 2016 such as the #SpeedyTuesday initiative, which saw Omega sell all 2,012 limited-edition pieces of the Speedmaster Professional online through the brand’s Instagram page.
“The growth of digital is one of Omega’s biggest focuses. We first began our e-commerce in the USA. It instantly connected us with consumers all over the country. Now, with that experience and knowledge, we’re planning to bring it into even more markets. For me, I just love the close relationship it creates between Omega and its customers. Furthermore, it allows us to be creative and pioneering.”
Unlike its contemporaries, Omega has also employed an allinclusive approach when it comes to targeting the right audience. And with millennial model of the moment Kaia Gerber, daughter of Omega ambassador Cindy Crawford, the new face of the brand, it is clear that this new generation of watch enthusiasts is front of mind. “These are our core customers of the future. We want to build relationships right now and establish Omega in their world. You can’t always rely on tradition, you have to grow and adapt and I think Omega is doing that well. The development of our digital platforms is bringing us much closer to young consumers than ever before – and often more so than our competitors.”
So while 2019 will continue to see the brand expand its digital footprint, while also shedding a light on its lunar legacy, Aeschlimann believes there’s still a lot more to achieve. “So long as Omega is worn by aspiring individuals, there are no limits to where our watches can go. Of course, we’re still building strong relationships in sport, entertainment, exploration and social causes – so we’re always seeking new opportunities to strengthen our support. Don’t forget, Omega watches are still officially worn in space and in the ocean today, so who knows what tomorrow will bring.”
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