Omega watches – a brand in trouble?

Market research by the likes of Nokia pointed out that a large number of people no longer have a watch, but instead use their mobile phone, so watch brands rely on increasingly emotional brand.

“It’s important for your watch to be stylish and reflect your personality because you really don’t need one any more as everyone has cell phones” – Popbitch attributed this to Omega ambassador Cindy Crawford.

Part of the emotional hold is the creation of a totem object and Omega has some of these:

  • The Omega Speedmaster: the ultimate adventure watch since it was the only watch worn on the moon. Whilst you can still get a watch that approximates to the original Speedmaster very closely, the format of the watch has gone through so many derivations of design and limited editions (more akin to sister-brand Swatch) that it is hard as an outsider to know what the watch actually stands for anymore. The authenticity has been buried in a blaze of limited editions and variations
  • The Omega Seamaster Ploprof: Omega’s deep-sea dive watch that they’ve resurrected after three decades. A relatively unknown design classic that is all about pushing the limits in deep sea diving. However this is a crowded space with Blancpain’s 500 fathoms, Rolex’s Sea-Dweller and Sea-Dweller Deepsea to name but a few having an equally valid heritage of technical diving
  • The standard Seamaster has undergone too many changes to really have a ‘classic’ design, with the Planet Ocean it is still too early to tell: again obstificating an authentic design classic through endless limited edition permutations

The unique co-axial movements that now goes into many Omega watches is an admirable piece of horological design, but most of its customers will be more worried about how their timepiece looks.

Contrast this with Rolex were change happens at a more considered pace and there is a clear lineage for instance between the Submariner series, the Sea-Dweller and the Sea-Dweller Deepsea.

Then there is Omega ambassador programme:

Given the resurgence in watch brands over the past decade competing for the luxury consumer, shouldn’t Omega up its game?

I had been thinking about getting an Omega for a while, technical watches are an expensive vice of mine: I don’t drink and I don’t smoke, so I justify these watches as my personal indulgence.

My Dad has always worn an Omega since before I was born and my Grandad had one when he was alive, but its not the technical timekeeping instrument brand that my family wore now. I’ve never brought a modern Omega myself, instead I have gone for Rolex and IWC Schaffhausen respectively as the brand didn’t seem relevant to me, in the same that it had been to my Dad.

For me Omega feels like a brand in trouble, its really a question of what they do next. I hope they get their act together soon and find their centre as a yoga teacher would say, as I would like to carry on the family tradition in wearing an Omega watch.

5 Replies to “Omega watches – a brand in trouble?”

  1. Very interesting analysis, particularly vis-a-vis Rolex. Those of us who follow James Bond watches are of course gratified to have had Omega step up to support the film franchise post-Cold War with Pierce Brosnan as 007 in “GoldenEye.” Over time (no pun intended), the Bond watch has done so much more than merely keep Our Man punctual. But what’s in it for the rest of us? You pose good questions here.

    Dell Deaton

  2. A good read, I too have wondered what effect mobiles have had on watch sales. I would have thought the £100-250 category would have been harder hit than the high-end, as watches beyond this price point become more akin to pure fashion accessories (the man bracelet – the fact it tells the time is neither here nor there). I think my bank manager would take a dim view on the purchase of either but given the choice it would be the Omega for me as I feel the brand is younger, less golf and country club and more outdoors and action. Plus Rolex and to a greater extent Tag suffer from the ‘is it real’ ‘ authenticity issue as their are so many fakes around.

  3. The point of a watch is no longer about knowing the time but rather making a statement. Thus the heritage of Omega is something that will maintain its market share. The watches are reasonably priced premium devices that are understated rather than exotic and so will still be worn by a significant number. The risk is that the Management might discount the brand by trying to capture more of the market. The watch market has changed from the time that the only successful Swiss watch maker was swatch. Which was the case when we looked at our wrist to see what the time was.

    The problem I have with Rolex is that too many salesmen wear one having been awarded them in incentive schemes. They are not helped by the efforts to “decorate” them with diamonds to appeal to the footballer set ;-).

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