Just before news broke of his retirement, the legendary Stephen Urquhart spoke passionately of Omega replica watches’ newest movement
People often say that, at the end of the day, a great name is built by great people. That saying is remarkably true for Omega. Stephen Urquhart, ex-president of the swiss omega seamaster replica watch manufacturer that takes pride in precision and accuracy, had been a powerful driving force behind the brand’s evolution. Last April marked his official retirement, a month before his 70th birthday at the end of May.
Urquhart has quite an interesting history with the brand. Following his early education in England and later in Switzerland, he joined Omega in the communications department back in 1968 before it was taken over by the Swatch group. As a matter of fact, he could even recall some of the most important moments taking place during those years, such as the aborted Apollo 13 mission. But in 1974, Urquhart moved to Audermars Piguet, and 15 years later to Jaeger-LeCoultre and then Blancpain. It was in 1999 when he was summoned by the late Nicolas Hayek, co-founder of the Swatch Group, to manage Omega, Blancpain’s sister company.
Throughout his tenure as president for 16 years, Urquhart has not only successfully promoted Omega’s use of coaxial escapements, but also championed further innovations such as the world’s first “cageless” movement with anti-magnetic resistance of up to 15,000 gauss in 2013 and, currently, the Master Chronometer movement that sets a new quality standard for watches, on top of the well-known COSC certification received by the brand.
Considering his long list of impeccable achievements, it was quite surprising to learn that Urquhart, an avid golfer, was extremely humble and approachable during our meeting at the launch of the Globemaster in Los Angeles earlier this year. He was equally tactful and discerning in answering questions—he maintained that only he and the brand’s communications officers were qualified to speak on behalf of the company. For a man of that age and with such wisdom, Urquhart is definitively a living legend who perfectly represents what Omega really is.
DA MAN: With the Globemaster, Omega is celebrating a new standard of movement that is the Master Chronometer. But why did the brand borrow design references from the Constellation line, instead of creating a completely new piece?
Stephen Urquhart: We must not forget that the Constellation was the original family Omega used for all of the fake omega globemaster master chronometer watches that pass precision records and intensive laboratory tests. That’s why the Constellation logo is an observatory with stars. There’s a reason for that; it’s not just for aesthetic purposes.
Over the years, however, the Constellation has strongly been associated with the Constellation model that you all now know—with the four “claws” on the bezel. So, we felt that if we put the new Master Chronometer movement into that watch, it’d be too limited in terms of design.
We decided to make a new watch that would still be in line with Omega’s design DNA. Like past Constellation watches, this one comes with a pie pan-shaped dial and a fluted bezel. It’s a new watch but we can’t call it a Constellation on the dial, despite the fact that we created a rather similar logo on the back: an engraving of an observatory with stars. People don’t call it a Constellation because there are no claws on the bezel.
Regarding the name, there is a nice story behind it. In the 1950s when we first introduced the omega seamaster planet ocean deep black watch, we couldn’t use the name “Constellation” in the U.S. because it’s already trademarked for the Constellation airplane. When my team and I set out to find a name, I couldn’t believe that the name “Globemaster” was still available for us to use. And I think it’s a nice name.
DA MAN: The Globemaster has an anti-magnetic resistance rating of up to 15,000 gauss. How relevant is that in our daily life?
Stephen Urquhart: It’s very seldom that you’d be in contact with a magnetic field of 15,000 gauss unless you’re working with an MRI machine. We chose 15,000 gauss because that’s the highest standard we could measure with the anti-magnetic machine in Switzerland. Maybe the watch is more than that but it is at the very least resistant to 15,000 gauss, which basically covers 99 percent of all magnetic fields that you encounter everyday. Mobile phones, hair dryers, you name it. So it’s very relevant. Sure, we can do the same thing like in the olden days with some sort of a cage covering the watch, but that would be limiting the design. You can’t make a ladies watch or have a see-through case-back like this. It’s an entirely different technology. With the Master Chronometer, you can make any design you want, skeleton if you will, and it’d still be anti-magnetic.
DA MAN: How difficult is it to implement such a new standard for a movement?
Stephen Urquhart: We actually wanted to launch the collection at the end of last year, but it was delayed because we had to master the technology to pass this Master Chronometer certification. Just to give you an idea, we sent the movement to COSC first (the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute) and they sent back the movement with the COSC-approved stamp. Then we placed the winding stem (rotor) on the movement for the automatic pieces. But that process already changed the movement’s properties a little. So we had to adjust the movement afterwards.
When the movement was put into a watchcase by a watchmaker, again we monitor the variation in performance. This was basically the third check, following before and after COSC’s approval. METAS (the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology) emphasized a lot that we need to keep this quality through until the end. All of this surely means more interventions done by a watchmaker. It gives us more work, yes, but over time we’ll be able to incorporate that into our general production. More importantly, what it does is it gives consumers a better product. That’s the aim. Not just creating a new label, what goes on behind the label is very important.
DA MAN: As more products will be utilizing the Master Chronometer movement, does this mean Omega will increase the general pricing point?
Stephen Urquhart: No. We are going to incorporate it into the whole collection eventually, but we’re not going to increase the brand’s price positioning.
DA MAN: Considering the slowdown of the global economy this year, how’s the business going on?
Stephen Urquhart: It’s very difficult to measure that right away. This is a rather emotional business, so to speak. We’re selling a product that isn’t based on any rational need. It’s really all about emotion, and I think that sometimes when things are difficult, people would buy a omega speedmaster professional replica watches to reward themselves with some satisfaction. That’s why it’s not easy to put a figure on the business progress. Indonesia is a new market that has everything to do well in the future. I was reading a magazine a while ago that says Indonesia in 2040 will be a leading nation in the world. So, there’s big potential there.
DA MAN: Globally, how do you want people to perceive Omega today?
Stephen Urquhart: Omega is a brand that people would want to wear, more than have to wear. There’s a big difference. It’s not a flashy watch. People who are wearing Omega don’t go on like when they are wearing other brands. There’s also a sort of esoteric feeling about it. The brand offers great value. Understandably, an imitation omega seamaster aqua terra goodplanet watches are not cheap, but you don’t have to win a lottery to buy one. You can save up—even a middle class person can buy an Omega that can last twenty up to fifty years. It’ll become an investment—not necessarily a financial one but very much an emotional investment. And you can pass it on to the next generation.
DA MAN: Do you think that other brands will also attain that Master Chronometer certification? Especially those under the Swatch Group?
Stephen Urquhart: I hope they do, but there’s little chance they’ll do so. For brands under the Swatch group, it’s something we did talk about. Within the group, we let Omega do this for the time being. But it’s not a definite no. It’s good for the value of authenticity of the Master Chronometer certification if another brand would also attain it. But, it’d be too difficult. Firstly, no one would want to look like they’re following Omega. Secondly, they’d have much trouble in meeting the 15,000-gauss anti-magnetic criteria without the material and the know-how we have. It’s very difficult. Maybe some Japanese brands can do it. It’s possible. The technology exists; it’s not rocket science. However, it’s a big investment.