From creating the first watch worn on the moon to the stylish timepieces adorning the wrist of the world’s most famous spy — the history of OMEGA is nothing short of fascinating, and no one knows that better than President and CEO Raynald Aeschlimann, who’s been with the company for over two decades.
Since being appointed to the top job at OMEGA in 2016, Aeschlimann has been breaking conventions (read: Speedy Tuesday), strategically transforming the century-old brand into one that’s very much connected to the present watch community — from 50-year-old collectors to tech-savvy millennials — all without sacrificing the brand’s heritage or core values. The charismatic Swiss-born CEO was in Hong Kong with Cindy Crawford earlier this year to launch the updated iterations of OMEGA’s Constellation Manhattan collection, and we took the chance to sit down with him for a quick chat about his achievements as CEO, thoughts on brand ambassadors and, of course, the new Manhattan timepieces.
You know, one of the reasons why I became president is probably because I’m never ever happy. I’m never happy because I think the brand is so powerful and we can do so much more. I think the strength of the brand is that there is always a new chapter that you can write, which is not always the case for many of our watch competitors. We are very much successful because we always want to reach the next level, so being happy to me is not really being OMEGA, but I’m very proud of what we’ve done in the last three years.
If I think about this whole digital world which has been a very big trend in the last three years, our brand has been pushing to become closer to our community, and being much more direct in terms of talking about who we are. I was talking with Cindy [Crawford] just before, about how [her daughter] Kaia is one of the examples of someone who’s become very famous in the fashion business, but also has a huge presence online. One of the kids of this generation, you know? So this is something I have, along with the team, managed to create by selling watches on Instagram.
Look at this new store, and you’ll also see that we have brought a bit of freshness and a more in-the-time-of-today concept into Omega in the way we launch a product, and the way we talk to people. I think this is great teamwork. Also, this year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. It’s again one of the topics which makes me feel I could help modernise the brand further, even though the story is 50 years old. So yes, I am quite happy about some evolutions but I’ll never be happy enough to just stop and relax.
It’s very important to me that we keep the relationships because we share the values. Cindy is an example because she’s not only a businesswoman but also has incredible beauty, and that has created an image. She is a personality who, 25 years later, still holds quite an incredible power. We are with Kaia and Presley not just because they are her kids, but because they also mean a lot to our new generation. It’s very interesting to see how we are enlarging the family, while we continue to keep the same values. That’s why the older ones are still with us, because we’re not saying ‘it’s this or the other’, but more like welcoming a new generation into the family and saying ‘let’s share this value’.
I truly believe the people we’re working with, we trust them very much. If you think about George Clooney, he wears his OMEGA watch everywhere — even at his wedding. I mean, he’s just very much into it. That’s why we love to work with him and we’d love to continue working with him. There’s no short-term engagement. That means you don’t need as many new faces, and at the same time, anybody new coming in will be with us for a long time. So for me it’s difficult because we are very particular in what we like. We like coherency and continuity. We are inspiring to people because of the quality, the technology, the precision and how detail-oriented we are, and we want our family testimony to be exactly the same. There’s just much more than a contract that we have with all of these people, and that’s why we don’t just replace them or open to somebody only for a season.
I think it’s the design. I mean, it’s got an incredible characteristic. It’s very recognisable and it has elegance. It also gives this unique sense of having something on the wrist that’s a bit different, because it’s got a DNA that has been very clearly designed 20 years ago, but also frequently evolved over time. In terms of being a very typical OMEGA watch, the claws and the design of the bracelet make it a timeless piece; and now with this new generation, the Manhattan — even though it’s very modern-looking because of the size, the attention to details and the master chronometer — it’s still one of the most iconic watches in the ladies world, and very much a symbol of our success in Asia which we are very proud of.
Yes, and honestly I think it’s doing the best on this continent because of the question of taste. We just opened one of our newest boutiques here, and we’ve already got seven of them. We feel very strongly that the customers who walk through the doors have one idea about OMEGA and, especially for the ladies in Asia, it’s about the Constellation. Not to forget the Seamaster and Speedmaster obviously, but the Constellation is an iconic watch for ladies because of the style and the community of people who are wearing it in Asia (who are very young too, by the way).
I fully agree. This new Manhattan for the time being only comes in ladies’ sizes. This is not like what we do with many other models where we start with a men’s watch then do it in ladies’ sizings. The Constellation is a ladies’ design and, I have to admit, it’s much nicer in smaller sizes.
I could talk for hours about all the small details. You know, being in the luxury industry, one of the most important things we have to do is respect the past, the success, and also all the wearers of the Constellation. Seven years after having the other one, it was time to make it more modern using the new technology we have today, but it was also very important to keep its DNA, which, as I said, are the claws and the design of the bracelet. So what we did was we made the watch bigger, and updated it with lots of small details in terms of diamonds, the size of the case and the polish of the bracelet. If you also look at the hands, they are much slimmer too, and it was because of today’s technology that we were able to produce these tiny, elegant, stylish hands that make it even more feminine.
Yes, thank you for mentioning it, because I think it’s very important to mention this. In the automatic version, we brought in new technology that is the amazing Master Chronometer. Chronometer is about precision, but Master Chronometer is very much of it. This is the second step of the certification, and it’s an independent certification. We wanted the ladies who are willing to buy this automatic watch to have the exact same quality and certification as the Seamaster and Speedmaster. It was also very important for us in terms of the size and availability, so we made it for the 29mm piece.
There has always been something for the ladies, but OMEGA has been very famous in the past for having the James Bond watch, the Moonwatch and so on. But I think it is about time to remind our community that we are neither a male nor female brand, but one that attracts both, and we also take care of this new generation of ladies who love to buy and have the experience of having something special on their wrists. We also want to invite the community — all the ladies who had or would be able to buy an Omega watch — to reassess our collections, whether it’s the typical constellation or the Trésor watch we’ve launched with Kaia.