During our final installment of international trips, the Luxury Brand Management participants went to Switzerland to explore the watchmaking industry. An alumnus of the ESSEC MBA in International Luxury Brand Management program was gracious enough to offer us the opportunity to visit the Omega headquarters in Bienne, a major hub within the Swiss watch industry.
Upon our arrival early one Monday morning, we were welcomed by our alumnus and a variety of other members of the Omega team. Moments after settling into a meeting room, we were honored by the presence of the President and Chief Executive Officer, Raynald Aeschlimann, who shared his passion for Omega, his thoughts on the industry as a whole, and his best wishes for our futures. The presentation that ensued covered the history of the brand from its inception and the monumental moon landing in 1969, through to 1995 when Mr. Nicolas G. Hayek, the founder of Swatch Group, turned the business around to the strong pillar of the industry that it is today. A discussion of the business strategy, communication pillars, product, and distribution closed out this portion of our visit, followed by a tour of the new production facilities that were inaugurated in 2017. The oldest building on Omega’s campus was built in 1917. The juxtaposition of buildings new and old solidify the image of the brand as an age-old player in this industry.
Japanese architect Shigeru Ban brought his personal style to Bienne, while not forgetting local design culture or the world of sustainability. In an effort to be physically and metaphorically transparent, the glass-enclosed building features visitor areas in the middle of each floor, showcasing the human touch given to each Omega watch.
The changes that took place during the move to this new production area also included innovations of process. The move to a paperless facility eliminated the possibility of contaminating the movements with paper dust. Aligning with the stricter laws for the “Swiss Made” label and going even further than necessary, Omega made traceability of each component of each movement possible with a new system that will also help them improve productivity and beyond. One of the most major advances in Omega’s recent production is the dedication to creating watches that are Master Chronometer Certified. This certification, awarded by METAS, requires every single watch to pass eight very strict tests, including those of water resistance, magnetic resistance, and time variance.
With a clear understanding of the production and certification processes, it was time to discover the product in a hands-on demonstration. After a brief overview of each of the four families – Constellation, Speedmaster, Seamaster, and De Ville – we had the wonderful opportunity to see and touch models from across the product range. Geared with all the knowledge we’d absorbed over the last few hours, the participants were asking questions about the timepieces, trying them, and noting the references for their graduation present wish lists.
It’s not a common occurrence to have the opportunity to tour a manufacture such as this, not to mention share a few moments with the global President and CEO. On behalf of our participants, I would like to thank each member of the Omega team who treated us to this lovely experience. We will hold this with us for years to come.