The Omega Globemaster was presented at Baselworld in Switzerland March 2015 but this year it is still very much in the spotlight. Its most important feature is its new Master Chronometer certification issued by METAS, an independent Swiss institute. Every watch is tested for eight fundamental characteristics, that include precision, power reserve, water resistance and anti-magnetism. We spoke to Omega's President Stephen Urquhart at the brand's boutique on Via Montenapoleone in Milan shortly before Baselworld 2016.
LUXOS: You have some important testimonials, James Bond, Nicole Kidman and others. Who sells more watches, James, Nicole, or your engineers?
"James Bond is a different world, a unique character, but he can only sell one product at a time! Nicole Kidman and George Clooney are more subtle, below the line, we do events with them. Talking of the Globemaster, the watch has a strong history to tell, but the most important part is the Master certification. We have simplified things for the customer. Many brands have their own certification or their own Poinçon, and it gets confusing for the consumer. The Master Chronometer certification by METAS is independent and neutral."
Stephen Urquhart, President of Omega
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LUXOS: Why did you decide to go a step beyond the existing COSC chronometer certification?
"All our movements are certified by COSC, which tests just the movements without the rotor and ensures that their precision reaches a maximum deviation of -4/+6 seconds per day. But we wanted to go further, and test the watch in its case, for a whole series of parameters. COSC could not do this, so we contacted METAS, an independent Swiss certification institute that works for many sectors of industry. With them we defined parameters of precision, magnetism, waterproofness, isochronicity at different stages of winding, and so forth. The METAS Master certification has eight parameters, a number chosen because Omega won eight important chronometry records in the 1940s and '50s, and this is visually expressed on the caseback, where there is a medallion with an observatory and eight stars. Each movement is tested by COSC, and then by METAS, and the latter requires a precision with maximum deviation of 0/+5 seconds per day, so with deviation cut by half with respect to COSC parameters. This called for considerable industrial commBaselworld 2016: Rebellion Prometheusitment: we had to change a lot of things in manufacturing to meet these standards. And the certification process takes a considerable time: first, 15 days for COSC certification, then 10 days for METAS Master Chronometer certification."
The Master Chronometer certification card issued by METAS, Switzerland
LUXOS: Anti-magnetism is not an easy concept to communicate. Do you think that it will be a long-term process?
"You're right, you can't see magnetism, but all the same, it can affect the functioning of your mechanical watch. We estimate that about 50% of the problems of watches sent for repair are caused by the movement becoming magnetized and therefore losing precision. Of course, you can have it demagnetized, but today, people don't want to have to pack a watch, send it back and wait days or weeks for it to be returned. You can think of it this way: the first problem that watchmakers had to solve was anti-shock, watches would stop if you dropped them. Then there was water, which you can see because it causes condensation inside the watchglass. Now there is magnetism, which is all around us, in your home, in your fridge door, your hair dryer, your bag. An iPad cover generates a field of 2,000 gauss. So a watch like Globemaster, that is unaffected even by 15,000 gauss, the sort of intensity generated by an IRM machine, makes a difference to your everyday life."
LUXOS: Could the new certification be compared to another of your hallmarks, the co-axial escapement?
“They're different in that co-axial is a nice name, but nobody knows what it means! But there is a similarity. The co-axial escapement is public domain, any watch manufacturer could use it, it's just demanding to industrialise. And in the same way, the Master Chronometer certification by METAS is not specific to Omega. Any watch brand could apply for it. With co-axial movements, my dream was that people would go into the boutique and say, "Is it co-axial?" Now, I hope that people ask "Is it anti-magnetic?"
Omega Constellation Globemaster Co-axial Master Chronometer, caseback with the observatory medallion and eight stars
LUXOS: So perhaps Bond or Kidman could help you out?
"I know that anti-magnetism is not a sexy message, but I think that you buy a mechanical watch, something that will last a lifetime, or two or three lifetimes, to make you happy, and the last thing you want is to have a problem with it caused by magnetism. I think that this message is compelling enough."
Omega Constellation Globemaster Co-axial Master Chronometer, Sedna gold case, 39 mm