With the De Ville Trésor 125th Anniversary Edition watch, Swiss watch manufacturer Omega celebrates the 125th anniversary of the iconic 19-ligne “Omega” caliber.
Before it was called OMEGA, the Swiss watch company was first established in 1848. At that time, the business existed only as a small workshop, opened by the young watchmaker Louis Brandt in the Swiss city of La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Louis Brandt was passionate about precision and he set about developing the most accurate watches he could. Within a few years, his reputation for high quality watches was established within Switzerland, and then shortly after, throughout Europe. After Louis Brandt’s death in 1879, his two sons – Louis-Paul and César – took over the family business, inspired by their father’s love of watchmaking and precision.
The big moment came in 1894 when the Brandt brothers released their new movement known as the 19-ligne calibre. Marking an enormous leap forward, the 19-ligne calibre was produced in series using revolutionary new methods and it instantly set a new standard within watchmaking. It was not only extremely accurate, but every component could be replaced without modification by any watchmaker in the world. The perfected combination of winding and time-setting via the stem and crown was also ground-breaking and is still widely used today.
Like the last letter of the Greek alphabet, the “Omega” movement symbolised an ultimate accomplishment. They considered it to be the “final word” on watchmaking success. They also knew that precise, series-produced movements were the future of watchmaking, and it didn’t take long for the public to realize this too, with the reputation of the company quickly growing around the globe.
The success of the 19-ligne “Omega” calibre was so great that the brothers eventually changed the name of their entire company to OMEGA Watch Co in 1903. By then, OMEGA had become the largest manufacturer of finished watches in Switzerland.
This year, Omega celebrates the 125th anniversary of the brand name. The 19-ligne calibre introduced revolutionary mechanisms into watchmaking. For example, it perfected a method for winding your pocket watch and setting the time by only using the crown. This system was patented by the company on the 1st of August 1894 and became a true success.
The methods used to actually build the 19-ligne calibre were just as impressive. For the first time, the watchmakers used an “industrial scale” production line. This was divided into sections, where each component was crafted to very precise specifications. This meant that all the parts were interchangeable, making the assembly of the movements much more streamlined and efficient. The idea was so progressive that it was soon adopted by the entire Swiss watch industry.
The 19-ligne calibre is a true symbol of OMEGA’s quest for precision. The accuracy of these movements was renowned around the world, including on the Canadian railways, where they were often trusted to officially keep time in the early 20th century.
There have been many different and captivating decorations used on the 19-ligne calibre. One of the most well-known is the “DDR” damaskeening style that enjoyed huge popularity amongst discerning customers in the USA.
The success of the 19-ligne calibre drove OMEGA to new heights of quality and production. In fact, they rose from this achievement to become Switzerland’s largest manufacturer of finished watches by 1903. It launched the brand as we know it today and the spirit of innovation that has built a watchmaking dynasty.
Today, the 19-ligne Calibre, known as the famous “Omega” calibre, is being given a new lease of life, as OMEGA embarks on a challenging and impressive project.
When official production of the original movement finished in 1923, the last components in stock were stored away for almost a century. Now, in 2019, those components have been retrieved from the vaults at the OMEGA Museum in Bienne and will be used by the watchmakers in OMEGA’s Atelier Tourbillon to recreate 19 new movements.
All of the bridges, mainplates, escapements and bimetallic balance spring will be original 19-ligne components and will give the calibres a truly authentic and historic spirit.
This project, however, is also about evolution. OMEGA is determined to bring the iconic 19-ligne calibre into the 21st century with distinguished updates and new components, such as the barrel, main spring and some screws. The chatons and ruby stones will be recreated and the entire gear train will be recalculated to meet modern standards.
As well as this, the movement will be fitted with an innovative Swiss hand setting system. This will be the first such system in the 19-ligne calibre, offering the next superb evolution of the movement’s functionality.
Finally, OMEGA will embellish the movement with an intricate “damaskeening” decoration. The pattern will follow a style first used by OMEGA in the earliest years of the 20th century and promises to be of exceptional quality – therefore obtaining the new grade known as “Master”.
The entire calibre will be assembled with a crown at 3 o’clock and will be placed inside a new half hunter pocket watch.
In celebration of OMEGA’s 125-year milestone, the brand is proudly releasing a new De Ville timepiece that includes some very unique touches and an exciting movement.
At first glance, the design follows the popular style of the OMEGA De Ville Trésor gents’ collection. 18K yellow gold has been used to create the 40 mm case, along with the domed indexes and elegant hands.
For the first time, OMEGA has created a wristwatch with a red enamel dial. This challenging design is inspired by OMEGA’s iconic brand colour, and wonderfully matches the burgundy leather strap with tone-on-tone stitching.
On the case back, OMEGA has marked the 125th anniversary of its name with a special 18K yellow gold medallion that is filled with red enamel. Surrounding the medallion is the decorative engraving known as damaskeening. This same swirling pattern was originally used to embellish some of the unique 19-ligne “OMEGA” movements that were hugely popular in the USA.
Finally, at the heart of the timepiece is the new OMEGA Master Chronometer Calibre 8929. In tribute to the famous 19-ligne Calibre, this is the first manual-winding Master Chronometer movement created by the brand.