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Omega CEO Raynald Aeschlimann on straps, stars and spies

Words by Rob Chilton

The energetic Omega boss tells EDGAR why good relationships with the right celebrity ambassadors are so important and how he keeps the brand – and himself – young.

 

How do you choose your ambassadors? 

We don’t choose people just because they’re number one, that’s not our style at all. People can go up and down the rankings but we stay with them. The best ambassadors like Rory [McIlroy], Sergio [Garcia], George [Clooney] are powerful and they could easily change brands but they don’t want to because they have a special story with us. We want a long relationship.

What do you like about Rory?

What I like about him first is his career. He had a vision and worked hard but kept his down to earth way of looking at his sport and who he is. Secondly, after having spent a lot of time with him, I like his attitude and the way he talks to journalists and fans. He has values we like at Omega: achievement and respect. We are not arrogant. I was talking to him yesterday about the way he’s going to educate his children, they won’t be spoilt and will respect others.

 

Rory McIlroy tees off in Dubai.

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Rory McIlroy

I associate Rory with Dubai…

Yeah, me too. We can almost call him ‘a kid of Dubai’. He may not be a UAE citizen but for me, he is the best ambassador for what’s happened here. He’s a sign of Dubai growing and becoming a capital of the world. And obviously he’s an incredible golfer.

 

What about Sergio Garcia, why is he a good fit for Omega?

He has charisma. Charisma makes the difference. He was in golf’s top 10 for five or six years but never won a major.

 

Were you ok with that?

We were fine with that because he’s Sergio. You can have big hype and millions of followers but without charisma it doesn’t mean anything.

 

And then in 2017 he finally won his first major…

Yes, we were sure it would happen and we were so proud of him.

Eddie Redmayne for Omega watches.

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Eddie Redmayne

Perhaps your most famous ambassador is George Clooney, right?

Yes, he’s a big fan of the Speedmaster – he knows everything about that watch. We made a film for Omega in London where George met Buzz Aldrin in a movie theatre in Shoreditch. There was no script but there was a special relationship between them. They talked about space, life, and being on the moon.

 

Do you personally choose the ambassadors? 

Oh yes, I’m always in the discussions. We don’t choose a name from a list of 20 on a piece of paper. I want to meet them and talk to them. Eddie Redmayne for example, I met him and it was very clear to me that we could work with him.

 

What struck you about him?

We had a long discussion about watches and watchmaking and he asked questions. He wasn’t acting; he had a will to understand. I liked him.

Raynald Aeschlimann and Michael Phelps.

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Raynald Aeschlimann and Michael Phelps

Where did you meet?

I remember we met at one of his favourite hotels in LA, Shutters on the Beach, which is on Venice Beach. It’s also one of my favourite hotels and I think just being in that hotel already made me think this is something we share.

 

What do you think of his movies?

His career so far is incredible, he’s been in movies that have made history and is the sign of a generation. The Theory of Everything [in which Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking] was fantastic. We support the Stephen Hawking Foundation actually.

 

Have you met Stephen Hawking?

Yes, it was a very emotional moment, I must say. We met in 2017 at the Starmus Festival, a conference of geniuses, professors and scientists, where we gave watches to three winners. Stephen loves Omega and James Bond.

 

Are you glad Daniel Craig is doing another Bond movie?

I’m happy he’s staying with James Bond because he’s dedicated to the character. Daniel is another guy with an incredible career in theatre and film; I think he’s a very modern actor.

James Bond's Seamaster from Spectre.

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James Bond's Seamaster from Spectre

Let’s talk about the NATO strap on Bond’s watch in Spectre. It felt like a big moment that modernised the character.

That’s exactly what I wanted. I fought hard for that strap and Daniel helped me – that’s why we are friends! It was very clear to me that having Bond wear a NATO strap in Spectre was a unique opportunity to show the world that this was a new James Bond for a new generation. It’s brought a lot of young people to the brand. We’re aware of our history and we respect it, but I think Omega is also modern, young and fresh. We’re not boring.

 

Does that keep you young?

I’m trying! I’m 47, but I stopped counting at 39.

 

Are you confident young people today will buy mechanical watches?

Yes, of course. Look at fashion and sneakers. Look at Supreme – old men didn’t create this brand, young people made it and then they collaborated with Louis Vuitton. It’s a sign that millennials are very brand orientated. This generation want to have real brands. They’ve even recreated brands second time around that we killed off. I think we have the same chance now with mechanical watches. Kids are born with an iPhone but they still want to have a special watch on their wrist. As well as image, I think young people like quality. Luxury is about emotion and in the luxury world today you must have true brands.

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