A MOMENT WITH... Raynald Aeschlimann
Text by Kee | Photos by Jeff Ip
Omega CEO Raynald Aecshlimann

He is the newly-minted CEO of Omega, who was the chosen one for the top job after spending two decades grinding for the Swiss marque. The charismatic 46-year-old talks to us about the emblematic Speedmaster, his first day at work, and hanging out with the A-listers.


On the importance of the 60-year-old Speedmaster to watchmaking:

“This watch was created in 1967 and 60 years later, you still have a watch that possesses the exact same spirit – and it’s not even a vintage watch. It is fresh, fashionable, iconic, and you still can feel the watch and what it was like back then. The look is still the same, a watch that made history by going to the moon. And you don’t just read about it; you can buy it and wear it. And in some Speedmasters, it still has the same movement as the one that went onto the moon!”


On the aura of the Speedmaster and whether it would have stood the test of time if it wasn’t part of the historic moon landing:

“I think it would always be an iconic watch. The first watch had the tachymetre scale and it has a strong look to it. It is still one of the most recognisable chronographs in the world. But of course, the emotions would be a little bit less (if it didn’t go the moon). But it would still be celebrated today.”


On the moon landing and its impact on him:

“I’ve always been interested in history – I like reading about wars and what happened in the last two centuries. But one of the people I still respect the most is JFK (the 35th President of the United States who led the charge to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth). Before all the big talk, the man managed to become an icon in politics without playing politics. He had incredible charisma. He gave a lot of vision. I don’t think there has been any President since then who has had this kind of vision. JFK’s vision to land a man on the moon wasn’t just for his country; he had a vision for the whole world. They went to the moon, and they weren’t sure they were coming back. That’s true spirit!”


On the first time he came across the Speedmaster:

“It was the first day I joined Omega. I started on a day between a holiday and the weekend in Switzerland. Many people were on a break and I was alone so they sent me to the museum and I spent more time than I should there but I was very interested. Along with what we did for the Olympics, I saw an old watch that went to the moon… and it was a rare sight. We still have such watches there but it is so hard to get one because they’re still part of the working instruments.”


On the trappings of anniversary wristwatches and limited editions:

“If you look at the Speedmaster every year – and now we have another one – there is a part that I like to terms as a celebration. By celebrating, we create new inspiration and stir new emotions. Many would go and see the new moon watches and maybe buy them. Those who don’t have the money now are at least inspired by the story. But to celebrate a watch, it would be stupid to just make a new colour each year. We should never do that. We should always make a technological advancement. But I’ve to admit that the 1957 Trilogy collection (a limited box set reissue of the Seamaster 300, Railmaster, and Speedmaster) is more than a celebration. We’re not a fashion brand; we’re a true watch brand with a true collection. If you don’t do a limited edition for these three watches, they are lost in the middle of the other watches – we should give them special attention. I believe that a limited edition helps to create an environment for the watch that everybody wants. If it is only a commercial launch, it will not work. Some brands take the best product that they have and they just make a limited edition out of it and it stops working for them. But in today’s world, if the product is bad-looking nobody will buy it. Creating limited editions is a celebration in my mind and for special watches that deserve this honour. From that point of view it is more difficult and it is more challenging. We’re doing this because it is part of the emotion in buying it and we’re not misusing it.”


On the Master Chronometer certification (Omega’s new high-level standard in quality control) and the next step forward:

“We have completed 12 new movements now; we still have a factory we need to finish; we have back orders on movements because the entire infrastructure’s not enough – we are even working Saturdays and Sundays. This year, we will make 100,000 watches, and then next year maybe 200,000. And it doubles again the next year. To get the Master Chronometer certificate, we have to really work hard on all the details and launch them in our new watches too. The next peak is probably going to be linked to watchmaking or design or material. The Master Chronometer certification is not just the peak of my predecessor but of Omega. When you’re trying to make an anti-magnetic watch, you’ve got to have the best engineers behind you, like we do here. Our mission is to make everyone know about that standard. You will not see a triple tourbillon Omega watch tomorrow. We are one of the few industrial brands investing heavily in new movement construction.”


On his legacy:

“I think this is an incredible brand. Omega, in the last 10 years, have created history numerous times. It’s not just about my legacy; I want Omega in the next 10 to 20 years to be creating its own legacy and its own future. I always think about what I can do for the brand. We have incredible projects coming up.”


On his favourite Omega timepiece:

“My answer is very clear and I’m sorry that it might be too obvious and basic: it is the Speedmaster. If I’ve to only choose one it has to be the most iconic one – that has to be the Moon Watch. It’s a sensual watch because you’re handwinding it every day. If I had to pick one for daily wear, then it has to be the Dark Side of the Moon. It is made for someone like me who is more active and I don’t usually watch where I’m walking and boom... I hit my watch. So, I think to have scratch-resistant ceramic on a watch is best. And I like the darkness on the watch because it is sexy.”


On hanging out with big-name celebs and Omega ambassadors, ranging from George Clooney to Cindy Crawford:

“They’re nice people. It is a real pleasure. They share the same values we have. But to be honest, they are normal people too. (Laughs)”


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