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Omegamania grips the watch world

Swiss Omega watches that are going under the hammer in Geneva this weekend are generating a buzz around the world.

This content was published on April 10, 2007 - 08:10

The sale, organised by the Antiquorum auction house, includes timepieces that have been up in space, some owned by the rich and famous, as well as others that have won prizes for accuracy.

The watches - in 300 lots – went on a world tour before the Omegamania auction and have aroused considerable attention.

"When we decided to make an Omega auction, we knew we would attract an enormous amount of Omega lovers. Many blogs around the world are talking about it," Antiquorum chairman Osvaldo Patrizzi told swissinfo.

He said he had been amazed that at a news conference in Hong Kong, 150 journalists turned up from all over Asia.

"With all the camera flashes when a watch was shown, it was like the Hollywood Oscars. I've never seen that in the watch world before."

Omegamania features watches that are more affordable than has been the case with other theme auctions of prestigious watches made in Switzerland, for example those from Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin.

Accessible brand

"Omega is a very accessible brand and may therefore be approached by more collectors. There are watches for all tastes and purchasing power in the catalogue," commented Antiquorum's Brandon Thomas, a watch expert who compiled the catalogue.

"This time we will reach a new wave of collectors in addition to the faithful ones," he told swissinfo.

Thomas said some collectors might look for watches with a special historical background, for example space missions or the Olympics. Others may want a watch with a special provenance.

The auction marks 50 years of Omega's celebrated Speedmaster, which accompanied the first and last moon missions and is affectionately known as the Moon Watch.

The Geneva sale includes the Mir watch – one of the rarest Omega watches ever produced. As Antiquorum puts it, it is likely to be a unique opportunity for a collector to obtain a watch that has been in space.

The watch is one of 35 Speedmasters that were taken to the Russian space station Mir to determine the long-term effect of gravity on the movement of a timepiece.

Also coming under the hammer is a prototype specially made to withstand the extreme temperature changes in space. It is known as the Alaska Project Watch and was produced by Omega to present Nasa with the ultimate astronaut's timepiece.

"When Omega proposed this watch to Nasa, the space agency said it did not need it because the watches it already had [from Omega] were so good. It did not want something more sophisticated," Patrizzi said.

Bond, James Bond

Other attractions of the auction include watches given to former Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher and one worn by Pierce Brosnan in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies.

The "dirtiest" up for sale is the Planet Ocean worn by Daniel Craig in the latest Bond blockbuster, Casino Royale.

According to Antiquorum, it had to withstand an "enormous amount of abuse" as Craig insisted on doing his own stunts. It remains in the same condition it was in at the end of the film's production.

The Bond theme would not be complete without a diamond, platinum and tourmaline ring watch that once belonged to Switzerland's Ursula Andress – Honey Rider in Dr No.

"We have several watches that will probably fetch more than SFr100,000 ($82,365) each," Patrizzi said.

He added that the auction – taking place on Saturday and Sunday – and beamed by satellite to the international watch fair Baselworld, is expected to fetch SFr6-8 million.

swissinfo, Robert Brookes

Key facts

Two private Omega collections feature in the 300-lot catalogue.
It also includes prize-winning chronometers, military watches from both world wars, the earliest diving watches, as well as the more recent co-axial escapement housed in a limited edition split-seconds chronograph.

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Omega

Founded by Louis Brandt in 1848, Omega was one of Switzerland's first industrial wristwatch manufacturers by 1900.

It has been setting world precision records at observatory contests since 1919.

Omega has timed 22 Olympic Games and other international sports events in athletics, swimming, golf and sailing.

In 1965 Nasa chose the Omega Speedmaster Professional as its official chronograph for space exploration.

In 1970 the chronograph "rescued" the crew and craft of the Apollo 13 mission from disaster after an on-board explosion. The Speedmaster timed the critical engine ignition to set them on course for Earth.

The Speedmaster Professional X-33 electronic multi-function watch is now on board the International Space Station.

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