Although ladies wristwatches date back to the mid 19th century (coincidently, Omega’s founder Louis Brandt started making watches in 1848), it wasn’t really until the early 1900s that women who were not from the upper-classes began to wear watches, which kick-started mass-production and the development of a complete new sector in the industry.
By this time, the reputation of Omega was such, that the company had become one of the largest watchmakers in Switzerland, with 240,000 watches produced annually and employing 800 people.
Omega has always held women in high esteem as it proves the fact that their first ladies watch was launched as early as 1902, housed in a silver case and covered entirely in a delicate floral design. As at the time it was seen as rude for women to wear watches, Omega began to produce its own “secret jewellery watches”, pieces that looked like jewellery, but had a small watch hidden inside. The popularity of these pieces ballooned, along with the brand’s other classic designs.
Advertisement from Kirby Beard & Co., Paris (1908). At the time, Kirby Beard & Co. was possibly the most famous department store in the world.
The 1920s and 1930s saw an incredibly growth in the production and sales of female timepieces made by Omega, probably due to their stunning and often, adventurous Art Deco designs. In fact, the artistry of the brand earned it the Grand Prize at the 1925 “Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes” in Paris. But not everything was about “party” pieces. The “Medicus”, launched in 1937, was an easy-to-use and highly readable watch that introduced a central seconds hand for the first time. Known as the “nurses watch”, not only did the “Medicus” answer the needs of women in the medical profession, but was also the first example of a gender neutral watch.
The central seconds hand in the Omega Medicus made it easier to read. During WWII it became known as the “nurses watch” for the help it provided to medial staff on battlefields and hospitals.
Just under a decade later, in 1946, Omega surprised the industry with the launch of the very first “Tubogas”, exclusively for the French market. Cast in red 18kt gold, the watch was designed by Maison Brandt Frères and caused sensation with its innovative articulate bracelet. The advert for it was drawn by the famous fashion illustrator, René Gruau.
The Tubogas (left) and Ladymatic (right) were two models that revolutionised women watches, the first because of its articulate bracelet and the second, for its tiny rotor-equipped automatic calibre.
The 1950s were not great for female empowerment, as the advertising from many companies – in and outside the watch sector – played on the stereotypes of traditional domestic duties. Omega though went for glamour and personality, and so the Ladymatic was born in 1955. It featured the world’s smallest chronometer-certified rotor- equipped automatic calibre. Far more superior than almost everything else on the market, it was an instant sensation, combining advanced technology with beautiful design.
Omega Moldavita (1964) designed by Gilbert Albert, with the meteor-born glass at its centre. Part of the “Flowers” collection of secret watches, first launched in 1955.
Omega’s passion for female timepieces kept developing and over the decades, new lines kept being added to their offering. Today, the company’s ladies collections rivals those for men, and are endorsed by some of the most influential and inspiring women of our time. A leading example is Nicole Kidman, brand ambassador since 2005, who, to mark the 10th anniversary of her role with Omega, joined the very first Omega “Her Time” event as guest of honour, hosted at La Triennale di Milano in September 2015.
Nicole Kidman at the first “Her Time” exhibition, Milan 2017. Right: Omega Ladymatic 2010, the line whose advertising campaigns have been often graced by the Oscar-winning actress.
Moscow, Shanghai, Sydney and Paris followed, the two latter honoured with the presence of Cindy Crawford, who in Paris travelled accompanied by her children Kaia and Presley, Gerber who had recently become Omega ambassadors themselves. In that same year, 2017, “Her Time” travelled to New York, where James Bond actress Naomie Harris cut the ribbon of Omega’s pop-up boutique on Fifth Avenue. The last exhibition before Covid-19 brought the world to a halt took place in St Petersburg, where the guest of honour was once again, Nicole Kidman.
Cindy Crawford at the 2017 exhibition in Sydney. Right: Omega Constellation Star (1992). The customer could choose the position of the diamond on the dial as well as name their own star, which was engraved on the caseback.
The show is finally arriving to London. From the 8th to the 29th of March, 2023, Her Time House in the heart of Mayfair invites visitors to explore 100 years of Omega’s historical legacy in women’s watchmaking. The stunning townhouse overlooking Hyde Park is hosting the exhibition on the ground floor, where guests are taken into a horological journey through exquisite examples of the creations by Omega for women over the decades, including art nouveau and art deco jewellery watches, mid-century masterpieces and contemporary icons.
The first floor is home to a stunning members-only space, with several bars to enjoy a drink and a bite throughout the day. A series of daytime and evening events will be hosted here to celebrate, champion and inspire women, with a focus on women’s health, wellness, career and lifestyle. Members can also benefit from a “Her Time Out” zone with noise cancelling headphones playing relaxing soundscapes. Some very special guests from the Omega family of ambassadors will also be in attendance throughout the three-week period. To further champion inspirational women, a female-founded catering company alongside an all-female event management team and designers have been engaged to run the House.
Some of the Omega pieces at “Her Time” London. Left to right: Early ladies wristwatch (1906), Art Deco Jewellery wristwatch (1940), Topaz Jewellery Secret watch (1956), and De Ville Jeux d’Or (1972).
Interior design is a key element in the house, with white and gold touches throughout and a mix of modern and baroque influences, creating a feminine and warm environment. A focal point of the design of the house is the gold leaf “Her Time Tree” on the ground floor atrium. This statement sculpture has been created by sculptor and bespoke furniture maker Patrick Seaman Spice in collaboration with Jack Hobbs, Conservation & Sustainability Educator. Patrick specialises in using sustainable materials including reclaimed, storm-fallen and reclaimed timber and has harvested the fallen and damaged trees from Jack’s own woodland, Three Streams Community Educational Woodland. Following the event, the golden tree sculpture will be taken back to the forest to showcase to the local communities and schools to benefit the whole Three Streams Community Educational Woodland.
“Her Time House” is open on 8th March for private previews, with the exhibition opening to the public on 9th – 29th March.
OMEGA Her Time House. 4 Hamilton Place. London W1J 7BQ.
Exhibition Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 11am – 6.30pm; Sunday: 12pm – 5pm.
Words: Julia Pasarón