The world’s most famous fictional spy and one of the most renowned watch brands have a partnership that has proved to be enduring, commercially successful and beneficial to charity. British actor Daniel Craig, the most recent portrayer of James Bond, was not quite as well known as he is now when he signed up with Swiss watchmaker Omega. His subsequent success playing 007 has benefitted both parties, and has made the charity Orbis much better off and much better known around the world.
Orbis helps train doctors in remote parts of the world so they can fix cataracts and other eye problems. Craig is so keen on supporting the charity that he agreed to go along for the ride on one of its missions, to Mongolia. Craig’s association with such a worthwhile cause was highlighted by Omega president Raynald Aeschlimann when Aeschlimann visited Beijing recently and reflected on the longevity of his brand’s partnership with the actor. Aeschlimann was in Beijing to launch Omega’s latest line of watches for women – as was another prominent ambassador for his brand, Oscar-winning Australian actress Nicole Kidman.
At an event to unveil the new watches, Aeschlimann spoke of how the star wattage of Craig and Kidman, along with that of yet another brand ambassador, model Cindy Crawford, was well matched with their strong principles and willingness to support charity. Omega recently chose a newly minted star, Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne, to join Craig, Kidman and Crawford in its galaxy of brand ambassadors. “Daniel Craig loves watches and he loved the idea of working with Omega. It was him who came up with the idea of working [with] Orbis,” Aeschlimann says. “Originally we worked with the James Bond movies because we wanted associations with dynamic and sexy, and wanted to add value to our brand. In the same way, we chose Nicole Kidman. When she became an ambassador 11 years ago, she was already one of the best actresses of her time, with values – one of the first to be involved with UNIFEM (since renamed UN Women), which campaigns for protection of women.”
Aeschlimann has a recipe for the success of such partnerships. “Values, charisma, attraction for product: that is why we are still together,” he says. “For that reason Eddie Redmayne is now with us. He’s very young, very attractive and an incredible fan of the brand. The first thing he wanted to do was visit the production [facilities] to see for himself how the watches are made.”
Few buyers of Omegas get to see the place where the brand’s watches are painstakingly assembled. But all buy them because of the maker’s reputation for innovation and precision in producing reliable and stylish watches. Of course, that the maker is associated with the rugged Craig, the glamorous Kidman, the beautiful Crawford and the captivating Redmayne also helps sell its watches.
In the mainland, sales of luxuries have been curbed by reluctance to flaunt wealth while the government is cracking down on corruption, but the country remains a vital market for Omega. The presence of any of the watchmaker’s star partners – such as Kidman’s in Beijing – makes its brand more conspicuous and gives sales a fillip. Kidman visited the Omega boutique in Oriental Plaza, in the heart of Beijing, which flies the flag for the brand in China. It is the watchmaker’s biggest shop in Asia and one of the biggest watch outlets in the world.
The actress inspected the latest watches for ladies. They include the first Omega Master Chronometer made specifically for women and the Constellation Petite Seconde, a delicate timepiece with a mother-of-pearl dial and a small seconds sub-dial with four diamond markers. Kidman wore a Constellation Petite Seconde at an evening event at Capital M, a modern European restaurant owned by Australian Michelle Garnaut.
On show in Capital M was a selection of modern and classic watches for women. It included the new Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M range of watches with mother-of-pearl dials, and the iconic Ladymatic, often worn by Kidman at red-carpet events. Also on show were four new De Ville Trésor watches, distinguished by their bezels set with diamonds and domed, mother-of-pearl dials. The slim cases are made either of 18k Sedna gold or 18k yellow gold. The straps come in white, brown or red leather.
Another watch that drew admiring attention was the Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M, notable for its scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, chocolate-brown ceramic dial with Arabic numerals and a date window at the 3 o’clock position. The brown ceramic unidirectional bezel with Ceragold diving scale is mounted on a 39.5-millimetre 18K Sedna gold case. The watch has an alveol screw-in caseback and a brown leather strap with a rubber lining.
Aeschlimann is particularly proud of a watch he is closely associated with, the Omega Constellation, which boosted the popularity of the brand among the young.
“We are not a fashion brand, but we like to create trends and create watches that are good for our customers,” he says. “In China, we are investing a lot. We have six centres. And when we open in a new mall, we are there and listening, and happy to bring in new products. There are a lot of new things being done in WeChat, with dynamism, and everyone is trying to follow us – and we want to continue with this dynamism.”
Aeschlimann is himself a bundle of dynamism, which means he is well suited to a job that takes him back and forth around the globe. Yet selling Omegas was not what he set out to do. He was doing research for a master’s degree in the unglamorous field of pension fund management when he joined Omega. His original purpose was only to get some experience in the world of business, but the watchmaker cast a spell over him. “There is a lot of magic around the brand,” he says. “I think people like stories, not just someone telling you things are the best.”