As watch enthusiasts, our opportunities to experience our favorite brands can be somewhat limited. Retailers and boutiques allow us to try on the watches and experience them in the metal, although they hardly give us the chance to fully immerse ourselves in the heritage of a brand and learn more about its history. However, Omega has just opened its Planet Omega exhibition in New York City, and in addition to being free and open to the public, Planet Omega also provides attendees with the chance to learn more about the famous Swiss watch brand and see historic timepieces that can typically only be found at Omega’s museum in Biel, Switzerland.
Located at the famous Chelsea Factory in the heart of New York City, Planet Omega will run from November 9th through November 19th, 2023, and fans and collectors of the brand are free to stop by and enjoy an immersive exhibition that showcases Omega’s rich heritage and the various timepieces that helped shape its history. As one of the world’s premier luxury watch manufacturers, Omega’s world is both vast and incredibly diverse, although seeing the brand’s universe all together in a museum-style format at the Planet Omega exhibition truly provides a point of reference for how relevant and important Omega is as a brand.
Not only is Omega the Official Timekeeper of the Olympic Games and a constant presence on the wrists of celebrities, but Omega also has its longstanding space exploration heritage with the NASA-certified Speedmaster, and it forever holds the title of being the first watch worn on the Moon. However, Omega watches have also ventured to the very deepest point on Earth in the form of the Planet Ocean Ultra Deep, and they have also made an indelible mark on pop culture as the official watch of James Bond. Most brands would love to have just one of these major points of relevance, yet Omega has all of them and more among its long list of accomplishments.
As you walk into the space that has been transformed into Planet Omega, you are greeted by a giant gold astronaut sculpture, along with a quote from Buzz Aldrin printed on the wall that reads, “My Omega was a vital backup that kept me in sync with Houston time.” Once inside, you will see illuminated display cases that contain important vintage Omega watches that are on loan from the brand’s museum in Switzerland. Some of the vintage timepieces are rare and important models such as an original 1932 Marine (Omega’s first waterproof watch), a Speedmaster CK2998 (the first Omega to be worn in space), one of the original split-seconds chronographs used to time the Olympic Games in 1932, and a gold Ladymatic from 1955, which represented a major breakthrough for women’s watches and featured the world’s smallest rotor-equipped automatic movement.
However, some of the other vintage watches on loan from Omega’s museum aren’t merely examples of important models, but rather they are the actual watches that previously belonged to historic individuals. Among the highlights is Elvis Presley’s personal diamond-set Omega that was given to him by RCA Records in 1960 with the words “To Elvis, 75 Million Records, RCA Victor, 12-25-60” engraved upon the caseback, along with John F. Kennedy’s gold rectangular Omega watch that was worn by the United States President during his Inauguration Ceremony in 1961. Kennedy’s friend Grant Stockdale gifted him this timepiece prior to the election and engraved the words, “President of the United States John F. Kennedy from his friend Grant” upon the caseback, which ultimately became true when Kennedy won the election several months later.
The rest of the Planet Omega exhibition is divided into six sections (Sports and Olympic Games, Ocean, James Bond, Space, Friends, and Precision), with each one representing a different facet of Omega’s heritage. The Sports and Olympic Games section celebrates Omega’s role as the Official Timekeeper of competitions, while the Ocean and Space sections chronicle the brand’s history of underwater and space exploration. The James Bond section naturally showcases Omega’s role within the various 007 films, while the Friends section is dedicated to Omega’s illustrious list of brand ambassadors. Lastly, the Precision section highlights the brand’s key innovations relating to chronometry, such as its Spirate System, which was unveiled in the Speedmaster Super Racing earlier this year and offers accuracy standards of -0/+2 seconds per day.
The Planet Omega exhibit itself consists of a maze of illuminated panels that are color-coordinated to their respective sections and display images with information relating to the different aspects of Omega’s world. Displayed within each section are watches and other objects that exemplify the topics of their respective sections, such as one of the prototype Ultra Deep watches that went to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, an Olympic Games electronic starting pistol, and the actual titanium Seamaster Diver 300M that Daniel Craig wore on-screen in the latest James Bond film, No Time To Die.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend the opening night launch event for Planet Omega where President and CEO of the brand, Raynald Aeschlimann welcomed attendees with special guest Nicole Kidman, who has been an Omega Ambassador since 2005. As you might expect, the event itself was lovely, although one of the major highlights was being able to see the historic museum pieces like JFK and Elvis Presley’s personal watches. I distinctly remember when the Elvis watch surfaced at auction, and while some people may roll their eyes when brands end up purchasing their own watches, I personally support it when they become museum pieces that end up being shared with the public. Rather than being purchased by a private collector and stuffed away inside a safe, these watches can now be enjoyed by countless individuals, and for the timepieces featured in the Planet Omega exhibition, I feel like Omega is the most appropriate entity to own them.
Given that I’m a big fan of Omega, I naturally enjoyed the Planet Omega exhibition quite a bit, and seeing the brand’s various different worlds all alongside each other really helps put into perspective the magnitude and diversity of the greater Omega universe. For Omega, the benefits of hosting such an exhibit are clear, as the brand gets the opportunity to highlight its achievements and share its history with the public. However, fans of the brand also benefit by having access to what is essentially a free pop-up museum that is entirely focused on all things related to Omega.
The Planet Omega exhibition is located at the Chelsea Factory on 547 W 26th Street and it is open to the public every day from November 9 through 19, 2023. Hours of operation for the exhibition are 11:00 am to 7:00 pm each day, and while admission to Planet Omega is completely free, visitors are encouraged to book their place in advance to ensure that there will be space for their attendance. For more information on the Planet Omega exhibition, please visit the brand’s website.