A TICKING SWAN SONG. Just before news broke of his retirement, the legendary Stephen Urquhart spoke passionately of Omega’s newest movement
People often say that, at the end of the day, a great name is built by great people. That saying is remarkably true for Omega. Stephen Urquhart, ex-president of the Swiss watch manufacturer that takes pride in precision and accuracy, had been a powerful driving force behind the brand’s evolution. Last April marked his official retirement, a month before his 70th birthday at the end of May.
Urquhart has quite an interesting history with the brand. Following his early education in England and later in Switzerland, he joined Omega in the communications department back in 1968 before it was taken over by the Swatch group. As a matter of fact, he could even recall some of the most important moments taking place during those years, such as the aborted Apollo 13 mission. But in 1974, Urquhart moved to Audermars Piguet, and 15 years later to Jaeger-LeCoultre and then Blancpain. It was in 1999 when he was summoned by the late Nicolas Hayek, co-founder of the Swatch Group, to manage Omega, Blancpain’s sister company.
Throughout his tenure as president for 16 years, Urquhart has not only successfully promoted Omega’s use of coaxial escapements, but also championed further innovations such as the world’s first “cageless” movement with anti-magnetic resistance of up to 15,000 gauss in 2013 and, currently, the Master Chronometer movement that sets a new quality standard for watches, on top of the well-known COSC certification received by the brand.
Considering his long list of impeccable achievements, it was quite surprising to learn that Urquhart, an avid golfer, was extremely humble and approachable during our meeting at the launch of the Globemaster in Los Angeles earlier this year. He was equally tactful and discerning in answering questions—he maintained that only he and the brand’s communications officers were qualified to speak on behalf of the company. For a man of that age and with such wisdom, Urquhart is definitively a living legend who perfectly represents what Omega really is.