This movement created the Omega brand- and it’s having a comeback

19-Ligne Calibre masters of industrialisation.

By Victoria Gomelsky 06/02/2019

Conventional wisdom dictates that the finest mechanical watches come from Switzerland, but it wasn’t always that way. For centuries, the Swiss were merely contenders vying for position among Europe’s top watchmakers. And by the end of the 19th century, the Americans, masters of industrialisation, had emerged as leaders in producing reliable timepieces quickly and efficiently.

The story of how Switzerland came to dominate the mechanical watch trade boils down to a handful of pivotal inventions, among them the introduction in 1894 of a movement, known as the 19-ligne Calibre, that would change the course of watchmaking history. (Its name refers to its size—one inch consists of 12 lignes while 1 ligne is equal to around 2.26mm.)

The 19-ligne Calibre differed from its contemporaries in two critical ways: It was produced through an industrialised process—in series, using cutting-edge methods—and it incorporated interchangeable components. Any watchmaker in the world could replace its parts, a development that paved the way for the Swiss watch industry’s transition from a cottage industry into a volume-producing superpower.

19-Ligne Omega Caliber, Courtesy Omega

Christened Omega, after the last letter of the Greek alphabet—a reference to its makers’ ultimate accomplishment—the 19-ligne Calibre was produced by brothers Louis-Paul and César Brandt, whose father, Louis Brandt, had founded a small watchmaking workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds a half-century earlier.

The movement was so well-received that in 1903, the Brandt brothers changed the name of their company to Omega. Over the next century, the firm earned a reputation for making precise and high-quality timepieces, its roots firmly planted in a watchmaking ethos inextricably linked to the 19-ligne Calibre.

In late January, the brand honored the 125th anniversary of the groundbreaking movement that lent it its name at an intimate event at the Omega Museum in Bienne.

At the event, Omega displayed the De Ville Trésor 125th Anniversary Edition, a 40mm version of its classic gents’ watch featuring the brand’s first manual-winding Master Chronometer movement, a red enamel dial and a caseback embellished by an 18k yellow gold medallion engraved with a decorative pattern, known as damaskeening, found on some of Omega’s original 19-ligne movements.

Also on display was something of a 19-ligne Calibre redux, a revised movement featuring original bridges, mainplates, escapements and bimetallic balance spring—retrieved from the vaults of the Omega Museum—as well as updated components including a 21st century-style barrel, mainspring and screws, all designed for a new half hunter pocket watch coming to market in the near future.


Subscribe to the Newsletter

Stay Connected

You may also like.

Richard Mille’s New Tourbillon Designed For Golfer Bubba Watson

The bubble-gum pink colour is a reference to the golfer’s signature drivers.

By Demetrius Simms


Patek Philippe Just Created A One-Of-A-Kind Titanium Chronograph

And it’s heading to auction for charity.

By Rachel Cormack


Phillips Just Sold $88.84 Million In Watches

The auction house’s two big-ticket weekend sales took home lots of cash—and set a few records in the process.

By Demetrius Simms


Richard Mille’s Latest Dive Watch Receives Seal Of Approval

World record diver Arnaud Jerald has plunged 117-metres and now sports its new limited-edition model.

By Paige Reddinger


Explorer Bertrand Piccard Is On A Mission To Make Sustainability Profitable

The Breitling ambassador set out to find 1000 ways to make money while benefitting the environment. He’s at 1400 so far.

By Carol Besler


Buy the Magazine

Subscribe to Robb Report today!

Subscribe today

Stay Connected