There have been a smattering of interviews with actor George Clooney over the past couple weeks and almost every one has featured this sentence, “Plus, as part of his contract with Omega watches, he’s working with them on the development of a fuel cell, not to mention presenting himself as the pin-up boy for eco-friendly electric cars.”
Which got me to thinking, what the hell is Omega Watches doing with fuel cells? After a little digging, I’ve discovered that Swiss industrialist Nicolas Hayek, President of Swatch Group (which owns Omega) is working on a not-so-secret project to to develop an ultra-efficient and cheap fuel cell engine. Hayek is partnering with a division of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, a Swiss regional utility, and other groups. Apparently, the aim is not to develop a car, but sell an off-the-shelf fuel cell engine as a component to automakers.
Clooney, who has long championed the development of renewable sources to wean the nation off of foreign oil, will be one of the public faces of the new company. I’m unsure whether this is in conjunction with his contract at Omega or an entirely new rep deal.
As an aside, Hayek also helped co-develop the SMART car with DaimlerChrysler. Swatch ultimately pulled out of that deal because Hayek wanted a hybrid, while DC wanted a gasoline-fueled vehicle. Go figure.