Ever since 1848, when a young watchmaker named Louis Brandt set up his family workshop at La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, the company that later came to be known as Omega has been setting standards in mechanical precision and horological innovation. While there are other watch brands that are older than Omega, there is arguably none that has accompanied humankind in its greatest and most ambitious historical endeavours like the fabled Swiss watchmaker has.
Of course, the most immortal of all those stories is that of the iconic Speedmaster chronograph that was strapped on to the wrist of Buzz Aldrin when he stepped out on the lunar surface from the Apollo 11 in 1969. However, eclipsed by this celestial tale of human determination and pioneering spirit, there is yet another enduring saga of man’s fortitude that Omega has been an integral part of since 1932 -- the Olympic Games. Omega is at the ongoing Tokyo Games, serving as the Official Timekeeper of the Olympic Games for the 29th time in almost 90 years, and will be timing 339 events across 33 sports.
A history of timekeeping innovation
Omega’s Olympic legacy started with the Los Angeles Games back in 1932 when a single watch company was selected as the Official Timekeeper for the first time. For that year’s event, the brand sent one watchmaker from Bienne to Los Angeles, armed with just 30 high-precision mechanical stopwatches. From there, today at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Omega has brought along 530 timekeepers and onsite professionals, along with 900 trained volunteers, a whopping 400 tonnes of its own state-of-the-art equipment, 200 kilometres of cables optic fibre, as well as 85 public scoreboards and 350 sport-specific scoreboards.
In the nine decades between then and now, Omega introduced some of the greatest revolutions in sports timekeeping, including the first photo-finish camera at the Olympic Games, pinpointing exact finish positions in races and the first Photoelectric Cell, which electronically stops the clock as the first athlete crosses the finish line, both in 1948.
Then in 1968 came one of the most important moments in timekeeping history, the Omega swimming touchpads. This innovation changed competitive swimming forever. The pads had two-thirds of their surface immersed in the water, and reacted to the slightest of touches, so that when an athlete reached the finish, they were able to stop time with their own hands. Now there was no disputing the precision of swimming results. These innovations continued over the decades with the introduction of wearable technology for athletes, motion sensor and positioning systems, as well as the Quantum Timer, which boasts a resolution of one millionth of a second.
Spotlight on two special timekeeping tools:
Two of the more modern innovations from Omega that revolutionised sport timekeeping are the Electronic Starting Pistol and the Scan’O’Vision MYRIA photo-finish camera. Over the years, Omega realised that athletes in the furthest lanes would hear the start signal from a traditional pistol later than everyone else. Its solution was an electronic pistol that is connected to speakers positioned behind each racer. When the trigger is pressed, a sound is “played”, a light flash is emitted and a start pulse is given to the timing device. This system is now established as the fairest way to give every athlete an equal start.
The Scan’O’Vision MYRIA is the most advanced photo-finish camera in Omega’s history. Placed on the finish lines of sprints, hurdles and other races, it is able to record up to 10,000 digital images per second, producing a composite photo that enables judges to determine the official rankings and times of each event. The images from the photofinish camera are now a famous sight at the Olympic Games, and prove just how close some races can really be.
Carrying the legacy forward
Now, at Tokyo 2020, Omega is drawing from its storied timekeeping legacy to take its expertise to a new peak. In the ongoing Games, the Swiss brand is putting its latest technology to use to provide competition relevant information. Firstly, it will show exactly how an athlete reached their final time and result. This is ideal for athletes and coaches to understand where they won or lost time. It will also be beneficial for spectators in the stadiums and at home, giving them added insight into the sport they’re watching. Furthermore, the information will give commentators and analysts much more content for their storytelling of a victory.
Athletes on the track in Tokyo will all be fitted with motion sensor tags on their start numbers. These tags will interact with a number of receivers around the course, and send crucial information back to Omega. Athletes in the pool will also have their complete performance measured – this time by image-tracking cameras around the pool that will track the movements of each swimmer.
For Beach Volleyball, Omega will use image-tracking cameras installed around the field of play, capturing every moment of action. The cameras will be able to track the ball, as well as the players, to give us detailed information on the full game play and how each point was scored.
Behind-the-scenes excellence of Olympic proportions
The Olympic Games is all about determination and grit of the greatest athletes on earth. While focus is on the competitors pushing the limits of human endurance, it’s easy to overlook the mindboggling effort and technical wizardry that goes on in the background that are also of Olympic proportions. After dedicating years on perfecting their skills and abilities, when these athletes go for gold at the Olympics, their dreams depend on those final results, making Omega’s precision and equipment a vital part of their quest for excellence.
Rivoli Group is the official distributor and retailer for the OMEGA brand in the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. The brand historically always launches a series of special watches during the Olympics which the Rivoli Group watch clientele look forward to and this year to commemorate their association with the sport, OMEGA has once again produced a full range of special watches under the Seamaster collection which are available at all OMEGA boutiques and Rivoli watch stores across UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.
About Rivoli Group
Since 1988, The Rivoli Group has been building a strong position within the fast-growing retail environment in the UAE and the lower Gulf states to become one of the largest luxury lifestyle retailers in the Middle East offering a wide range of product categories from watches, eyewear, writing instruments, leather accessories and gift items. Matching these luxury and lifestyle brands with impeccable service, the Rivoli Group has set new standards of retailing excellence in the region by establishing retail concepts like Rivoli Prestige, Rivoli, Hour Choice, Rivoli EyeZone, Avanti & Style 88.