OMEGA and Sport
Visitors to the Omega Museum expect to see a vast array of timepieces and watch movements representing the long and storied history of the brand. And while most express their delight at the display of watches worn on the Moon and other space-related paraphernalia, they usually know of the long and strong relationship between OMEGA and NASA and the world's other space agencies.
Many of the Museums guests, though, are surprised to see a broad selection of the equipment used to time some of the world's leading sporting events including, notably, the Olympic Games. They tell us that while they have noticed the discreet red OMEGA logo next to the competitors' times on their television screens, they haven't associated the unparalleled leader in international sport timekeeping with one of the world's leading watch brands.
But it's all the same company and in each case, the focus is on precise timekeeping. In fact, OMEGA has not only been delivering sports timekeeping results for more than a century, it has also been responsible for the development of some of the most important innovations in the history of timekeeping. Much of the most fascinating equipment is on display at the Museum.
It includes chronograph stopwatches that were used at Olympic Games by Omega's timekeepers from 1932 all the way through the 1960. There is also a selection of devices that played key roles in the evolution of automated timing including a Racend Omega Timer from the Helsinki 1952 Olympic Games and some of the photofinish cameras that have become such a familiar part of athletic events around the world.
Visitors can also have an up-close and personal look at starting blocks for track and swimming, touch pads used by swimmers to stop their own clocks and the photoelectric cells that Omega introduced at the London 1948 Olympic Games and which continue to be in use today.
OMEGA’s enduring sports timekeeping legacy can be traced back more than a century. It was in 1909 that OMEGA chronographs were the timekeeper of choice for the legendary Gordon Bennett Cup, a race featuring 73 hot-air balloons and an airship which took off from a field near Zurich. OMEGA had crafted its first chronograph in 1898 and within a decade, the timepieces were already used to measure time for more than 16 different sports competitions.
OMEGA on the biggest sporting stage
It was in 1932 that OMEGA became official Olympic timekeeper in Los Angeles, supplying 30 high precision chronographs, all of which had been certified as chronometers by the Observatory at Neuchâtel as well as the National Physics Laboratory in the United States to have an accuracy of 1%th of a second per day, to be use across all sports. It was the chronographs’ officially certified precision which convinced the Olympic Organizing Committee to select OMEGA for the Games. Official results were taken at fifths and tenths of a second.
Needless to say, the scope of OMEGA's Olympic Games commitment has evolved over the years. Nowadays, several hundred professional timekeepers and data handlers, supported by up to a thousand specially trained local volunteers, use some 400 tons of equipment including public and sport-specific scoreboards, miles and miles of cables and optical fibre, dozens of TV generators and state-of-the-art timekeeping and data-handling technology developed by OMEGA and adapted to the requirements of each sport.
OMEGA and the world of athletics timekeeping
Although the number and variety of events make the Olympic Games the most complex and challenging of the world championships, OMEGA’s track and field timekeeping experts are busy every year at some of the world’s premier athletics competitions including the European Athletics Championships and the IAAF Diamond League events.
OMEGA is widely known not only for its timekeeping performance at some of the world’s most prestigious sporting events but also as the company behind research, development and manufacture of the most famous devices used in precision sports timing, among them the Scan’O’Vision photo-finish cameras, false-start detection technology and high-speed video systems.
OMEGA and Swimming
The association between OMEGA and swimming dates back to the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games. The relationship is still going strong –OMEGA serves as official timekeeper at the world’s highest-profile swimming events and has also been responsible for the development of much of the most important equipment used to time competitive swimming. Some of the best known of these innovations are the Swim Eight-O-Matic Timer, the world's first semi-automatic swimming timer which was first used at the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956, and the famous "touch pads" placed at each end of the pool for timekeeping at swimming events, introduced at the Pan-American games in Winnipeg in 1967 and used at the Olympic Games a year later.
OMEGA's contributions are vital, particularly in view of the increasingly keen level of competition. For example, at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, only a hundredth of a second separated gold medallist Michael Phelps and silver medallist Milorad Cavic in the men's 100-metre butterfly. OMEGA Timing's high-speed video cameras confirmed that the results recorded by the company's electronic system had been absolutely perfect.
OMEGA and the world of sailing
There has been a link between sailing and timekeeping since the days sailors relied on high-precision marine chronometers for navigation. OMEGA is the only company ever to have produced a wristwatch that received marine chronometer certification.
Though new technologies such as GPS have superseded the OMEGA Marine Chronometer wristwatch, there is still a strong demand for OMEGA's robust and highly water resistant Seamaster watches and the brand retains its strong nautical links as a sponsor and official timekeeper of the world's top competitive sailors and sailing events.
As one of the world’s best-known watch brands, the company is proud to be the preferred choice of some of sailing's biggest stars. A long-term partnership with Sir Peter Blake started in 1995 and covered two America's Cup campaigns. When Sir Peter retired from professional sailing, OMEGA continued to support him as one of the main sponsors of his blakexpeditions project. Today, OMEGA has continued to honour his legacy with its support for Emirates Team New Zealand's America's Cup skipper Dean Barker since 2001.
OMEGA’s role as Official Timekeeper to the Extreme Sailing Series is the latest exciting chapter in the Swiss prestige watch company’s proud nautical history.
OMEGA: world-class sports timekeeper
OMEGA’s association with the world of precision sports timekeeping has its origins in the late 19th century. The technology has improved dramatically in the 112 years since OMEGA developed its first chronograph and athletic performances confirm that our great sportsmen and –women are better than ever. One thing, however, has remained constant: OMEGA is still unflinchingly dedicated to ensuring that the world’s most talented athletes are supported by flawless timekeeping and data handling performance.