WITH A HISTORY SPANNING OVER 80 YEARS, WE GO BACK IN TIME TO TAKE A LOOK AT THE LONG PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN OMEGA AND THE OLYMPICS, AS WELL AS THE 2016 RIO COLLECTION.
faster, higher, and stronger”; that’s what the Olympic Games stand for. More than just gaining glory for their respective nations, these athletes push themselves to the limits of the human body striving to break the boundaries, simply because they want to be the best that they can be. In essence this is what it means to be human, we are always looking to be better than our predecessors, this is why cavemen invented tools and this is the basis of our advancement in technology.
In line with this ideology, timekeeping for the Olympics too has evolved over the decades. Better technology meant better precision and if you look at the instruments from way back when compared to what we have now, it’s a marvel to see how far we’ve come. And even though the past and present seem worlds apart, Omega has been at the heart of Olympic timekeeping since the early 1930s.
This is the year it all began; for the first time ever, a single private company was entrusted with the keeping of time across all events at the Olympics and that company was none other than Omega. Well back in the day the honour of timekeeper for the Olympic Games meant providing 30 chronographs, all of which had to be certified chronometers by the Observatory at Neuchâtel. Thanks to Omega, officials were able to capture the results to the nearest 10th of a second which led to the confirming of 17 new World Records.
The year was 1948 and the Olympic Games were held in London. It was at this venue that Omega chose to reveal the first ever photofinish camera dubbed the “Magic Eye.” Developed by the British Race Finish Recording Company this device could detect even the smallest difference between the gold and silver medal athletes better than the human eye. Immediately after its unveiling the device was put to the test in the historic 100 metre final deciding the winner between Harrison Dillard and Barney Ewell even though they both clocked a time of 10.3 seconds.
This was the year that triggered the innovation of automatic touch pads for the pool. Up until then, the swimming competitions were determined by the human eye. During the finals of the men’s 100m freestyle that year, the judges disagreed on who the winner was which led to the impetus for the touch pads at the end of the pool. The device itself was invented by a Biel-based manufacturer and first appeared in 1967 at the Pan-American Games in Winnipeg.
45 timekeepers and eight tonnes of equipment was sent to Mexico City for the 1968 Olympics and amongst this shipment was something called the Omega Photosprint. This device was used to film all the runners at the end of a race and by doing that they would be able to capture the exact moment that each contestant crossed the finish line on one single photograph. So within a minute after a race ended, the officials would have a single, enlarged image that revealed the official times for each contestant thus making it easier to immediately reveal the winners.
Not just about the end of the race, in 1984 Omega focused on the beginning by debuting the first false start detection device. The device worked by measuring the pressure that runners exerted against the starting block with an allowed reaction time of 0.100 seconds. It was at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles where the false start detection device was put to the test.
2012 – 2016
Looking back at the humble start of Omega’s timekeeping career with the Olympics you can see how far they’ve come over the span of 84 years. Where once, 30 chronometer certified chronographs were all it took to become the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games, today they have ‘futuristic’ equipment like the high-precision Quantum Timer used in athletics and water sports that has an enhanced resolution of one millionth of a second, a light and electronic sound “starting pistol”, and even the Omega Scan’O’Vision MYRIA that captures 10,000 frames per second in a photofinish.
WATCHES FOR RIO
SEAMASTER DIVER 300M “RIO 2016” LIMITED EDITION
Inspired by the colourful city of Rio, this limited edition of 3,016 pieces features the hallmarks of unique craftsmanship and sporting championship, as well as design stylistics that echo the host city to the 2016 Olympic Games. Beginning with Rio’s famous beaches, Omega has taken the wave pattern from the mosaic design on Copacabana’s sidewalks and used it as inspiration for a similar style on the lacquered black dial. Against the black polished ceramic uni-directional rotating bezel are numerals strikingly lacquered in red, green, yellow and blue, characterized by the exuberance of the city as well as the five colours of the iconic Olympic rings. The event itself has been commemorated in exquisite fashion. On the reverse side of the polished and brushed stainless steel case, the screw-in caseback has been stamped with the “Rio 2016” logo and engraved with an individual Limited Edition number. Other features, meanwhile, are typical of the Seamaster 300m style, including the date window at 3 o’clock, helium escape valve at 10 and polished facetted skeleton rhodium-plated hands coated in white Super-LumiNova. Presented on stainless steel bracelet, the timepiece is powered by the exclusive Calibre 2500 and is water resistant up to 300m.
SEAMASTER BULLHEAD “RIO 2016” LIMITED EDITION
A unique celebration of heritage, precision and sporting excellence, the commemorative timepiece is instantly recognisable for its individual design – the blue leather strap links directly to the Rio 2016 logo while the stitching along each side represents a colour of the Olympic rings. This colour theme is continued on the rotating inner-bezel, serving as a meaningful reminder of the unity and harmony that the Olympic rings signify. The case itself has a true link to history and sport. This particular style was first released in 1969, and was used by rally drivers to time their laps. It’s highly appropriate then, that the spirit of speed has now evolved to exemplify Omega’s continuing association as the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games. Like its predecessors, the Bullhead “Rio” also features a white dial, as well as a central chronograph seconds hand, and a 30-minute recorder at 12H. It’s interesting to point out, that the name “bullhead” was originally a nickname, coined by watch collectors who admired the shape of the timepiece and concluded that it looked like the head of a bull. Built with Omega’s exclusive Co-Axial calibre 3113, and stamped with the Rio 2016 logo on the caseback, this is sure to become an instant collector’s item.
SPEEDMASTER MARK II “RIO 2016”
Taking its cue from the 1969 model of the original Speedmaster Mark II, the polished and brushed stainless steel case is barrel-shaped and has a polished crown and pushers. Beneath the sapphire crystal is a matt black dial featuring a 30-minute recorder at 3 o’clock, a 12-hour recorder at 6 and a small seconds sub-dial at 9. The sub-dials are decorated with a bronze ring, yellow gold ring and silver ring respectively – a design that recalls the medals awarded to Olympic Games champions. The Speedmaster Mark II is the first watch in Omega’s collection that makes it possible for the wearer to see the tachymeter scale in the dark. The transparent tachymeter scale on the sapphire crystal is illuminated from beneath by an aluminium ring filled with Super-LumiNova. The screw-in caseback is stamped with the Rio 2016 logo and is engraved with “Si14”, “Column Wheel” and the limited edition number of the wristwatch – only 2,016 pieces of this model will be produced. The polished and brushed stainless steel bracelet is complete with OMEGA’s patented screw-and-pin design and a foldover rack-and-pusher clasp, adjustable by releasing the outer clasp and sliding the inner clasp. Powered by the Calibre 3330 equipped with an Si14 silicon balance spring and a Co-Axial escapement with three levels, the movement delivers high-performance endurance warrantied up to four years. The watch comes in a special presentation box with a certificate of authenticity and is water resistant to 100m.