At the Olympics, the merest fraction of a second can make the difference between a podium finish or the end of a lifelong dream. Whether at the track, the pool or the velodrome, pinpoint timing is critical.
As the official Olympics timekeeper, this responsibility falls to Omega. Luckily, they’ve had some practice. Their involvement with the Games stretches back to 1932 when three of their watchmakers rocked up at the Los Angeles Olympics with a suitcase full of mechanical stopwatches. “Things have changed a bit since then,” admits Stephen Urquhart, the brand’s recently retired president.
In Rio, Omega’s team will number 450 time-keeping professionals armed with technology that can measure up to one-millionth of a second. Achieving such accuracy isn’t the Swiss brand’s only challenge. In the course of overseeing 27 Olympics – both summer and winter – Omega has wrestled with the variable logistics of an encylopedia of sporting events.
“The bobsleigh is one of the hardest because the timing is so difficult to capture,” Urquhart says. “But the marathon is tricky, too, because it’s such a sprawling event.”
Handling such diverse events has led Omega to develop several technological breakthroughs. From improved starting blocks for runners that electronically determine false-starts to the photo-finish camera and touch-pad sensors in the pool, the brand’s list of inventions is lengthy. What then does Urquhart consider to be Omega’s most significant innovation? “It’s simple,” he says. “We don’t make mistakes.”
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▪ Omega Seamaster Diver “RIO 2016” $5875
Made to commemorate the Games, the watch’s black ceramic bezel and coloured lacquered numerals reproduce the five colours of the Olympic rings.