Omega has served as the official timekeeper of the Olympics on some 28 occasions over the last 90 years. Not only does this role involve the precise timing of many different events, but the company also continuously develops much of the vital equipment that today’s athletes rely on. Back in 2004 the company became a Worldwide Olympic Partner which will run through to the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, events which will mark the centenary of Omega’s first involvement with the movement.
Omega in numbers:
- 6 – number of moon landings where astronauts have worn Omega watches
- 1848 – year founded
- $1.4m – the most expensive Omega watch ever sold at auction in 2017.
The technology Omega will be deploying at the games is wide reaching, including an electronic starting pistol, which is connected to speakers positioned behind each set of starting blocks for sprint races. That means each athlete hears the “bang” at the same time, rather than those nearer the starter having an unfair advantage.
Those starting blocks also contain sensors to pick up false starts, in the event that the athletes start the race before the allotted tolerance – which regulations set to just 100 milliseconds.
Omega’s photo finish technology can record up to 10,000 images per second, something which can be critical in separating the placing of contestants in any close run race – and a far cry from when the first Olympic photo finish was used in 1912. Back then, the accompanying stopwatches only worked to the nearest 1/5th of a second.
Omega technology is also used in events like volleyball to see how high athletes jump and in gymnastics to record factors like synchronicity.
With all this in mind, unlike some other sponsors, Omega’s presence is more than just a branding exercise. The New York Times reported that in an interview, their CEO said Omega wasn’t a sponsor, but had a role to play in providing services to the athletes. That doesn’t however stop the company from producing a dedicated set of timepieces for each Olympic games they sponsor. The five which have been manufactured for the Tokyo event range in price from just under £5,000 to more than £15,000 each.