A Detailed Look Into Omega’s History Of Olympics Timekeeping




A Detailed Look Into Omega's History Of Olympics Timekeeping Feature Articles


I‘ll go out on a limb and speak for all of us sport illiterates by saying: even we care about the Olympics. It’s in a league of its own, the be all and end all of sports achievements and, interestingly, a lot of that has to do with time and nothing else. First, there is the incredible history that goes back to 776 BC – when the Ancient Olympics are widely accepted to have started – being held every four years at the sanctuary of Zeus in Olympia, Greece. Then, there is how that four-year thing about it still applies: placing a four-year void in between Olympic games ensures that a professional athlete’s career can accommodate only a limited number of opportunities. Miss a beat at the wrong time and you miss out on bringing four year’s of dedicated preparation to fruition. Last, but certainly not least, there is something specifically for us watch nerds about it too: the accurate recording of these decisive moments, a task that Omega has been trusted with since 1932.



A Detailed Look Into Omega's History Of Olympics Timekeeping Feature Articles




A Detailed Look Into Omega's History Of Olympics Timekeeping Feature Articles


I could go on and on, but this article is not titled “A Brief Look Into The History Of Olympics-Specific Clichés” – rather, it is supposed to be a watch nerd’s selective look into the history of timekeeping at the “Modern Olympics,” as they’re frequently called. The history of the Modern Games officially began in the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens in 1896, while we note the first Winter Olympics to have been held in 1924 in Chamonix. Probably one of the milestones in the history of Modern Olympics was when the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, became the first Games to be broadcast on television internationally.



A Detailed Look Into Omega's History Of Olympics Timekeeping Feature Articles


Omega has been the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games since 1932, which is extremely early on in its history if you consider the tough, low-key decades that followed the 1896 beginnings, and especially when noting that was some 24 years before the Olympics had its first chance of getting closer to the global audience. Before we get into details, may we share a recommended viewing: this 48-minute documentary from 2016 (that we just discovered…) on the history of Omega’s Olympic timekeeping.

The Early Years

The 1932 Summer Olympic Games marked the first occasion in the history of Modern Olympics that the responsibility of Olympic timekeeping was assigned to a single company – Omega. Omega had provided 30 calibrated chronographs for “unprecedented precision.” Before this, multiple manufacturers provided watches that were only accurate to 1/5th of a second – causing such inconsistencies that times only for the winners were provided. By contrast, Omega’s 30 pocket watches were chronometers certified by the Neuchâtel Observatory and were accurate to the nearest 1/10th of a second while also featuring a rattrapante, i.e. split-seconds functionality.



A Detailed Look Into Omega's History Of Olympics Timekeeping Feature Articles


It goes without saying, that at this point – and for another 16 years to come – the timing at the Olympics had been performed by human judges, not electronic devices, although a very basic type of photo finish had been used in the Olympics since as early as 1912. To average out bias and human error, each athlete in every sport where timing was crucial was timed by up to six judges – they all would have their own high-precision Omega pocket watch and the times they individually measured were noted, added up, and averaged out.



A Detailed Look Into Omega's History Of Olympics Timekeeping Feature Articles