In-Depth: How Omega Scored At The Tokyo Olympics
As the Official Timekeeper of the Tokyo Olympics, Omega shared the podium for many of the event’s most memorable moments.
It was an unusual Olympics. Delayed by a year, the games were held in crowd-less stadiums. At first, the press was obsessed with controversies over everything from cardboard beds to beach volleyball uniforms. But as the days progressed, the happenings in Tokyo initiated long-overdue conversations about athletes and our expectations, about mental health and gender, and, most importantly, about compassion and camaraderie.
As the Official Timekeeper of the XXXII Olympiad, Omega also scored “10” across the board. Both behind the scenes and in front of the cameras, Omega impressed with its timekeeping technology documenting no fewer than thirteen world records and its brand ambassadors taking home a plethora of medals, all while wearing Omega watches.
Let’s take a look at the moments (and the timepieces) that inspired us.
Tokyo 2020 had more than its share of uplifting moments. I can’t help but think of the support Simone Biles’ teammates gave her after she stepped back from competition to focus on her well-being before returning to the Games to win silver and bronze in the balance beam and women’s artistic team all-around.
Or when Nijel Amos of Botswana clipped the heels of American Isaiah Jewett during the men’s 800-meter semifinal. Both tumbled to the ground while the rest of the field continued to the finish line. But then, in a tremendous show of sportsmanship, Jewett helped Amos to his feet, wrapped his arm around Amos’ shoulders, and the two runners walked to the finish line together. (I’m not crying; you’re crying! I have dust in my eyes.)
Considering that the Tokyo Olympics almost didn’t happen at all, it makes sense that they became a showcase for the beauty of perseverance and camaraderie.
For instance, when Omega’s newest ambassador, Caeleb Dressel, won a gold medal for Team USA in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay, he tossed his medal to teammate Brooks Curry, who was sitting in the stands. Now, considering that Dressel had a tremendous showing at the Tokyo Olympics – winning five gold medals, setting two Olympic records, and setting two world records – you might be asking yourself, “Why use this anecdote to prove your point?”
Well, Curry helped Dressel earn that medal. Curry was the swimmer who competed in Dressel’s place during the prelim round the night before, allowing Dressel to get a full night’s rest. After the medal ceremony, Dressel explained the gesture, saying, “I had the easiest job last night out of everyone here. I got to watch it on TV. So I felt like he deserved that a little more than me.”
Omega, as Official Timekeeper, was responsible for all the timing, scoring, and what it described as “venue results systems and services” during the Olympics. And while Tokyo was the 29th time the manufacture has carried out these duties at the Games, utilizing the most cutting-edge technologies to help score the events, new challenges will always arise. Take, for example, the deadlock between Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi during the high jump final.
After the Olympic official suggests a tie-breaking “jump off,” Barshim asked, “Can we have two golds?” The International Olympic Committee agreed, and the exhausted yet friendly competitors made history. So hats off to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who, incidentally, was spotted in Tokyo sporting an 18-karat yellow gold watch from the Omega Seamaster Olympic Games Gold collection. This 39.5mm, white-dialed model was released prior to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Two days before the closing ceremonies, Bach told the press that the Tokyo Games had far exceeded his expectations because when spectators were forbidden to attend as part of pandemic precautions, he feared that these Olympics could become a “Games without soul.”
Instead, Bach said that there was a new kind of intimacy created in the quiet venues. “In many cases, you did not realize that there were no spectators,” he said. “You could even experience the feelings of the athletes closer and better than being surrounded by so many spectators.”
For enthusiasts, one of the most interesting things about these games was how many athletes wore timepieces during their events.
For example, US bronze medalist and Omega Ambassador Noah Lyles wore an Omega Aqua Terra “Ultra Light” during the men’s 200-meter final. This mechanical marvel weighs just 55 grams – or a little more than the weight of two AA batteries. And considering that the winners of 200-meter races are often decided by tenths of a second, you don’t want any extra weight to slow you down.
For some competitors, wearing a watch helps fuel their drive. Irish golfer and longtime Omega Ambassador Rory McIlroy may have finished off the medal podium, but still won gold in our hearts for wearing a 41mm Aqua Terra 150M Co-Axial Master Chronometer Ultra Light with a special message worked into its white NATO strap: the name and birthdate of his daughter.
The Aqua Terra Ultra Light also showed up in competition on the wrist of American-born Swedish pole vaulter Armand “Mondo” Duplantis. The world record holder and Omega Ambassador wore the same model as McIlroy during the Olympic Games in Tokyo minus the special strap.
It really says something about the lightness of this watch when an Olympian will wear it while defying gravity!
In the hurdles, competitors not only fly through the air, but they also have to hit the ground running. It’s a physically punishing sport not just for the athlete but also for a watch.
In Tokyo, sports fans were treated to one of the all-time-great hurdles showdowns as American Sydney McLaughlin roared back after the final set of barriers to capture 400m hurdles gold – shaving nearly a half-second off her own world record set during U.S. Trials – finishing in 51.46 seconds and dethroning defending Olympic champion and teammate Dalilah Muhammad. It was a symbolic passing of the torch, and Muhammad, an Omega Ambassador, was also wearing the robust Aqua Terra during the race.
Omega’s commitment to sports isn’t just limited to game days. Take, for example, the brand’s partnership with New Zealand sailors and Omega Ambassadors Pete Burling and Blair Tuke, who won silver in the Men’s 49er. The brand’s long-standing sponsorship helped fund the duo’s training. And before the games, Burling and Tuke helped debut the Planet Ocean 600M CoAxial Master Chronometer 39.5mm “Tokyo 2020” Limited Edition.
Limited to 2,020 pieces, the special design of this watch includes a polished white ceramic dial with a red-tipped central seconds hand to represent the flag of Japan. Its white ceramic bezel also has a Liquidmetal diving scale and the number 20 filled with red liquid ceramic. Additionally, presented on a white leather strap, the watch features a sapphire crystal caseback with the Tokyo 2020 logo transferred in blue.
Through the caseback, you can see the Omega Master Chronometer Calibre 8800 inside. The presentation box includes an additional stainless steel bracelet and NATO strap.
Because the Tokyo 2020 Olympics took place in 2021, we only have to wait one more year until the Winter Olympics in Beijing. But we don’t have to wait at all to see what special edition watch Omega will be offering for 2022.
The Seamaster Diver 300M “Beijing 2022” Special Edition is a grand 42mm timepiece that is encased in stainless steel and features a sun-brushed blue ceramic dial, a grade 5 titanium bezel with a diving scale in positive relief, and plenty of Olympic Games inspiration.
(Images OMEGA, other sources mentioned)