Race Report: Keeping Time At The 2018 World Equestrian Games With The Longines Record Collection
No hurricane could dampen the spirit of the horsey set as the best of the best gathered to compete in North Carolina.
Every four years, the elite of the equestrian world gather to compete in the oldest, most high stakes, and artistic events at the FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG). It is the most important event in the equestrian calendar and draws British royalty (Captain Mark Phillips) and American celebrity (Actor Kaley Cuoco, who is married to equestrian Karl Cook).
But this year’s gathering at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina will go down in the History books not only for nail-biting finishes but also plenty of behind-the-scenes drama. And we celebrated the highs and lows as well as the newest entry in the Longines Record collection.
The 13-day event saw more than its share of inspiring performances in the disciplines such as Dressage, Eventing, and Reining. Amongst the most memorable wins came from Germany’s Simone Blum who became the first woman in the 28-year history of WEG to take the individual jumping title.
But WEG2018 also had more than its fair share of problems, most notably, Hurricane Florence which threatened North Carolina and indeed pummeled many parts of the state. While Tryon is more than 350 miles from mandatory evacuation areas, transportation to and from major airports was affected, causing concern amongst international visitors (the teams had arrived earlier in the month and were never in harm’s way). Heavy rain caused many events to be rescheduled, and suffocating heat forced the cancellation Endurance ride.
Maybe it’s because horse sports are amongst the oldest competitions in the world, but the equine community seemed to take adversity in stride. And the gracious Southern hospitality of our hosts certainly helped make it an overall positive experience. Those who stuck it out were treated to a top-notch performance by 700 riders from 70 countries and horses from six continents.
The Longines Tradition
Longines and equestrian sport are entwined. Alfred Lugrin patented the brand's first chronograph in 1878 specifically for timing. And Longines is the official timekeeper for the Belmont Stakes and the Kentucky Derby. The events in Tryon presented a bit more of a timing challenge. Longines duties include covering several, simultaneous exhibitions, each with complicated scoring criteria. Watchonista got to go behind the scenes in the timing room — an unfinished, industrial-looking space that resembled the stylized set of a TV procedural drama.
Longines employs 44 people at events like WEG. Some had been on-site since August, testing and double testing the technology of timing. The room is filled with cameras and computer screens which record finishes while other times instantly calculate standings and points. They then send the information out for broadcast before the riders even leave the arena.
We were there just as USA and Sweden tied in Show Jumping. Eva Mühlentien, of the Longines Timing Team, expressed just how anxiety-inducing these close contests were. Longines is more than just a sponsor in this scenario, she says. Basically, the fate of these riders is in their hands. In the end, the match was forced into a jump-off. Team USA prevailed, and the hometown crowd in the stands went wild.
The Sport Of Kings And Queens
As much as Longines gets to show off its timekeeping chops at events like WEG, they also use the opportunity to support the link between Equestrian sport and elegance.
"It's the only sport where you see an athlete in a jacket and tie," says Juan-Carlos Capelli, Vice President and Head of International Marketing for Longines. Capelli himself was quite dapper in a blue, tailored suit, as he talked about the brand's Record Collection.
To celebrate Longines’ 185th anniversary, the presented a new Record collection. These updated automatic watches feature a single crystal silicon balance wheel and are all COSC certified chronometers. According to Capelli, elegance is akin to confidence, and the simple styling and precision of the Record timepieces mean that the wearer never has to fuss or worry about accuracy.
Capelli notes that Equestrian Sport is the only place where male and female athletes compete on equal footing and that participants can range in age from 17 to 67. With the Record collection, he says, “It’s about elegance, not trends. It is a watch for everybody.”
The Record collection is still tightly curated. There are four sizes (26, 30, 38.5 and 40 mm) available. All of the models feature a three-hand/date display and steel cases. There are seven dial versions for women and six for men. In this mix are two diamond-studded cases and two types of the strap — alligator and stainless steel. Which means that there is plenty of room for personalization without being overwhelmed by options.