Omega is the second brand in the world of watchmaking by turnover (CHF 1.758 million in 2021). Some of its watches have a dedicated place among the milestones of this sector and have also been able to go further, contributing to the success of events that have indelibly marked the history of man, such as the Apollo missions and the moon landing.
However, we must not forget that, when we talk about watchmaking, we also indirectly address the theme of measuring time and chronometry. Basically, the watch is a mechanical instrument for measuring time and in fact there are numerous brands that develop and field their technologies with the same purpose but dedicating themselves to specific competitive clothes, such as a car race, and using different solutions. from the purely mechanical one. Omega, in particular, being a technical partner of the Olympics since 1932, has strongly and fundamentally contributed to the development and measurement of athletic, skiing, swimming and numerous other sports competitions, so much so that today it owns and develops technologies unique ones dedicated exclusively to them.
The Perpetual Pasison team was invited to Rome on the occasion of the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea, the Italian stage of the Diamon League, to understand the technological effort made by Omega to ensure the correct development of the athletics competitions involved.
Competition measurement methods have changed considerably through several steps since 1932. Starting from the first mechanical chronographs capable of measuring the tenth of a second, Omega has developed systems integrated with machines and electronics in order to improve timing precision, introducing the first photoelectric cells and the famous photo-finish in 1948, thus ensuring the precision of the hundredth of a second.
Subsequently, with the advent of television, technological development not only focused on increasing the precision and ease of use of the various systems, but also dedicated itself to increasing the interaction between the entities involved in the competition: athletes, public, commentators, viewers.
Omega, in fact, introduced the superimposition of the times on live television (1961) and the possibility of accessing an ever-increasing amount of data that allowed increasingly refined analyzes and statistics (mid-90s), useful both to athletes and spectators.
Finally, in 2000, the introduction of "virtual record lines" was even introduced so that viewers could visually assess how close a certain athletic performance was to the world record.
Basically, modern sport today would not be as we are used to conceiving it without Omega's efforts.
The modern instrumentation
During the visit to the Olympic Stadium we were given the opportunity to see closely what are the current technologies and equipment used by judges and athletes during the competitions. The technological level reached is truly remarkable and of absolute interest.
The starting pistol is no longer a real pistol, but rather an electronic device connected to loudspeakers and stopwatches. Pressing the trigger corresponds to the emission of an impulse that activates the stopwatches and involves the emission of the sound of a shot from the various loudspeakers positioned in the stadium and in the starting blocks. In this way, the possible start / stop error corresponds to the accuracy level of the time measurement system (millionth of a second), eliminating any other interference in the measurement chain.
The starting block has become a fundamental tool for judges and athletes. Inside there are sensors (load cells) that allow the former to evaluate whether or not a false start occurs and the latter to analyze the quality of the thrust to optimize the effort and earn those few cents that can make the difference in the race. .
The evaluation of the false start, in particular, occurs if the difference between the firing of the pistol and the athlete's reaction, calculated through the pressure of the foot on the block, is less than 0.1s. It is interesting to note that the reaction to the shot is evaluated through the force curve to be as truthful as possible and avoid the error that an on / off system would introduce. Finally, loudspeakers are housed in the blocks which guarantee the athletes a fair chance to hear the firing of the gun.
Several cameras, sensors and photocells are positioned in strategic points of the stadium to evaluate with extreme precision what happens on the finish line. Omega's Scan'O'Vision MYRIA, in particular, allows the acquisition of 10.000 digital images per second which are properly corrected to guarantee their quality and use in the event of close-range arrivals.
Distance Meaurement Video
Omega has developed a dedicated technology for long jump, triple jump and, shortly, shot put competitions that allow distance measurements via video and laser, ensuring very high levels of accuracy.
Omega has introduced a chip weighing only 16g the size of a credit card (66 x 48 x 5 mm) to be placed inside the bib of each athlete which allows, in real time, to view the athlete's data (such as speed, split times and their combination) both in speed and endurance races, ensuring high transparency, completeness and speed of information available to enthusiasts and specialists in the sector. Furthermore, this system allows televisions not to miss a particular performance or event.
The development of the previously listed systems was possible thanks to the close interaction between Omega, the competition organizers and the athletes themselves. Omega, in fact, sponsors and collaborates with top-level athletes like ours Gianmarco Tamberi (Olympic gold in the high jump in Tokyo 2020), Allyson Felix (legendary American sprinter, winner of 11 Olympic and 18 world medals) e Armand Duplantis (high jumper who rewrote the history of the sport).
The importance of Omega in the development of modern sport
“There is no competition without measurement”. With this sentence we could summarize the work done by Omega in the last 90 years for modern sport. Omega has contributed in a fundamental way to developing ever more accurate measurement systems that have allowed the competitions to take place in a fair, regular and fair manner and to the athletes to be able to considerably improve their performance, having access to an ever-increasing amount of data and giving them the opportunity to identify their weaknesses in the performance.
Not only that, the athletes-public interaction would not be what it is today if it had not been for Omega's support in the on-screen implementation of numerous information that have allowed even beginners to appreciate the services offered by women and men who persistently continue to search. to overcome their limits.
The Perpetual Passion team would like to thank the OMEGA Italia team for giving us the opportunity to understand so closely the importance OMEGA plays in sports timekeeping.