The History of OMEGA’s Olympic Timer Technology

Athletes from all corners of the globe compete to win medals, break records, and ultimately make their country proud. And for the 27th time in the history of the Olympics, OMEGA was on hand as the Official Timekeeper to track every momentous microsecond.

From the one OMEGA representative armed with 30 OMEGA split-second chronographs at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics to today’s groundbreaking OMEGA timekeeping technology, we take a look at some of the historic innovations presented by the Swiss watchmaker at the Olympic Games.


St. Moritz Winter Olympics & London Summer Olympics

1948 Olympics Photoelectric Cells

In 1948, OMEGA replaced human timers with automated ones using photoelectric cell technology at both the winter and summer Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland and London, England. The equipment consisted of a timing device that was controlled by a starting gun and a reflective mirror. The gun would trigger the timer, and when the light beam was interrupted by the runner at the finish line, the device recorded the time.


Helsinki Summer Olympics

At the Games in Helsinki, Finland, OMEGA debuted the OMEGA Time Recorder: a quartz clock used that not only timed the events but also printed out the results. This breakthrough technology allowed official Olympic times to be accurate to 1/100th of a second, and the company was awarded the prestigious Croix du Mérite Olympique for their efforts.


Innsbruck Winter Olympics

1964 Olympics OMEGAscope

The Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria, were the first fully electronic Olympics televised in real time thanks to the Omegascope. As people watched the sporting events on TV, they also witnessed athletes’ official times—completely live.


Mexico City Summer Olympics

OMEGA Swimming Pool Touchpads

The original timing method for the Olympics consisted of three judges allocated a swim lane to track the swimmers’ finishing times. But for the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, OMEGA installed touch pads in the pool so that the force of a swimmer’s hand would stop the clock. This touch-controlled equipment is still used today.


Albertville Winter Olympics

During the speed skating events at the Albertville Winter Olympics in France, OMEGA’s Scan-O-Vision photo-finish system was able to measure the competitors’ times to 1/1000th of a second—or, a millisecond.


Vancouver Winter Olympics

OMEGA Olympics Starting Pistol

At the Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, the iconic starting pistol was replaced with a red flashgun and a sound generator box—the new OMEGA Electronic Start System. Activating the trigger of the new futuristic flashgun initiates three separate, yet simultaneous, actions: the sound is heard, the light flash is seen, and the timing device is started.


London Summer Olympics

At the Summer Games in London, England, OMEGA pushed the boundaries of timer technology once again when they unveiled the Quantum Timer, accurate to 1/1,000,000th of a second, or microsecond.


Rio Summer Olympics

Much like athletes must outperform the generations before them, OMEGA consistently delivers new technology to remain at the forefront of sport timekeeping. At the Rio 2016 Olympics, OMEGA will debut their Scan-O-Vision Myria photo finish camera, which can take up to 10,000 digital images every second.


While we cheer on our countrymen and women as they compete for gold, OMEGA will continue their crucial role as Official Timekeeper of the Olympics—where timing is everything.

Images ©: Header, 1-4; OMEGA.  

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