On your mark, get set, go! The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo (which were postponed to the summer of 2021) are just around the corner. This will be Japan’s second time hosting the Summer Games since 1964. After rescheduling due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Olympic flame is finally set to open the mega-event on July 23rd. While many things will be different this year, one thing is for sure: Omega is once again the official timekeeper of the sporting competitions – as it has been since 1932. The brand will supply all of the event’s watches and technical timekeeping equipment. We want to take this as an opportunity to drum up excitement for the sporting side of the event and hone watch fans’ awareness of the importance of time. Closely related to this, of course, is the role of the Omega brand. So, what sets this partnership apart from many others in the watch industry? What are the current watch models designed for the Tokyo Olympics?
Omega and the Olympics: How did they get their start?
Most watch brands are masters at telling (good) stories and romanticizing their history. Thus, the story of Omega and the Olympics begins in 1932 with an Omega watchmaker setting off from the Bienne headquarters to Los Angeles, a suitcase full of pocket watches in tow. His goal was to earn the role of the official Olympic timekeeper for his company. His efforts were successful, and since then, Omega has had the honor of measuring time at a wide variety of competitions for the last 28 Olympic Games, thereby also promoting its products. Few events offer brands such a broad platform and exposure. In my opinion, the special thing about this partnership is that the connection is far more natural and more authentic than, for example, the brand’s connection to British secret agents.
This is because the cooperation between the Olympics and Omega allows the watch brand to push its technology, benefits, and services as a specialist in precise stopwatches to the foreground. At 339 competitions in 33 different sports this summer, Omega’s rigorous timekeeping will once again ensure that there will be no doubt about the gold, silver, and bronze medalists. In the 100-meter sprint, sports fans will not only be watching the time “live” but also will be witness to Omega’s expertise as timekeepers. Therefore, the role of the brand goes far beyond fancy advertising posters or scoreboards (though there will be more than 400 of these on the site to display the results and times). A total of 200 kilometers of cable will bring signals to the 530 professional “Omega Timekeepers” responsible for timing and checking them. Therefore, Omega is investing considerable time and effort into supporting the successful execution of the Olympic Games. From a marketing perspective, Omega presents itself here as a “helper,” facilitator, and, if you will, a service provider that doesn’t seek the limelight. Instead, they let the athletes, who spend years training for these competitions, take center stage. Indeed, we’ve seen Omega take on this role for “non-earthly” missions as well…
Which models are champions among Omega’s previous special editions?
High jump, speed skating, swimming – for all the differences between the sports, the requirements for Omega are simple: precision and reliability. To be sure, the brand boasts several decades of experience in this field, particularly since 1964. At that year’s Innsbruck Winter Games, Omega managed to display the athletes’ times “live” for the first time, making them comprehensible and transparent for the spectators. For example, this was striking in swimming competitions, where athletes touched contact surfaces at the pool’s edge, thus registering their time – a real technical revolution in those days! Keeping with the swimming sport, it is also fitting that Omega likes to issue special editions of their popular diving watches, the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M and the professional Planet Ocean 600M, for the event. This is what happened for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, and, as is so often the case with Omega, this special edition had a limited production run – in this case, of 2,018 pieces. In terms of design, Omega likes to take its cues from national flags. Thus, the red of the South Korean flag can be found on the first 15 minutes of the minute display on the bezel and the strap. Omega’s signature use of ceramic gives the dial a strong blue hue, reminiscent of the ocean where the watch is most at home.
A particularly successful special edition, in my view, is the Omega Speedmaster Mark II “Rio 2016,” which, according to the Chrono24 Watch Collection, also has good price stability. The model stands out thanks to its subdials in gold, silver, and bronze, which complement the retro look and feel of the Speedmaster Mark II. Apart from that, the special edition models do not usually offer any technical differences and are up to date at the time of release. Hence, it’s primarily the special editions’ unique designs and connection to the Games that are the deciding factors for purchase. These watches are especially interesting for those who live in the host countries or have a connection to them.
What do the current models have to offer?
The models for this year’s Tokyo Olympics are an Omega Seamaster Diver 300M, an Aqua Terra 150M, and a Planet Ocean 600M.
Each watch is based on the current “standard” model in its respective series. The Seamaster Diver 300M’s most intriguing feature is its bright white dial combined with blued applied indices, which draw their inspiration from the Olympic emblem. Otherwise, Omega makes no mention of the games, not even as an inscription on the dial. This decision underscores the simplicity of this model, which I find fits well with the clean design aesthetic so popular in Japan. The only references to the Olympic Games appear on the white presentation box and on the watch’s sapphire crystal case back.
Outfitted with a blue ceramic dial, the special edition Aqua Terra makes a novel splash within the Aqua Terra series and has a very high-quality, unique look. The official logo of the games inspires the pattern of the dial. In fact, the Aqua Terra is my clear favorite. Whereas most special editions I find look too similar to one another, the Aqua Terra could definitely pass for a “series watch” that Omega could have easily presented independently of the games. The blue rubber strap lends the elegant Aqua Terra a sporty touch that I look for in a summer watch designed for “land and sea.” As such, I find the Aqua Terra to be one of the most versatile watches on the market and a perfect choice for everyday wear.
For the Planet Ocean, which is limited to 2,020 pieces, Omega relies (almost) exclusively on white. The polished ceramic dial gives the otherwise somewhat bulky Planet Ocean a minimalist and almost discreet elegant look. The timepiece’s unusual 39.5-mm size complements this sense of understatement. The design clearly shows which country is hosting the Olympic Games this season. The red liquid ceramic on the second hand against the white dial creates an immediate association with the Japanese flag. But Omega also presents itself as a technologically worthy partner of the Games. With its 8800 Master Chronometer caliber, the timepiece is on the cutting edge of technology. The same applies to the Omega Speedmaster Limited Edition for the Tokyo Games, which features a red bezel. The watch’s light gray dial, based on the sapphire crystal version of the Speedmaster, has a fine sunburst finish, giving the Speedy a touch of high-end elegance. Initially released exclusively for the Japanese market, you can now find these models for sale on Chrono24. We should note here that a total of 5 different Speedmaster variants were released for the Tokyo Games.