Saturday, February 15, 2014

OMEGA: Longstanding Olympian

If you've been watching the Olympics in Sochi, you've probably noticed that OMEGA is the event's official timekeeper.  What is not as well known is that the company has had that distinction for 82 years, ever since the 1932 games in Los Angeles. In that year, OMEGA displaced the Heuer Company which had been the official games timekeeper for three previous Olympiads.

For Sochi, OMEGA has definitely gone the distance with distinction. According to an OMEGA February 7, 2014 press release, “the brands presence will be impressive with 230 tonnes of timekeeping equipment, 260 on-site professionals and 170 trained volunteers.” When we hear of medalists’ times being separated by just 1/100th of a second, it makes us appreciate the enormity and complexity of this timekeeping effort.
Just a bit of history to put OMEGA into context:  The company was founded by Louis Brandt in La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland in 1848; but was not named OMEGA then.  By the 1880's, the company which remained a family enterprise with Brandt's son's succeeding their father (Louis Brandt et Fils) had moved to Bienne and was a high volume producer of pocket watches making more than 100,000  annually.

Reportedly, the family changed its company name to OMEGA at the suggestion of a banker friend in the early years of the 20th Century.  A great branding idea, apropos for a company aspiring to have its timepieces valued as the last word point in watchmaking — just as the letter omega (Ω) gives finality to the Greek alphabet! The company subsequently changed its name to Louis Brandt et Frères-Omega Watch Company.  It debuted as OMEGA in 1909 at the Gordon Bennett Cup, the world’s oldest international balloon race gas which that year had Zurich, Switzerland as its launch city; the objective being to fly the furthest distance from the launch site. That year the Swiss team didn’t win the race, the Americans’ did. 
Returning to OMEGA’s presence in Sochi, the company has created a ladies’ and men’s commemorative special edition Seamaster Planet Ocean wristwatch for the event.  Each edition is — you guessed it — limited to 2014 pieces.  Sochi could have no better OMEGA tribute.

If this post has piqued your interest, you can find  more on OMEGA’s Sochi activities and its Olympic past on the company’s website,

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