It’s not every day that you get the chance to see the official chronograph of the 1932 Olympics. Luckily for enthusiasts and historians alike though, it is one of the pieces exhibited by Omega in its Champs-Elysées show-room, during the celebration of their long-standing relationship with the International Olympic Committee. The well-known Swatch Group brand can already claim 80 years of exclusive collaboration with the IOC, and now the contract has just been extended for a further ten years.
The timing of the exhibit couldn’t be better for Omega, especially in these troubled times when sports sponsorship has been marred by the negative actions of some of the best known watch ambassadors in the world. In contrast, the IOC / Omega duet runs perfectly , and over time has contributed to the creation of inventions that have eventually shaped the brand’s consumer collections as we know them today.
The advantage of an exhibition located within the retail store itself, inaugurated over a year ago, is that allows the brand to share with its customers some of the greatest moments in its history, and gives them the opportunity to admire some very rare pieces that cannot be found anywhere else in the world other than the Omega Museum in Bienne.
Amongst the pieces that could be seen at Les Champs-Elysées, is this magnificient 1930 flyback chronograph, which reminds us that the original chronograph is above all functional with a very pure design ! Equipped with a Bréguet spirale, it already offers a fifth or a tenth of a second measurement. It was one of the very first creations born from the partneship with Lémania Lugrin, recently bought at that time by Omega.
Still up-to-date with its wondeful design : the official 1930 Olympics chronograph Photo ã The Watch
We also get a great insight of the 50’s, with the following chronograph. Oversized, it allows the observer immediate and accurate reading of the time, and yet, just a few decades later, the whole industry will start an endless race for miniturization. But when looking at such functional instruments, one has to wonder about the real sense of such a quest, when in reality only readability really counts in a professional event, not aesthetic design…
The 1950 chronograph, that would look completely oversized these days ! Photo ã The Watch Lounge
Nevertheless, electronics were already well and truly launching from the starting blocks, thanks in part to the introduction of the brand new Omega Time Recorder, or OTR, which was also unveiled at that time. From now on, mechanical movements will start disappearing inexorably competition after competition.
When technical improvements make it possible to achieve the famous ‘‘photo finish’’ in 1963, along with the ability to send the images immediately to officials, electronics will take a dominant step towards replacing traditional chronographs.
Photo finish – Torino 2006 – Photo ã Omega
Omega produced one of the last official chronographs to be used in competition in 1966, the ChronoStop, designed to be worn under the wrist. Unique in its design we can still find the deliciously old-flavoured consumer 1968 ad !
1968 ChronoStop ad – the 5th of a second measurement enters the consumer area – Photo ã Omega
At the dawn of the 70’s, with the growing mass mediatization of Olympics, Omega develops its very first real-time trasmission systems, mainly for journalists. This latest step removes de facto – and definitely – mechanical measurement from official races, completely opening the way for the electronic supremacy which commenced in the 80’s and has continued in the ensuing decades.
Of the more than 80 years of partnership with the IOC, the good old mechanical chronograph has served with honesty and loyalty for almost 45 years ! Hats off to a job well done !
Most Olympics have been celebrated by Omega limited editions, like here with that Seamaster, presented over a political illustration reminding us the 80’s tense political context – Photo ã Omega
The Final Word
This is quite a small exhibition (a dozen or so items) and unfortunately there is not much information available on the website, but, at least this special insight into Omega’s rich history exists at all. It’s an innovative format, which promotes selling points as much as the brand’s ingenuity and expertise in a win-win approach. A very smart initiative that brings some exceptional pieces direct to customers, an experience which will be repeated many times as the exhibition is scheduled to feature in several stores.
In these times where a lot of brands are firmly focused on the future and attempt to communicate with their customers solely through the web, we can only encourage Omega in this initiative that wisely reminds us, in an original and ingenious format, that the haute horlogerie industry above all produces pieces of art designed for physical clients ! In our opinion this is a marketing and communication model that provides a leg up for Omega over its competitors.