Precision timekeeping, performance racing and passionate sailing fans are an intoxicating and irresistible mix for Swiss watchmakers, which is why they have always beaten a path to the sport’s most prestigious event, the America’s Cup. After a wash out of live events in 2020, Omega is not going to miss out on the excitement building for the 2021 racing series in New Zealand, and has signed as the Official Timekeeper for both the Auld Mug’s defending champions Defender Emirates Team New Zealand and the entire global event.
Like the Olympic Games, the America’s Cup is an event that is four years in the making.
Its 36th outing, which takes place next year in New Zealand, has had its build-up of races and testing disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, but the main event is currently scheduled to go ahead as planned from March 6 to 21 off the coast of Auckland.
Emirates Team New Zealand is defending the cup it won in 2017, and will again be supported by its long term timekeeping partner Omega. The Swiss watchmaker has also gone one better than partnering with a single team, and has become the Official Timekeeper for the entire America’s Cup 2021 event, the third time it has taken the apex partnership, having previously headlined in 2000 and 2003.
Omega says its timekeeping excellence and long experience in sailing will be highlighted through new technologies and never-seen-before equipment that will enhance every second of racing.
“The America’s Cup has a truly special place within the OMEGA brand. From ingenuity and precision, through to the competitive energy and history, every part of it appeals to our spirit. We’re very excited about our role next March and also for the chance to be on-board with Emirates Team New Zealand once again,” says Omega president and CEO Raynald Aeschlimann.
“We have been supporters of the Kiwi crew for many years; they are friends, so it will be great to catch up with them in person. For the ETNZ crew it’s obviously a very special event as they are defending the “Auld Mug” on home waters. They will be in familiar territory but the local fans will have high expectations, so they will be under a lot of pressure. We’ll support them every step of the way,” he adds.
CEO of the Defender Emirates Team New Zealand, Grant Dalton, considers Omega to be an integral part of his high performance organization. “We’ve worked with Omega for many years now and we truly respect their high standards of excellence. Our goal is to have the very best people for every part of the 36th America’s Cup. The choice of Omega was obvious. They not only have a distinguished history as the Official Timekeeper of the Olympic Games, but they also have established themselves as the leader of timekeeping on the water.”
There was no Official Timekeeper at the 35th America’s Cup in 2017, although Panerai certainly made a significant investment by making the challenge’s Official Watch. It was also the Official Watch of Team USA and of Softbank Team Japan.
The benefits of associating with the world’s most prestigious sailing race are clear for watch brands that want to reach the event’s wealthy participants and fans with watches showcasing their sporty, indestructible, accurate and historic timekeepers.
Horology was at the heart of man’s exploration of the world, with marine chronometers making accurate navigation possible, and it is this historic link that encouraged the likes of Bremont, Ulysse Nardin, Zenith, Omega and Louis Vuitton to make special watches to mark their partnerships with various America’s Cup teams three years’ ago.
Next year Omega will lord over them all as Official Timekeeper for the series in New Zealand, and the brand is looking forward to getting its sport-associated partnerships up and running after a wash out in 2020.
Postponement of this year’s Tokyo Olympics will have been hugely disruptive to the watchmaker, but Mr Aeschlimann has lost none of his appetite for investing in the world’s biggest sporting spectacles.
“No, we haven’t lost our enthusiasm at all,” he tells WatchPro. “These collaborations are professional but they are also deeply personal. We enjoy them very much and they generate fantastic experiences, wonderful stories and social content. Elegant events are an important part of the Omega experience. It’s frustrating when plans are disrupted, but we always have to be flexible and ready to adapt, even during normal years,” he adds.
“This year has been very challenging,” Mr Aeschlimann continues. “All going well, the America’s Cup will mark a triumphant return to exciting international sporting events that everyone in the world can enjoy. We will certainly be making the best of the opportunities, but the biggest thrill will be personally reconnecting with our valued partners.”
Sponsorship of events like the Olympic Games and America’s Cup is a way for Omega to align with sports where every split second counts, a natural association with Swiss watches, and to get the brand in front of global television, newspaper and digital audiences.
It is also a chance to bring partners together for spectacular jollies, something that has been impossible this year with large gatherings banned.
Omega sounds determined to put on a great show to reinforce these vital relationships. “We will be turning on the best of Omega hospitality for our partners and guests. They can expect great views of the races, often on the water – and plenty of very elegant opportunities to get together, analyze the performances and toast the winning crews,” Mr Aeschlimann promises.
To mark its unveiling as Official Timekeeper, Omega released a special watch, the Seamaster Planet Ocean 36th America’s Cup Limited Edition. It has a white polished ceramic dial with America’s Cup at 6 o’clock, on a counterweight of the central seconds hand and on a crystal case back through which Omega’s Master Chronometer Calibre 8900 can be seen.
It has a blue ceramic diving bezel, which incorporates white and red liquid ceramic to create a 5-minute countdown for racing. The sporty 43.5mm steel timepiece comes in a limited edition of just 2,021 pieces world-wide. It is on sale now for $7,050.
Omega’s association with performance sailing does not end with the 2021 America’s Cup. The business also announced this summer that it has become the timekeeping partner for Alinghi, a team that won the race series in 2003 and 2007 and remains a world-leader.
At the unveiling of this partnership, Omega launched a special edition Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon with the team’s logo on the dial. Although the Seamaster is more commonly associated with sailing, the watchmaker says the Speedmaster “perfectly reflects the fast boats that fly across the water”.
It uses a decorated Calibre 1865, a hand-wound movement that is lighter and slimmer than equivalent automatics. The movement’s barrel and main plate have been laser-cut to give them a honeycomb effect that looks like the inside of the Alinghi carbon hull. The same laser ablation technology has then been used to decorate all other bridges with a black carbon pattern, also inspired by the carbon that is used for the boat’s hull.
The all black 44.2mm watch is made from black zirconium oxide ceramic. It has white and red accents that also match the Alinghi livery. It went on sale in July with Omega and its authorized dealers for $10,800 plus taxes.