Omega Olympic Rattrapante

Written by Chuck Maddox American, with great assistance from Frank N. Denmark
on 13 December 2000, certain rights reserved.
Last Revised: 19 December 2000, 16:59 GMT

Omega Olympic - Front Large

Recently, as part of a contest held by the TimeZone Omega Forum, I won the right to choose the next "Masthead" photo for the Omega Forum. This was not a choice I felt I could take lightly. I am a collector of chronographs. So the fact that a Chronograph would be chosen was a given. That the photo would be of a watch from my collection was also a near certainty. There was much lobbying for various models of watches. There were even requests for a Ladies watch to be chosen which would have been a neat trick as I don't own a ladies watch of any sort! I finally decided to use a couple of criteria:

  1. I wanted the watch to be distinct from previous choices for the Masthead
  2. I wanted the watch to be a prime example of the horologic craft
  3. I wanted the watch to be photogenic.
  4. I wanted the watch to appeal to broad cross-section of potential viewers.
I quickly whittled down the candidates to 4 specific models out of my many Omega's. I eliminated all of the Speedmaster variants that I have collected. I eliminated my quartz, and tuning fork model watches. Sadly for a small but vocal group of lobbyists, I eliminated my "Darth Vader" model Seamaster. I also reluctantly eliminated my Bullhead Omega Chronograph.
The final four candidates were: My Titanium Seamaster Professional Chronograph, a watch I consider the best Sports chronograph available on the market, period. My Flightmaster c.910 AM/PM, a lesser known but very sophisticated counterpart to the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch, circa 1969. A front/back collage of my 1967 Speedmaster Professional Pre-Moon with conversion to Display Back. And lastly, a dark horse, my Omega Olympic Rattrapante pocket chronograph.
As you have read the title of this article, you know which watch won out. The other main contenders had very strong points, the SeMPC, it's state of the art prowess, The Flightmaster it's handsome looks and amazing vintage sophistication, the Speedmaster... well how can you go wrong with a watch I consider the watch of the 20th century, lastly the Olympic. It has been a tough decision.
The Omega Olympic is a very special watch. Vintage, however, like many Omega watches it is timeless in it's design. It is a watch that looks as new and modern as the day it was made. It also is a very sophisticated pocket watch, a chronograph that not only allows one to time two contestants in the same race, or to determine lap times, or in contests where participants are separated by significant lengths of time, many contestants in a contest.
Omega Olympic - Front Red Case Open
Note:Click on any picture with Blue border to go to an enlarged version...
Frank N. an Omega Forum regular who hails from Denmark was able to find much additional history of this timepiece and was able to sumarize and email me a very interesting history behind the development of this timepiece, I will be interspersing his thoughts and comments (in Italics) with mine throughout the rest of this article...
A fun fact about the Olympic Rattrapante family is, that it has been lost to history exactly when they were designed (by Lemania). It was before Omega took over Lemania in 1932, where these watches were used extensively at the Olympic games in Los Angeles.
Your watch belongs to the "Nuit Spatiale" ("Black Space") series of Olympic and sporting event timing equipment introduced by Omega in 1966 in anticipation of the 1968 Olympic games of Mexico City. This series of sports timing equipment was very extensive, covering every facet of this dicipline, and was designed by Lemania. These timers were all characterized by a dual level black dial with an extra outer rim for the second markers. This detail in combination with the extra long second hands and anti reflection coatings on the crystal minimized the parallax error when reading the time. The case has an Anthracite coating, which effectively prevents slippage when holding a timer with wet hands.
Omega Olympic - Case Back
You see one of the things that set's apart the Olympic from many pocket chronographs is it's protective plastic case. I believe that this watch was manufactured for use with Automobile Rallyes where participants are separated at the start of a race over a course. This would allow the judge to set the watch to 12 o'clock at the start of the race, and set the chronograph running. The case is then shut and the external button is pushed when a contestant passes a checkpoint, the time is recorded and the button pressed again so that the "split-second" hand can catch up with the running chronograph hand.
Your red case is only part of the extras available for these timers. With it one can carry the timer in a strap over a shoulder. Another option was a rather nice leather pouch made specifically for this watch.
Omega Olympic - Inside Closed Red Case

I was fortunate enough to purchase my example from a reputable seller in the UK near where the original owner lived... In the fabled "Blackburn Lancashire" as sung by the Beatles. The transaction was painless and the watch was perfect.

Omega Olympic Red Case - Back
During the start of the international rally of the United Kingdom in 1967 one of these watches in its red case was ripped from the hands of an official timekeeper by a Mini Cooper, and was dragged by the side of the car, hanging from the car door by it's strap! The hapless piece of mechanics was hammered against the side of the car for more than 10 kilometers, before it was recovered and returned undamaged(!) to its rightful owner, still in perfect working order.
In addition to Frank N.'s wonderful contribution, Sergio Lorenzon who wrote from Brazil, was able to point me out to a scan of the movement of the Olympic and granted me permission to include it here in this article:
Omega Olympic - Movement

Contributed by: Sergio Lorenzon


In 1969 the very successful visual design of the Olympic Rattrapante was, together with the Omega Dynamic, awarded by the jury of the first Biannual Swiss industrial design competition - Dybs - against 250 competitors.

These watches also exist in a solid gold version (with gold and not black dial), and a few skeletonized pieces even. The skeletons were hand made in 1974 by the retired head of assembly at Lemania, Jules-Henri Meylan. Less than ten were made. I have some rather nice photo's of one of the skeletons, that I can try scanning if interested (Copyright: Omega SA ;-). They are quite a piece of work!

Aside from what I've said, I really know little about this watch, but would like to know more. I feel that this watch highlights a fascinating aspect of Omega's contribution to the horologic craft which is sometimes forgotten in the bright glow of the moon, Omega's prowess as an official timer for sporting events, including well over a dozen Olympic games.
Empty opened red plastic case
Of course and as always, if you have any information on this timepiece please feel free to contact me, I'll add the information and give credit.
Thank you for your time and interest!
-- Chuck


I would like to take this opportunity to thank both Frank N. and Sergio Lorenzon for the invaluable contributions to this article. This article is much more informatative and useful because of them and their actions. I'd also like to thank Bill Sohne for turning me on to this wonderful piece of horological history.

Statement of rights retained and permissions granted...

Permission for personal, educational or noncommercial use is granted. The author retains all other rights not specifically mentioned here... For all other use please contact the author. If you have information about this watch please contact the author so that I may update this article... Thanks!

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and knowing me should be taken with a grain or two of salt...

Omega Olympic - Front Small