Once upon a time, there was a watch for every niche, including timing the World Game. Soccer timers were used by referees to time a match. While a soccer match has 45-minute halves, in a perfect world, the soccer timers would have 45-minute sub-dial, but they’ve had to make do with a chronograph with a 30-minute sub-dial. As niche as this is, we’ve gotten soccer timers from big brands like Omega and Breitling.
Let’s take a look at some of these vintage soccer timers and see what form they take today.
The Breitling Referee, ref. 34-41
The Breitling Referee dates back to around 1970 and you can absolutely tell. That isn’t a bad thing at all because you’ve got this cushion case with three pushers on one side that looks very clean.
Powering this is the Valjoux 7731, a hand-wound 17-jewel chronograph also known as the “slow chronograph”. Instead of a sub-dial, a chapter ring runs from 12 o’clock to nine o’clock to give you that 45-minute half. The central chronograph doesn’t count seconds, it counts minutes to make things even easier. If you want to check out the seconds, then the sub-dial at 9 o’clock has you covered.
This is incredibly readable, which makes sense given that the referees are running up and down the field with the players and need to be able to check the time remaining at a glance. When you activate the chronograph the small window at 6 o’clock flips from blank to a large lume dot. When you’ve paused the chronograph, a smaller lume dot appears. Breitling have only ever done a similar chronograph on their SuperOcean ref. 2005 so for that reason alone this is interesting.
The Omega Seamaster Soccer Timer, ref. 145.0020
Introduced in 1968, and it seems that the cushion case must have been very in during this era because we’ve got another one here. These watches were actually popular enough to remain in production until the early 80s with only minor changes like bumping up the case size from 38mm to 41mm. Despite the changes, every single one used the Omega Calibre 861 inside.
Functionally, there isn’t much different to the Soccer Timer than other Omega chronographs. Actually, the only difference is the addition of “45” under the 15-minute marker on the chronograph minute counter. This isn’t as readable as the Breitling, but it does work.
There was a choice of four styles of inner scale: tachometric, decimal, telemetric, or pulsimetric.
There’s a version of this watch with a rotating inner bezel which had three bezel options, one of which was a roulette wheel (in 1-12/13-24 scale) which allows for the tracking of a second time zone. Is that useful? Sure, generally speaking. Is it useful for soccer? Uh, not so much. However, it does make for a watch with a tonne of character.
Hublot Big Bang E FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
The Omega and Breitling are the purest form of the soccer timer, but Hublot have taken a stab at it, which makes sense given their official timekeeper status at the Qatar World Cup. Now this isn’t a mechanical watch, but a smartwatch, which may already rub you up the wrong way, but before we decide to hate this, let’s take a look at what it offers.
The 44mm case is micro-blasted and polished black ceramic and black titanium. Inside it’s powered by WearOS 3.0 by Google, so at least it will work (though as fast as watchOS from Apple?).
The official version of the watch is in black and burgundy lined, but this is where the coolest aspect of the watch comes into play – you can choose your dial and strap to match the flag of one of the 32 countries participating in the World Cup. Other than that though? It’s a smartwatch, it does what most smartwatches do.
Can you time the match using this? Absolutely. Is it as cool as the vintage ones we just looked at? Absolutely not. Other than the cute but gimmicky straps, there is nothing you can get here that you can’t find in more affordable smartwatches unless you have your heart set on the Big Bang design. Once again, if you’re choosing Hublot, you’re getting more aesthetic design than mechanical design and it seems to be no different in their smartwatches.
For more, check out if the Hublot hate is justified.