The Rattrapante (often referred to as a ‘Split Second’ or ‘Double’ Chronograph) watch allows for the timing of two separate events through the use of two separately controlled second hands. It became a popular tool in horse racing and motor rallying. There is a good anecdote about the Omega Olympic Rattrapante here.

Omega Olympic is a very sophisticated chronograph Credit: Chuck Maddox
The Omega Olympic is a very sophisticated double chronograph watch
Credit: Chuck Maddox

In rallying, they really do need a ‘Complication’ as the means by which races are timed is indeed complicated! However, the complexity of timing a road rally and the motive behind it are fascinating.

In the early sixties, drivers held sealed watches that they showed to a Marshal at each stage of the rally. This was apparently open to some abuse and so the watches were eventually held by the Marshals who synchronised them at the start of the race and noted the actual time of day each car started and finished a Stage. Then someone did a lot of quick mathematics to extract the times the driver’s took to complete that Stage.

A further unfortunate outcome of this technique was that anyone looking at the results could quickly see just how fast the cars were travelling. It was around this time that the cars were becoming faster and faster, sponsorship money was used to further modify them and there were a lot of crashes.

The unfortunate consequence of faster Rally cars
The unfortunate consequence of faster Rally cars due to increased sponsorship revenue

So, John Brown invented Targa Timing. For each section of a rally, there is an established time the drivers should achieve to complete each of the sections (Bogey Time). Their actual time is shown ‘plus or minus’ to the established time.

So, if they arrive exactly on the established time, their time will be denoted as 00.00. As the cars start the races at one minute intervals, the next driver needs to arrive at 00.01, or one minute longer than the first car. Any deviation from these times can quickly be used to calculate an overall credit or deficit in time.

So, the outcomes for races simply showed lots of records of drivers being a number of seconds above or below the established time and nothing about how they drove as fast as humanly possible, risking life and limb and breaking the odd speed limit!

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