Skip to main content

Olympic Gold Medalist Caeleb Dressel Is Learning To Take His Time

Caeleb Dressel posing with a watch inside an OMEGA store
Omega

The peak of a swimming career is the Olympics, and few have done the Olympics better than Caeleb Dressel. One of the true breakout stars of the Tokyo Games, the 24-year-old Floridian’s success can be measured in both weight (five gold medals, to be exact) and time, including world records in the 100-meter fly and 4-by-100-meter medley relay and a .48-second winning margin in the 50-meter freestyle final, which is the largest for the event in Olympic history. But despite his intimate relationship with the clock, he tells The Manual he was never much of a watch person until luxury timepiece-maker Omega approached him regarding a partnership.

“I was blown away at the different styles, and the fact there is something that fits everyone’s different personality,” Dressel tells The Manual. “When I picked up my watch in Hawaii, I found the perfect fit for me. I know that Omega timepiece quality is at another standard.”

Related Guides

Omega watches, which have been made in Switzerland since 1848, are a perfect partner for Dressel. They, like him, are available covered in gold, and they have both speed and aquatic specialties. The company’s Speedmaster line, which comes from a racing pedigree, has a razor-sharp chronograph befitting a man whose sport is measured in hundredths of a second. (There’s also the fact that it was the make of choice for Buzz Aldrin as he walked on the moon, which is a kind of other-world record.) But then there’s the Seamaster line, a dive-centric collection which is rated to 500 feet under water.

So which does an amphibious Olympic champ with a need for speed choose? Well, a little of both.

“Right now, I’m wearing a Seamaster Diver 300M in gold and stainless steel,” Dressel says. Yeah, he knows all about its oceanic lineage (Omega has long sponsored sailing crews and races, and it’s the official timekeeper of the 2021 America’s Cup yacht race). But it’s the blending of both racing and dive lines that ultimately led to his selection: “It’s also a chronograph, so the design is all about precision timing,” he continues. “It’s everything I’d want in a watch.”

Caeleb Dressel of Team United States competes in the Men's 100m Butterfly Final at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on July 31, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

While Dressel isn’t hanging up his goggles yet — at the time of our conversation, he was already looking toward the International Swimming League’s third season, which takes place at Piscina Felice Scandone in Naples, Italy, from August 26 to September 30 — with the close of a near-perfect Olympics, including becoming the first man to win the fabled “Sprint Triple Crown” of 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle, and 100-meter fly, there’s a lot for which to be grateful. So we ask: To whom and with what would he offer his thanks for the support over his years of training?

It’s an easy answer: his wife, Meghan. And as far as watches? “You can’t go wrong with a Speedmaster Moonwatch,” he says. “It was the first watch ever worn on the moon, so in terms of marking a momentous occasion, it’s a pretty good one. It’s also a timeless design, so you can wear it forever. It’s just as good-looking as it was in 1969.”

But more than gifts and, yes, even the water, the first thing on Dressel’s mind is to return home to Florida and to spend the quality time with his wife that’s been in short supply over the past year-plus of focus on the Olympics. Even now, he remembers the raw emotion coursing through him as he watched her reaction after his 100-meter freestyle gold. “Meghan is a huge part of my success and her support really gives me strength in competition,” he says. “I’m looking forward to some time together, just the two of us, when we can finally enjoy our postponed honeymoon and talk about something other than swimming.”

There are mistakes he made, including, strangely enough, during his world-record 100-meter fly race. “The turn and finish [were] pretty bad,” he says. And the U.S.’s disastrous strategy in the 4-by-100-meter mixed medley relay, in which a slow third leg saw him diving in eight seconds behind the leader — an insurmountable gap, even for him, which ultimately ended his bid to join the rarified air of Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz, and Kristin Otto in winning six golds in a single Olympics  — elicited his rare public criticism of U.S. coaches in the press. But Dressel looks back on his Olympic experience like facets on a diamond, with individual moments sparkling with light. Some of the brightest, he says, happened far from the pool, including the American pre-camp, and while he offers precious few details, he says it was where a country’s swimmers transitioned from individuals to bind together as a team.

Gold medalist Caeleb Dressel of Team United States poses with the gold medal for the Men's 100m Butterfly Final at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on July 31, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

But overall, Dressel doesn’t describe the nine days of competition as anything more than torture, albeit a torture he was ready to endure. “It [was] a week of hell,” he says. “You don’t sleep or eat right. You need to somehow stay in the moment, but also relieve some of that pressure. Physically, you just stay calm and trust your body.”

At home, the relief, the accomplishment sinks in. The pressure, as present as a phantom limb, recedes, and the scope of his accomplishments becomes more real. “Sprint races are over so quickly, so every little detail and movement matters. I felt like 24 years of my life was coming down to those few moments, so it was a big emotional release at the end,” he says. “Most of all, it feels like all the hard work and sacrifice was worth it.”

Famous for keeping a journal of his Tokyo experience, Dressel’s equally famous for saying that he has one entry left, after he’s had time to reflect. “Journaling [was] a way for me to reflect on my performance, to praise myself for the good, to reflect on ways to get better, and, then, to close the chapter and move on to the next thing.”

When the time comes, he’ll be ready, but for now, he waits. His biggest lesson from Tokyo? “I learned to take it one race at a time.”

Topics
Jon Gugala
Features Writer
Jon Gugala is a freelance writer and photographer based in Nashville, Tenn. A former gear editor for Outside Magazine, his…
Class up your style: These are the best pocket watches for men
Our top picks for best pocket watches for men
Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300G-010 pocket watch

The best pocket watches for men are going to experience a resurgence in popularity soon, and you can jump on the trend ahead of time so you're able to tell everyone you were the one who started it. Why will pocket watches suddenly be on anyone and everyone? In September 2024, The Peaky Blinders Movie is confirmed to begin production. The hit TV series, set in the gritty backdrop of Birmingham after World War I, has become a massive cultural phenomenon, with a man who rocks copycat outfits on TikTok and even Peaky Blinders stores.

Taking inspiration from Mr. Thomas Shelby himself, the Peaky Blinders aesthetic has sparked renewed interest in finding the best pocket watches for men and for those wanting to give off an early 20th-century British gangster aesthetic. As more people seek to emulate their favorite characters from the cultural phenomenon, pocket watches will be trending very soon. If you're really looking to go all in and emulate your favorite Peaky Blinders character, a three-piece tweed suit and a long jacket will go a long way.
Best pocket watches for men: Our top picks

Read more
The most colorful watches for men to get you in the mood for spring and summer
Our top picks for the best colorful watches for men
Rolex Rainbow Cosmograph Daytona

As the weather (finally!) starts to get warmer, it's not only your wardrobe that needs a colorful change up but your accessories as well, which ultimately means colorful watches. We've got a list of the best watches for men that evoke the spirit of this warmer and sunnier season (once again, finally!), from the lush green of freshly mowed grass to the vibrant hot pinks and reds from freshly bloomed flowers and bold blues of clear skies, these colorful watches will add some panache to your spring and summer look.
Colorful watches for men: Step into warm weather with our top picks

Whether you're strolling through the park and admiring the freshly bloomed gardens or sipping cocktails al fresco at a sidewalk cafe under the spring sun, these colorful men's watches will elevate your outfit and add a pop of personality to an otherwise minimalist look. 
1. Rolex Rainbow Cosmograph Daytona
The vibrant mood is felt in the Rolex Rainbow Cosmograph Daytona with the most colorful design imaginable. It features almost 100 gemstones, including 36 baguette-cut sapphires and 56 diamonds on the mid-case; essentially, it's a dazzling display of color as much as any rainbow. The bracelet is an ever-popular rose gold hue, adding a touch of opulence, and this watch remains as functional as it is beautiful, with a water resistance of 100 meters and a chronograph function.

Read more
These 4 new watches put a modern twist on Jeep, Marathon’s WWII history
The Jeep x Marathon watch collection salutes 80 years of military history
Jeep and Marathon Watch collection launch image with a watch in the center and a Jeep driving on a muddy dirt road.

The Stellantis Jeep brand and Marathon Watch introduced four watches, the Jeep x Marathon collection, to commemorate the companies' shared history of supplying the Allied Forces military. Each company delivered military specification products as early as 1941.
Why the Jeep x Marathon Watch collection matters

Founded in 1904 and originally called Weinsturm Watch and later Wein Brothers until changing to its current name in 1939, Marathon Watch is a fourth-generation family-owned business. In 1939, Marathon Watch began supplying timepieces for the infantry of the Allied Forces.

Read more