There are few scenes that conjure up summer more than white sails against a blue sky, whether you’re cruising in a 12-meter out of Newport, rounding buoys in a Laser at your lake’s weekend regatta, or just sitting on the beach watching the action. Sailing is so much a part of our country’s lore and style, entire clothing lines (and brands) have been designed around the sport. Boat shoes have been a fashion staple from Portsmouth to Peoria for decades. Watch companies haven’t ignored the nautical theme either. While a dive watch would do perfectly well on the wrist of any skipper, the arcane starting procedure of regattas, the movement of tides, and the phases of the moon have provided perfect opportunities for watchmakers to flex their horological muscles.
So even if the closest you come to a boat all year is your company’s annual booze cruise, you can still channel a little bit of the maritime vibe and look like an old salt. But please, skip the sailor’s cap and opt for a more useful emblem of the high seas. This year’s fleet of nautical watches can do everything from count down the start of a regatta to predict the weather, and all are suitable for skippers and landlubbers alike.
Suunto Elementum Ventus
For the long-distance sailor, weather is everything, making the Elementum Ventus a legitimate sailing instrument. The watch has a barometer and can trend up to 12 hours of pressure variation to help predict what gales are coming at you and when. A programmable regatta timer and 60-minute chronograph round out the nautical features, while its steel case, sapphire crystal and leather strap further set the Ventus apart from the typical digital watch.
Alpina Regatta Countdown
Since sailboats don’t do well from a standing start, crossing the start line of a regatta when the cannon fires requires being in sync with the official race clock. The Regatta Countdown follows yacht timer convention, counting down to the start of a race using colored discs on the dial driven by Alpina’s in-house mechanical caliber. When all five discs are red, it’s time to let out sail and go.
IWC Portuguese Yacht Club Chronograph
Paying homage to the Iberian country’s maritime history, IWC’s Portuguese collection has always been linked to sailing, and none more so than the Yacht Club Chronograph, which adds sports watch styling and ruggedness to the lineup’s more classical offerings. IWC’s in-house 89361 chronograph calibre displays minutes and hours on a single counter that can be read like a clock, useful when you’re rounding Fastnet Rock in a squall.
TAG Heuer Aquaracer Limited Edition Oracle USA Racing Calibre 72 Countdown Chronograph
2013 is the year of the America’s Cup, replete with a radical new boat design and a final race in San Francisco Bay. The crew of defending champion Oracle USA Racing will have TAG Heuer Aquaracers strapped to their wrists. This Aquaracer features a mechanical chronograph movement with a regatta countdown function, rotating timing bezel and 500 meters of water resistance; the crew doubtlessly hopes they’ll never have to test that last feature.
OMEGA Seamaster Diver Team ETNZ Limited Edition
Squaring off against the TAG Heuer and Team Oracle in the America’s Cup is this OMEGA Seamaster, Team New Zealand’s timepiece of choice. The Kiwis have long partnered with OMEGA for their sailing watches, and this year they’ll be wearing a special regatta version of the Seamaster Diver Chronograph. The watch features a co-axial column wheel chronograph with specially marked regatta start counter, a rotating bezel, 300 meters of water resistance and limited edition Team New Zealand livery.
Panerai Luminor 1950 Flyback Regatta
Most chronographs track elapsed minutes in a tiny subdial — which is why we like the new Luminor 1950 Flyback Regatta. It tracks minutes with its orange central sweep hand, which can also be set backwards to count down the start of a regatta. Stopping and restarting the chronograph can be done with a single push of a button thanks to a flyback function.
Available September, 2013
Rolex Yachtmaster II
While more Rolexes are probably seen on the deck at the yacht club than on the deck of a racing yacht, the Yachtmaster II is a serious tool for any skipper. Its mechanical regatta countdown timer is programmable using the watch’s rotating bezel, a first-in-the-industry function invented by Rolex. Of course, this being a Rolex, its Oyster case and screw-in crown are impervious to the elements and available in steel and gold or platinum.