Regattas and motor racing have in common timing, technology and seasoned crews. And while the former may prefer the force of the wind to a roaring engine, mechanics still have their part to play on the skipper’s wrist. Watchmakers are no strangers to yachtsmen’s needs. This year they are livening up the waters with several models featuring reworked and in some cases optimised functions, and even brand-new movements.
It’s often said that a regatta is won or lost even before the starting sequence is over, and many sailors firmly believe that clever handling at this early stage of the race can make or break victory. But to be first over the start line, a skipper needs to know precisely how much time remains before the whistle blasts and the race begins. Which is where the regatta countdown comes in, helping the skipper manage his race with all-important precision.
Panerai was first to tack at the SIHH with the Luminor 1950 Regatta 3 Days Chrono Flyback in titanium. A development of the P.9100 mechanical chronograph calibre with an additional module, the P.9100/R includes a five-minute countdown shown by an orange hand. The wearer sets the number of minutes using a pusher at 4 o’clock – one push equals one minute – then presses another pusher at 10 o’clock to start the countdown. As soon as the race begins, the orange needle can be left to run to measure the chronograph minutes.
Corum has opted for a numerical jumping display at 3 o’clock for the countdown on its Admiral’s Cup AC-One 45 Regatta. Housed inside a redesigned case, this nautical chrono can measure up to ten minutes before the starting gun fires. The skipper programmes the countdown incrementally using the crown, then launches the countdown with a press of the pusher at 2 o’clock. The minutes go by until zero when a “crazy” wheel blocks the countdown gears, leaving the field open for the chronograph to count up to 12 hours of racing.
One movement, four engines
Louis Vuitton makes a splash not once but twice this spring. First with a new iteration of its Tambour Spin Time Regatta. This also features a five-minute countdown, the difference being that the final five minutes are displayed on five rotating cubes whose colour changes from red to black. The chronograph minutes subdial has the particularity of taking the minutes before the start into account.
However, the big news this year from the official timekeeper of the America’s Cup comes in the form of the Tambour Twin Chrono. Designed to simultaneously keep track of two boats’ race times, it also indicates how many minutes separate the two. La Fabrique du Temps, which is owned by the brand, spent a full four years honing the movement which combines four separate but interdependent mechanical calibres. The complex mechanics inside the case contrast with how very simple this chrono is to use, as all the functions are controlled by a pusher at 7 o’clock.
Rolex took an early lead in 2010 with the Yacht Master II, issued for the first time in steel and equipped with a significantly optimised calibre, Reference 4161. The geometry of several components has been revised while certain parts are manufactured using UV-LiGA technology for optimal assembling and servicing. Note that the countdown function can be synchronised on-the-fly by a simple press on the pusher.