Battle of the Best: Watches of the America’s Cup

In yachting, it is the most coveted price and the dream of many sailors: winning the America’s Cup. With the first race taking place in 1851, it is the oldest trophy in international sports. It started when the schooner America sailed from the United States to the United Kingdom to participate in the World’s Fair. It entered a race around the Isle of Wight, which it won. It was this schooner that gave the cup its name and not the 132-year dominance of the United States, which won the Cup 24 consecutive times until Australia ended it in 1983.

Team Captain Ben Ainslie of Land Rover BAR wearing his Zenith
Team Captain Ben Ainslie of Land Rover BAR wearing his Zenith

Participants in the cup have to be ready for one of the most demanding experiences of their lives. Perhaps it was this challenge that attracted some of the most famous names in history to participate such as tea magnate Sir Thomas Lipton as well as Harold S. Vanderbilt, or more recently Ted Turner and Larry Ellison. Make no mistake, fame, and fortune do not make you win the America’s Cup. Fierce determination, a capable captain and an experienced crew will. Even those will be pushed to their absolute limits in a sporting event where your best is often not good enough.

With the best sailors in the world competing in the most demanding yachting competition, they likely need the most rugged watches to accompany them on this trip. Some of the world’s best and finest watch manufacturers equip the participating teams with timepieces for the occasion, many of them purpose-built.

Ulysse Nardin Marine Regatta Timer, Artemis version
Ulysse Nardin Marine Regatta Timer, Artemis version

Ulysse Nardin is one of the Swiss watch manufactures that participated in the America’s Cup. They teamed up with Artemis and used the input of two yachtsmen of the Swedish team, Loïck Peyron and Iain Percy, to create the Regatta Timer. What makes the watch so unique is its complex movement. Made up out of 650 parts, it allows you to set a time, up to 10 minutes, and count down from it. While doing so, the second’s hand moves counterclockwise. Additionally, when the preset countdown time has been reached, the chronograph will automatically start moving forward, functioning as a regular chronograph. This allows captain and crew to keep track of the countdown to the start of the race, which is crucial because they pass the starting line at speed but can only do so without being penalized after the starting signal has been given.

Ulysse Nardin Regatta Timer ArtemisThe new movement that makes this all possible is caliber UN-155, which in turn is based on caliber UN-153 that Ulysse Nardin makes in-house. The Regatta Timer will therefore also share its characteristics such as a three-day power reserve and a date that can be changed both back as well as forward. Ulysse Nardin housed this all in a 44mm stainless-steel case with rubber details.

For the Artemis limited edition of 35 pieces, Ulysse Nardin pushed the index for the Regatta Timer to the edge of the dial, leaving an open space in which you can see two Artemis catamaran sailing over the Grand Feu enamel dial.

Panerai America's Cup Limited Edition's 2017
Panerai America’s Cup Limited Edition’s 2017

The crews of two of Artemis competitors will be wearing Panerais around their wrists. One of them is ORACLE TEAM USA, the two-time winners of the Cup, for which Panerai made three limited editions. The first is based on the Luminor 1950 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic in black ceramic, now adorned in official America’s Cup colors and with a special engraving of the ORACLE TEAM USA boat on the back. Most interesting is that Panerai also equipped the watch with a nautical tachymeter scale, allowing you to measure your speed on the water.

Panerai America's Cup Limited Edition 2017

The next watch Panerai made for ORACLE TEAM USA features a very nautical complication, that of the regatta timer. The Luminor 1950 Regatta 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic is crafted from titanium. The third and final watch that Panerai created for ORACLE TEAM USA is the Luminor Marina ORACLE TEAM USA 8 Days in steel, which also features color details referring to the Cup colors, as well as an engraved case back. Just as the other two watches, it also has a strap with the Cup’s logo in it, as well as matching stitching.

Panerai also sponsors the SoftBank Team Japan. A memorable occasion, because Japan is competing once again in the America’s Cup for the first time in 15 years. This team’s watch is the Luminor Marina 1950 3 Days Automatic with a strap in the team’s colors and an engraving of their competing boat on the case back. Behind it ticks Panerai’s manufacture caliber P9000.

Zenith's El Primero is the watch of choice for the Land Rover BAR team
Zenith’s El Primero is the watch of choice for the Land Rover BAR team

Zenith enters the America’s Cup in collaboration with Land Rover. This is very interesting, as it extends their partnership to the ocean. The Land Rover BAR team represents the United Kingdom in the race, and it can hardly come as a surprise that the watch that will accompany the crew will be an El Primero.

The 45mm steel-cased chronograph takes some design cues of the previously introduced Land Rover El Primero. However, it has more pronounced hands and bolder hour markers to make it easier to read time on the fly. With the expected speeds of the participating boats, this flying can sometimes be taken quite literally. The El Primero will match this with its unique high-beat caliber 400 B automatic movement that runs at 36.000 vibrations per hour. The brushed gray dial provides a nice contrast to the white subdials, while the seconds hand in bright red makes it easier for the team to check this feature while participating in the race. Extra attention has been paid to the water resistance of the chronograph pushers, to better withstand the harsh environment that men, boat and watch need to endure during the America’s Cup.

Omega traditionally sponsors the team of New Zealand, and for the 35th edition of the America’s Cup this hasn’t changed. What has changed is the watch they use. This year it is not a Seamaster that will be strapped to the wrists of the Emirates Team New Zealand, but a Speedmaster. It is a Regatta version of the X-33, Omega’s multifunctional analog-digital chronograph. This allows the brand to pack the watch with a wide variety of different features, while the analog hands still inform the crew members of the current time.

Omega Speedmaster X-33 Regatta ETNZ
Omega Speedmaster X-33 Regatta ETNZ

Named Speedmaster X-33 Regatta ETNZ, it is fitted most importantly with a Regatta timer, which keeps track of the five-minute countdown before the start, and after that, it begins to record the elapsed race time. Omega fitted the X-33 Regatta ETNZ with different sounding alarms so that the crew can continue what they are doing and remain focused while knowing exactly where they stand in regard to time.

The case of the X-33 Regatta ETNZ is made from grade 2 titanium, and a bezel is crafted from a mix of ceramic and titanium. For the minute track scale, Omega used a black ceramic ring with Liquidmetal. White Super-LumiNova aides the reading of time in low-light conditions. There is a double case back on this watch, to provide the best sound performance of the different alarm functions. Not a bad idea, since things are not serene and quiet onboard of an America’s Cup contender. The case back is further adorned with the Emirates Team New Zealand logo, further acknowledging that it is a challenger for the 35th America’s Cup, as well as including the name of the watch. A blue rubber with black textile strap with titanium buckle keeps the X-33 tightly secured on the wrist while the team competes for the Cup.

Whoever wins the 35th America’s Cup will take home the oldest sports trophy in the world. But whether you win or lose, participating alone has proved that you are among the best of the best. The same goes for the watches that will accompany the various teams, offering sound and precise timekeeping in one of the harshest environments in one of the most demanding sporting events on the planet.

Luxury Watch Trends 2016 - Baselworld SIHH Watch News

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