We’ve covered a range of interesting complications here on Haute Time but in reality, few of them can be considered as essential as the regatta timer at sea and in action. That’s because some of the more crucial moments in yachting actually take place before the race begins. While it’s true that many of these timepieces will rarely get a chance to taste the ocean air, it’s still interesting to learn how they work and what they’re meant to achieve.
At its core, a regatta or yacht timer operates as a reverse chronograph. Before a race, yacht crews must consider factors like wind, opponent positions, speed, and the established imaginary line that marks the starting point. With this is mind, a pre-race time interval can be calculated and tracked by counting down with a regatta timer. The goal then involves positioning the vessel as close to the starting line as possible by the time your countdown reaches zero. Therefore, the crew that best utilizes their time will position close to the line and get the best start.
Additionally, some manufacturers have also chosen to build upon the classic regatta timer concept with a few of their own in-house tricks. At SIHH 2017, Ulysse Nardin released a variant of their Marine Regatta timer with an inverter mechanism that immediately activates as soon as the countdown is finished. This effectively reverses the regatta timer and automatically switches to traditional chronograph operation, which is helpful for tracking elapsed time.
There’s no denying that this can be considered a true niche complication by many. Still, several brands have decided to take a shot at producing these highly complex timers and collectors couldn’t be happier. Even Bremont, a relatively young brand by many standards, took the plunge with the introduction of their recent America’s Cup regatta series watches. And finally, we can’t forget the mighty Rolex Yachtmaster II with its caliber 4160 column wheel chronograph and programmable countdown timer.
Now, it can be hard to justify the need for a regatta timer as a casual everyday wearer and as a result, brands have often faced ridicule due to their relatively high cost. But we can’t forget that this is in many ways, true Haute Horlogerie. Watchmakers will continue to innovate and collectors will undoubtedly be drawn closer. Like it or not, it’s hard to argue against this kind of “cool factor.” Besides, who doesn’t find the idea of suiting up and jumping the halyard with a Ulysse Nardin on wrist enticing?