First watch Featured

The fascinating world of sailing watches

by 23 August 2012

The connection between sailing and watches runs back a long way, to the days when sailors relied on marine chronometers for navigation. Captains required an accurate measure of both local time and the time at their harbour of departure in order to determine their position, and this led to the development of chronometers with at least two time zones displayed. As the timepiece had to be synchronized at the harbour office, they quickly became miniaturized.

GPS and electronics have superseded these requirements, but still today, quality watches with a marine theme are amongst the most popular of all, in part because the necessities of multiple time zones and water resistance are very useful in modern life and travel. And they are very attractive.

For example, Omega's Seamaster range includes many different references, amongst which the Aqua Terra GMT (below), whose self-winding movement, powered by the in-house calibre 8605, provides local time (hours, minutes, seconds) and another GMT hand, all central, and very legible on a dark dial with Geneva waves. The date is shown very discreetly in a window at 6 o'clock. It is an officially certified chronometer, with 60 hours power reserve.

IWC have long had a strong connection with the world of marine navigation, with the Portuguese collection that has been in existence for over 70 years. The Portuguese Perpetual Calendar (shown below) provides a countdown until the next full moon, in reference to the importance of our satellite in dictating high and low tide. This beautiful piece has date, day, month and year functions, and a fascinating subdial showing the course of the moon in northern and southern hemispheres. The white gold case, midnight blue dial, and rhodium-plated moon-phase indicator creates a lovely contrast, and ensures effective legibility.

Rolex presented new versions of their Yacht-Master at SIHH 2012, a watch ideal for regattas. The bezel can be rotated to any position, with a 120-position notched ring, for the countdown to the start. The watch is waterproof to 100 metres. Dial legibility is assured by the sunray-finish blue dial (also available in sand-blasted finish platinum), and comfort by the Oyster bracelet and safety clasp. Date is shown in a magnifying window at 3 o'clock.

Montblanc launched its Régulateur Nautique in June 2012, in a set that consists of a wristwatch chronograph, and a large navigational clock, with a marble stand and cardanic suspension, making it ideal both for use in the home or office, and on board ship. The watch, whose complete name is Montblanc Régulateur Nautique Wristwatch Chronograph, is a truly beautiful instrument, with eight indicators built into the dial. There is a central minute hand, while hours are shown on a separate subdial at the 12 position. This was to ensure that seconds would be perfectly visible at all times, and never covered by the hour hand. Other indications provided are home and local time, day and night display, chronograph, 30-minute counter, small seconds, and power reserve. In addition, the dial is pierced so that parts of the movement below can be seen.

The other part of the set is the Montblanc Régulateur Nautique Navigational clock, which was built to be suited for use on a private yacht, but which is also stunning in a home. Ninety-three centimetres high, 56 centimetres in diameter and weighing 120 kilograms, it is an imposing object, with a base of granite, and a frame of brass, aluminium and carbon fibre. The clock remains exactly horizontal at all times by means of the gimbals, which retain it motionless even when the ship is heeling at up to 27 degrees. Only sixteen sets will be manufactured, eight with red gold watches, eight with white gold. A true masterpiece of haute horlogerie, and a celebration of all things nautical.