Usually a chronograph just has to measure an interval of time. But in a regatta, in addition to timing how long it takes for your boat to go from start line to finish, the most important timing operation is before the start. The jury issues a first signal, say ten minutes before the start, and all the boats start manoeuvring so that they will be best positioned when the start comes around. There is a second signal about five or three minutes before the start, and another a minute before. A small number of brands have created watches that handle this situation in different ways.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II is dedicated entirely to the countdown. First you programme the watch with the countdown duration, by rotating the bezel which unlocks the mechanism and enables the countdown duration to be set using the crown. When the first signal is given, you press the pusher at 2 o’clock: the red seconds hand starts moving and the countdown minute hand starts moving from the preset number of minutes on its way towards zero. When the second signal arrives, you can synchronise the watch more exactly, by pressing the pusher at 4 o’clock. This is the only watch here to have this function of re-synchronisation at the second time signal. The time functions are of secondary importance but are clearly legible, with a subdial at 6 o’clock for continuous seconds. The watch has a case 44 mm in diameter, with a water-resistance rating of 100 metres.
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Ulysse Nardin Marine Regatta
The Marine Regatta by Ulysse Nardin achieves something that no other watch included here can do: the chronograph runs backwards during the countdown, and when it gets to zero, the chronograph second hand automatically reverses and the watch becomes a conventional chronograph, recording minutes and hours on a large subdial at 6 o'clock. It’s the exact portrait of what happens on the boat, with the countdown up to the start line, and then timing the regatta itself. You set the countdown, on a scale from one to ten minutes, using a pusher at 10 o’clock. The case is 44 mm in diameter, in stainless steel, water resistant to 100 metres, with a screw-down crown coated in rubber, and strap also in rubber. It’s perfectly matched to the marine environment.
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Panerai Luminor 1950 Regatta Oracle Team USA PAM00726
At the 2017 America’s Cup, Panerai had a strong presence, linked to both the defending Team Oracle USA and to Softbank Team Japan. The Luminor 1950 Regatta Oracle Team USA PAM00726 is a large watch with a P.9100/R self-winding chronograph movement, based on the brand’s existing P.9100 calibre with the addition of the mechanism that moves the red chronograph minutes hand back, one minute at a time. You prepare the watch for countdown by pressing the red pusher at 4 o’clock to move the central chronograph minute hand back in one-minute jumps, until it is set to the correct countdown duration. When the first signal is given, you start the chronograph using the pusher at 10 o’clock. It’s a logical system but, unlike the Rolex, you can’t improve synchronisation at the next time signal.
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Bremont Regatta Otusa
Bremont's Regatta Otusa is an interesting modification of a conventional chronograph, with a minutes counter that has three arc-shaped counter windows. When you press the chronograph start pusher, the blue window gradually becomes red, revealing the word “START” letter by letter, while the red arc counts down from 5, progressively becoming blue. At the same time, the minutes counter counts up to 15 minutes. So this unusual countdown indicator can also be used to time events, just like a normal chronograph, because at any time the minutes counter indicates up to 15 minutes, and the hour counter at 6 o’clock has 15-minute markers.
Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean ETNZ Deep Black
The Seamaster Planet Ocean ETNZ Deep Black by Omega was made in partnership with the Emirates Team New Zealand America’s Cup team. Omega have simply adapted their existing Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT by giving the rotating bezel two five-minute sectors that can be used for an empirical countdown against the minute hand. The extra blue hand is for the GMT function, with a 24-hour scale on the inner bezel flange. As the original timepiece is a diving watch, this piece has a helium escape valve, and a water resistance of 600 metres depth. Though one hopes that a yachting enthusiast would never need that part of its functionality.
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