By Rebecca Doulton
If you’ve been following the America’s Cup World Series, you will have spotted the presence of Louis Vuitton watches - a brand that has been actively involved with the sport since 1983. The America’s Cup is the most famous sailing event in the world. First staged in 1851 off the Isle of Wight, it is also the oldest international sports competition and a trophy no British boat has been able to claim.
Sir Ben Ainslie, Britain’s four-time Olympic sailing champion, is determined to bring back the coveted trophy, and following the exceptional qualification performance last weekend in Portsmouth with his Land Rover BAR hydrofoiling catamaran, Ainslie’s team stands in excellent stead to accomplish his mission during the 2017 America’s Cup in Bermuda.
Ainslie or any professional skipper will tell you that the start of a regatta is a crucial moment, fraught with tension as yachts try and hold their positions on an imaginary start line while being buffeted by the wind. In the distance, a series of signal flags and horn blasts from the judges’ boat indicate how many minutes - five minutes are standard - remain before the start of the race. Timing is of the essence and these three men’s watches have therefore been designed to time these vital minutes before the race.
Although many associate Louis Vuitton with luxury travel goods and accessories, it has cemented its status as a first-class watchmaker ever since it acquired the specialist Genevan watch manufacture La Fabrique du Temps in 2011. The Tambour Spin Time Regatta watch was developed specifically for the exciting world of regattas, and features a countdown mechanism that indicates the elapsed time, with five red rotating cubes on the right side of the smokey sapphire crystal dial revealing the movement. The handsome 45.5mm white gold case of these Louis Vuitton watches is equipped with an automatic chronograph movement and the large pushers, covered in rubber, provide you with extra grip. Water-resistant to 100 metres, the watch has the LV America’s Cup logo engraved on the caseback.
It is only natural that Rolex, inventor of the world’s first waterproof watch tested on a cross-channel swim in 1927, would be actively involved with nautical sports. The Sydney Hobart yacht race, the Swan Cup and Maxi Yacht Cup off the coast of Sardinia, and the Fastnet Race are just a few of the many high-profile yachting events the Swiss brand supports. The distinctive Rolex Yacht-Master II chronograph was especially rigged as a professional regatta chronograph. These sailing watches house a unique countdown feature that can be programmed from 1 to 10 minutes and set using just one hand, thanks to the rotating command ring on the bezel. This ingenious system is dead easy to use and belies the complex mechanism inside the case that works in conjunction with the bezel. The smart sea-blue bezel is made from Rolex's very own ceramic alloy, known as Cerachrom, designed to resist corrosion, sea water, sunlight (and chlorine) and keep its vibrant colour for years. The 44mm Oyster case, which is water-resistant to 100 metres, comes in a variety of metals, with models in resilient stainless steel, a combination of steel and Everose gold, full yellow gold, and a luxury white gold and platinum version.
Panerai resurfaced as a civilian watch brand in the late 1990s. For years it held a top-secret status as the official purveyor of underwater instruments, timing devices and Panerai watches that glowed in the dark, to the Italian Navy and its stealth frogmen. The brand's strong association with the sea has taken a more recreational turn and, in 2006, Officine Panerai bought and restored Eilean, a 1936 Bermudan ketch. She now competes in the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge - the largest international circuit of regattas reserved for vintage and classic yachts.
Another watch specifically developed for the exciting world of regattas, the Panerai Luminor 1950 Regatta 3 Days Chrono Flyback Titanio (not the most shipshape of names), combines the unmistakeable sandwich case and protective crown lever of the classic Luminor watch with a professional regatta countdown function. By activating the pusher with an orange cap just underneath the crown, the central orange chronograph hand moves back one minute at a time - up to 15 minutes can be programmed with the final all-important five minutes marked in orange. The chronograph pusher at 10 o’clock starts the countdown and can continue to record the elapsed time from the start of the race. If you want to gauge your sailing speed, a tachymetre in knots is provided on the flange. Given the impressive 47mm diameter of these Panerai watches, titanium has been chosen to lighten the instrument, which will keep impeccable track of your seafaring adventures for three days.
Admittedly all three sports watches are high-end luxury models with refined mechanical movements, but a drop in the ocean for men who enjoy the adrenaline-packed sport of regattas.