Seafaring Style

Major sailing races, like the America’s Cup, are often sponsored by companies known for their yachting watches. (© ACEA/Gilles Martin-Raget)

Major sailing races, like the America’s Cup, are often sponsored by companies known for their yachting watches. (© ACEA/Gilles Martin-Raget)

A staple in the classic American wardrobe, the modern-day yachting timepiece only continues to improve in terms of both style and functionality.

Section by Damon M. Banks


The historic link between timekeeping and on-the-water adventuring is strong, dating back to a period when sailors required high-precision devices for navigation. The precursors to today’s watches, marine chronometers—which were first developed in the 18th century by a man named John Harrison—helped keep track of time and distance over long sea voyages, thus changing maritime navigation forever. His marine chronometers resolved issues that traditional clocks couldn’t overcome, such as temperature changes, humidity and the rocking, rolling and plunging motions of the open waters.

In the years since, that groundbreaking concept has been enhanced with state-of-the-art technological advances. Modern yachting watches are equipped with a plethora of specialized features that will support any kind of maritime adventure. Specifically, water resistance up to 100 meters, a barometer, a digital compass and precision timing are required in any high quality nautical watch. In addition, many modern choices feature a chronograph system with a countdown measurement on a sub-dial to provide function and style for any aspiring yachtsman.

“To meet the demands of today’s most dedicated boating and watersports enthusiasts, watch manufacturers have to offer uncompromising water-resistant cases in lightweight materials, distinct dials with clear legibility and high-grade accurate movements that the user can rely on,” says Michael L. Friedman, historian and development director at Audemars Piguet.

Today, that historical need for precise nautical timekeeping methods continues—and there is nowhere it’s more prevalent than in the competitive realm. Decorated yachtsman Paul Cavard, a six-time America’s Cup veteran and two-time Olympian, is just one of the many sailors who emphasize the importance of having an accurate timepiece while locked in a fierce battle on the water. “The Yacht-Master II is a fantastic watch,” Cavard shares, admitting he has a bit of a bias toward the Rolex brand.

“It combines functionality with elegance,” he continues. “The countdown starting timer works perfectly for racing and the platinum version that I have always brings compliments
As watchmakers have realized this close relationship between aquatics and timekeeping over the years, a natural partnership began to emerge. In the world of championship yachting, prominent watch brands often play an integral role in the many events that take place throughout the year—for instance, Omega served as the official timekeeper of the America’s Cup races in 2002 and 2003, while Rolex is a title sponsor for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and the Rolex Swan Cup, among others.

Even if you don’t have upcoming plans to climb aboard a world-class tournament sailboat, the unsurpassed quality and chic styling of a yachting watch still holds a serious allure. Whether on the hunt for practicality, aesthetics, versatility or all of the above, the look and feel of modern-day yachting watches will please any fan of the open water.


Setting Sail
These timepieces epitomize the precision and style that define the contemporary yachting watch.