Australian sailor Glenn Ashby captained the team that won this year’s America’s Cup. But while Team New Zealand tacked to another glorious victory, one of the skipper’s key nautical tools was strapped to his wrist.
Ashby’s Omega Seamaster Diver 300M America’s Cup was specially designed for maritime functionality. Water-resistant to 300m as the name suggests, the pushers on the side are made from tactile rubber to make them easy to work in wet conditions. The watch’s “Chrono Lock” system, meanwhile, protects the chronograph function to ensure it can’t be accidentally activated if the watch gets knocked when your boat hits an iceberg (or similar).
“Timing is absolutely everything for us onboard,” said Ashby regarding his dependence on the watch. “We work to absolute precision timing with everything that we do on board, particularly in the pre-start.”
The “pre-start” that Ashby refers to happens before the gun goes off as the boats jostle for positioning at the start line. To secure the optimal spot, skippers must time their arrival at the line to the second – not easy when having to negotiate the changing wind and currents. That’s why you need a watch with a countdown function to help you judge the timing. Unlike chronographs, which continue to measure time until you press “stop”, a countdown function monitors a five-to-10-minute chunk of time. This obviously has multiple uses on dry land, too, where it can help with anything from boiling an egg to timing your rest between sets.
The relationship with sailing and watchmaking actually goes back a long way. In fact, it was the pressure to make a portable timepiece – or “chronometer” – accurate enough to navigate uncharted waters that led 18th-century horologists to invent many of the features that still whir away inside your modern wrist candy. Today, a sailing watch generally amounts to a souped-up diving watch that’s packed with extra technical features to help you navigate life on the high seas. But they’re not just about rugged pragmatism.
Given that yachts tend to be the playthings of the super-rich, sailing watches also pack serious aspirational cachet. Which is a nice way of saying they can be very expensive. Still, if you’re after a hardy timepiece to see you through weather fair and foul, these watches might still tempt you to push the boat out.