Over the decades, watches have been specifically modified and designed to cater to what may seem like an infinite number of industries and applications. Despite the ubiquity of task-focused watches in the fields of motorsports, aviation and other technical and scientific fields, horology actually shares a very diverse and fascinating history linked to the exploration of the seas. Here is our selection of five fantastic nautical watches.
From watch design to highly technical movements, the exploration of the seas has inspired some of the greatest watch manufactures and engineers – a fascination that will certainly not fade any time soon.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
Considered by many to be one of the most important and successful designs not just among nautical themed timepieces but luxury watches in general, the Royal Oak has become an important, iconic and, as such, often mimicked timepiece. Designed by Gerald Genta in 1972, he was inspired by the porthole-like windows of ships, with the screws in their frames used to secure them.
Over its 40-plus year history, the Royal Oak has seen countless different versions, including high-complication pieces just as much as tribute-to-the-original versions – despite there having been so many iterations of it, the Royal Oak remains a hugely versatile and timeless design.
Hublot Big Bang
Hublot’s link to sailing is already enforced by the manufacture’s name, which means “porthole” in French. One of the brand’s trademark design elements is a bezel that is secured by six screws. This feature is matched to what is overall a rugged appearance that characterises the majority of Hublot’s watches. From the signature Big Bang to the Classic Fusion and King Power lines, Hublot’s inspiration by and link to the world of sailing is perpetuated by the watch’s striking, modern and rugged looks – all largely inspired by the portholes on a ship.
Patek Philippe Nautilus
Another testament to Gerald Genta’s design genius is the Patek Philippe Nautilus. Introduced in 1976 – legend has it the design was sketched on a napkin in a restaurant by Genta – the Nautilus arguably is the sports watches from the 177 year-old manufacture. Much like Genta’s other designs, the Nautilus features an integrated bracelet design with short, angular lugs, with a bold and thick bezel and highly legible dial to further strengthen its powerful aesthetics. Its wearability – thanks to its case design’s proportions and the integration of the bracelet – is further enhanced by its terrific legibility, making it one of the most coveted “sports watches” ever. And why was it named Nautilus? That lies with Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Captain Nemo’s submarine.
Rolex’s Yacht-Master collection is offered in three sizes 35, 37 and 40, as well as its Yacht-Master II, each of which approaches the nautical theme in different ways. The 35, 37 and 40 mm models serve as a fascinating alternative to the brand’s other dive watches, namely the Submariner and Sea-Dweller models. As the yachting theme would imply, these pieces are a more elegant and arguably a somewhat dressier option, with platinum case material options, grey, blue, champagne colored or mother of pearl dials and polished center links in the bracelet.
The Yacht-Master II on the other hand is a considerably more complicated piece with a 10-minute regatta countdown chronograph function that can be set to start from any minute between 1 and 10 – and a comparably large, 44 mm, wide case crafted exclusively from precious metals.
Omega Seamaster Diver 300 m America’s Cup
The Omega Seamaster Diver 300M America’s Cup has been designed with yachting regattas in mind. A crucial element of such events is the start of the race, which has a countdown period. Competitors must keep track of this countdown period to leave the starting line at the exact. For this reason regatta watches have a countdown function. Omega’s Seamaster Diver combines that with a legible grey dial with white and red hands and indices. At the three o’clock position is a rather unique-looking sub-dial and hand combination that helps measure the five-minute countdown period and a countdown scale on the sub-dial’s periphery.
Victor Toth – Czech Republic
Victor Toth is a Prague-based, professional photographer-turned-watch enthusiast and freelance journalist, whose journey into the complex world of fine watchmaking had begun a number of years ago. Over this time it has become his passion to share his understanding of the finer details of beautiful timepieces, all in an effort to encourage a more thorough appreciation of this wonderful and complex universe of fine mechanics.