There are ancient associations linking timepieces and the sea: crucial instruments for navigation, the marine chronometers are the result of incredible endeavours to find a solution to a simple problem: one of precision. If the first clocks are pendulums, making them reliable in the midst of the waves is a challenge verging on the impossible.
The first marine chronometer, which can be seen at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich London, set sail in 1736, initiating a love affair between watchmaking and the sea, that still today, almost 300 years later, features some of the finest timepieces in existence.
When out on the water one requires a sexy, smart, functional timepiece that ticks all the boxes, Whether you are out sailing, cruising the Med or lazing on the deck the team at Helm has chosen their favourite timepieces for 2023.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master
Embodying the very spirit of sailing, the Rolex Yacht-Master is one of the most popular models for those who love to combine functionality and style.
Furthermore, the link between the house of the crown and the world of sailing dates back to the 1950s: many a sailor has sailed around the world wearing a Rolex wristwatch, such as Sir Francis Chichester, Bernard Moitessier and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who were the first to sail around the world solo and in under a year.
Today, the name of Rolex is linked to some of the world’s most important regattas and the most prestigious yacht clubs, where models such as the recent Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master with its 42 mm case in yellow gold are not hard to observe. Water-resistant to a depth of 100 metres, this watch has been designed to guarantee all the performance essential to those who practise nautical sports, particularly sailing.
Starting with its physical characteristics: it is robust and the black dial with hour markers and hands are treated with long-lasting blue Chroma light luminescent material that guarantees perfect legibility.
The bi-directional rotating graduated 60-minute bezel with a matt black ceramic Cerachrom disc and polished, embossed graduations and numerals make it possible to calculate the time between two buoys with the utmost precision. Animating (Powering?) is an in-house self-winding mechanical movement.
Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 6,000M Ultra Deep
As a key element in Omega’s history, innovation has often led the Bienne-based company to measure itself against the challenges of the sea. Sailing enthusiasts, for example, followed it with bated breath during the last edition of America’s Cup, which saw it as the Official Timekeeper.
Since 1995, Omega has also been a supporter, sponsor, and official timekeeper of Emirates Team New Zealand. Not only that: it has worn famous wrists such as those of French offshore professional sailor Francois Gabart, winner of the 2012-13 Vendée Globe, and Olympic champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.
But Omega’s latest challenge has been depth: the new Seamaster Planet Ocean 6,000M Ultra Deep has a 45.5 mm case in sandblasted grade 5 titanium which is capable of going far beyond normal human capabilities, down to a depth of 6,000 metres.
This model is the fruit of the experience acquired by the brand which, in 2019, on the occasion of the Five Deeps Expedition, made history by reaching the deepest place on Earth with its Ultra Deep and which meets the ISO 6425:2018 standard for saturation diving watches.
Visible through the protruding domed sapphire crystal case back, the Co-Axial Master Chronometer 8912 movement ensures long-lasting precision, thanks to the silicon balance spring providing perfect antimagnetic resistance.
Richard Mille RM 032 Voiles de Saint Barth
A constant presence in the jet-set world, Richard Mille has an event to which it is particularly attached: Les Voiles de Saint Barth. A regatta that he helped create, in 2010, and which sees him as the title partner from 2019.
It was precisely at the latest edition of this event that the Richard Mille RM 032 Voiles de Saint Barth was presented, a limited-edition watch that made its debut on the wrist of the brand’s freediving partner Arnaud Jerald, four-time world record holder and reigning world freediving champion.
“Freediving and sailing,” explained the athlete, “are synonymous with performance, humility, solidarity and overcoming oneself: I sailed when I was younger, and I love the sensations you get.” RM 032 precisely combines the practical characteristics of traditional timekeeping with the exotic and difficult environmental conditions also experienced by Arnaud Jerald.
Its case, water-resistant to 300 metres, has a complex construction and combines materials such as Caribbean blue and white Quartz TPT with grade 5 titanium.
The IWC-manufactured, self-winding mechanical movement, visible through the engraved sapphire crystal case back, offers a range of useful information such as a central hour, minute and seconds display, flyback chronograph with hour, minute and seconds counters, power-reserve indicator, oversized date window and variable geometry rotor.
Iwc Portugieser Yacht Club ‘Orlebar Brown’
The story goes that Iwc’s Portugieser was first created in 1939 to meet the request of two Portuguese merchants looking for a wristwatch model with a steel case capable of operating with the same precision as a marine chronometer.
A skilful fusion of traditional nautical instruments, modern design, and avant-garde mechanics, the Portugieser has become one of the symbols of Iwc, which, in 1967, presented the Yacht Club Automatic at the Basel watch fair, an elegant wristwatch for men that also seemed to be made to tackle the roughest seas.
Heir to this tradition, the Portugieser Yacht Club “Orlebar Brown” is the result of the Schaffhausen-based company’s encounter with the British lifestyle and cruise wear brand Orlebar Brown.
This nautical chronograph has an elegantly proportioned steel case with a diameter of 44.6 mm. Its screw-down crown makes it water-resistant to 60 metres. Protected by a domed sapphire crystal, the blue dial has contrasting red and white details.
Visible through the transparent case back, the IWC-manufactured 89361-calibre movement with flyback function displays elapsed hours and minutes through the sub-dial at 12 o’clock and boasts a power reserve of 68 hours. The date window is set inside the small seconds counter with a stopwatch device. The blue rubber strap with a fabric insert has a buckle clasp signed by both brands.
Lonville Virage Fuel Tank
Perfect for those who prefer motor yachts to sailing, the Virage Fuel Tank is an unexpected timepiece capable of playing on elegance with intelligence and irony thanks to its power reserve indicator that takes its cue from the fuel level indicator.
It is produced by Lonville, a Swiss watch brand – or rather, “all Swiss”, as they like to put it – active since 1873 until the 1950s and relaunched in 2009 by Joost Vreeswijk, a Dutch entrepreneur with a great passion for watchmaking, who has completely rethought it.
The cornerstones of this niche brand include a very limited production destined for connoisseurs culturally far removed from the classic mainstream models. The Lonville Virage Fuel Tank, in fact, is made in only 18 pieces and uses only Swiss suppliers and manufacturers.
The 40 mm white gold case has a bronze-coloured dial worked in a sunburst pattern with a black minute ring with the numeral ’60’ shown in red. The same colour can be found on the “Fuel Tank” counter, located between 8 and 10 o’clock, in correspondence with the “Empty” inscription, indicating the end of the movement’s autonomy.
Powering this watch is done by a hand-wound movement with a double barrel and 80-hour power reserve. The calibre, with hand-bevelled edges on all six bridges, Côtes de Genève finish, blued screws, and blue engraving, is Cosc-certified and visible through the sapphire crystal case back.
Speaking of Switzerland, it is easy to think of its magnificent Alps. But there is a ‘secret’ that scuba diving enthusiasts know very well, and it is that its snow-capped peaks – among the highest in Europe – feed pristine mountain lakes and crystal-clear rivers, making it a Holy Grail for divers who can find no fewer than 226 Alpine dive sites here.
It is among these mountains that Swiss D1ver was born, a brand that puts the same idea of performance, permeability and robustness required of dry suits into its watches.
“We live for the water. – explain the brand’s founders – Our deep love for the ocean comes from growing up in Australia. Sure, we miss the Pacific Ocean and are still getting used to the freezing lake temperatures in winter, but we know that diving deep means learning to always go with the flow and our passion, regardless of the season.”
A philosophy that can also be found in the D1ve model. An automatic Swiss Made watch whose 45 mm steel case, equipped with a helium escape valve, boasts water resistance to 1,000 metres.