Yachting, Boating, and Fishing Watches

Yachting, Boating, and Fishing Watches

| 06.27.24

Summer’s finally here, and you know what that means: Time on the water. 

Whether you enjoy sailing, boating, fishing, yacht racing, SCUBA diving, swimming, or other aquatic activities, the lengthening of the day signals the start to a long season of open-water adventure. During the 20th-century heyday of mechanical watchmaking, horological innovators designed complications that catered specifically to the fisherman, sailor, diver, and more. While digital watches, smartwatches, and dive computers have since largely taken over from mechanical timepieces, certain companies continue to make watches that track the tide, count down to the start of regattas, and perform other water-related tasks.

Nivada Grenchen x Analog:Shift Chronomaster 'Big Eye' Yachting Limited Edition - IN THE SHOP

And this says nothing of the plethora of now-vintage mechanical watches that still exist, waiting to be discovered by the sportsman. Here at Analog:Shift, we love nothing more than an ultra-specific complication designed to do an ultra-specific job. Just think of the Heuer Seafarer, designed by a young Jack Heuer to track the tides — or our very own Chronomaster 'Big Eye' Yachting Limited Edition, produced in concert with beloved watchmaker Nivada Grenchen. These are but two examples of myriad yachting, sailing, and fishing timepieces that are sure to delight the water-loving watch collector.

As we’ve devoted plenty of digital pages to dive watches already — and will continue to do so — below, we’re going to focus on watches with other aquatic complications: Those meant for the helmsman, fisherman, and others. After acquainting yourself with some of the coolest, most summery watches the vintage and pre-owned watch world has to offer, maybe you’ll take up a new aquatic pursuit — or at least retire that smartwatch for the few hours during which you take to the seas, and instead embrace the glorious mechanical past! 

Nivada Grenchen x Analog:Shift Chronomaster 'Big Eye' Yachting Limited Edition ($1,995)

Nivada Grenchen x Analog:Shift Chronomaster 'Big Eye' Yachting Limited Edition - IN THE SHOP

A collaboration between Analog:Shift and the good folks at Nivada Grenchen, the Chronomaster 'Big Eye' Yachting Limited Edition takes inspiration from vintage Nivada Grenchen yachting chronographs of the mid-20th century and combines them with modern aesthetics in a distinctly versatile package. Measuring a comfortable 38mm in stainless steel, the 'Big Eye' features a distinctly useful 'ghosted' grey aluminum timing bezel with bi-directional action and both 60-minute and 12-hour scales. Its white dial, meanwhile, is extraordinarily legible and features a bi-color 10-minute yachting timer within the 30-minute register at 3 o'clock, plus a running seconds display at 9 o'clock in black. Powered by the manually-wound Sellita SW510 BH B chronograph movement and paired to a handsome and comfortable stainless steel 'beads of rice' bracelet, it's a handsome piece ideal for use both on and off the water. 

Memosail Regatta Yacht Timer Chronograph ($2,050)

 Memosail Regatta Yatch Timer Chronograph - IN THE SHOP

This ‘70s classic is an example of the ‘regatta timer’ (or ‘yacht timer’) complication. The idea is that, in the countdown to the start of a regatta, ships are moving about in the sea, rather than fixed in place like cars on an asphalt track. A countdown — say, 10 minutes — is initiated, during which each vessel must do its best to cross the starting line as close to the starting gun as possible, but not before. On a watch such as the Memosail seen here, actuating the top pusher would initiate a 10-minute countdown, which is visible between 12 and 4 o’clock. When the final minute ticks down, this quadrant will read “START,” and it’s time to cross the starting line. A clever modification of the hand-wound chronograph, this watch was designed to be water resistant and resilient, with a steel case, a highly legible dial, and a hand-wound Valjoux 7733 movement.

Gallet Multichron Yachting 'Big Eye' ($6,700)

Gallet Multichron Yatching 'Big Eye' - IN THE SHOP

Similarly to the Memosail above, this Gallet Multichron Yachting ‘Big Eye’ from the 1960s is an aquatic riff on the chronograph complication — though in this case, standard chronograph functionality remains largely present. Powered by the hand-wound Valjoux 7733 movement and contained in a 35mm stainless steel case, the yachting complication takes the form of a modified minute register with 5-minute demarcations. Using this register, the wearer could easily time 10-minute countdowns — and even successive 10-minute countdowns — with the blue periods indicating the first 5-minute intervals, and the red indicating the final five minutes before the starting gun sounded. Of course, a watch with a snap-back case such as this isn’t terribly water resistant, which means it’s better suited to a spectator on land than a skipper manning the helm of a fast-moving yacht. (This doesn’t detract in the least from its inherent beauty, however.) 

Movado Super Sub Sea Chronograph ($7,050)

Movado Super Sub Sea Chronograph - IN THE SHOP

Vintage Movado is a wonderland of fascinating and beautiful timepieces — though perhaps none is more interesting than the utilitarian Super Sub Sea Chronograph. Designed as an underwater time recorder, it was fitted in a 40mm screw-down case with pump pushers, a signed crown, an acrylic crystal, and a screw-down caseback with a beautiful, deep engraving. The black aluminum timing bezel on this particular example has faded to a pleasing ‘ghosted’ grey hue, while the black dial in ‘reverse panda’ configuration features a triple-register chronograph with a 30-second totalizer, a 12-hour totalizer, and a running seconds display. The tritium plots and lume-coated hands make the dial highly visible above and below water, and the outer tachymeter scale lends even more utility. Though you’d likely scoff at the idea of taking such a watch beneath the waves today, during the 1960s, the Super Sub Sea was the pinnacle of chronograph design. Today, it’s still an excellent and beautiful tool watch.

IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph ($9,250) 

IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph - IN THE SHOP

The Yacht Club collection — with its 1960s origins, connotations of seaside leisure, and Gérald Genta associations — may not be IWC’s most popular or important, but it lives on today in several compelling Portugieser references. This particular Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph from the 2020s is a thoroughly modern piece, with a 44.6mm stainless steel case, a matching ‘H-link’ bracelet, and a Calibre 89361 automatic movement visible via a sapphire caseback. Its silver dial, meanwhile, features a flyback chronograph in an ‘up-down’ configuration, with a combination 60-minute and 12-hour totalizer below 12 o’clock, and a running seconds sundial with date window above 6 o’clock. Being water resistant to only 60m, it perhaps isn’t the watch to wear while skippering one’s yacht — but if you’re after a luxurious chronograph with which to time races from the comfort of a grandstand, then look no further!

Panerai Luminor Regatta Flyback Chronograph ($10,150)

Panerai Luminor Regatta Flyback Chronograph - IN THE SHOP

The Reference PAM00526 combines several of Panerai’s classic features — a water-resistant cushion case; a crown protection device; a luminous ‘sandwich’ dial — with additional elements that render it uniquely suited for life aboard a yacht: Take a close look at the brightly colored central hands, and you’ll notice that while one (light blue) is a conventional chronograph seconds indicator, the other (orange) corresponds with an outer five-minute demarcation. Using a pusher at 4 o’clock, this hand can be programmed to count down up to five minutes before the start of a regatta, after which it continues to indicate elapsed minutes against a radial scale on the dial’s periphery. The central chronograph seconds hand, meanwhile, features flyback capability, meaning it can be reset and restarted with a single button push without first having to be stopped. We challenge you to track down a cooler, purpose-built regatta timer. 

Breitling Superocean 'Slow Counting' Chronograph ($16,500)

Breitling Superocean 'Slow Counting' Chronograph - IN THE SHOP

The Breitling Superocean Ref. 2005 solved a legibility problem inherent in yachting and underwater chronographs, which is that their small subdials means that reading them in choppy conditions can be difficult. Breitling’s solution was to replace the typical chronograph’s subdials with a central minute chronograph, doing away with a seconds hand altogether. Upon actuation, the central minutes hand begins its slow march around the dial, while the round aperture above 6 o’clock turns from black to white, indicating to the wearer that the complication is running. (Of course, in order to count elapsed minutes, one needs a minutes totalizer of some kind — in this case, the rotating bezel fulfills this function nicely.) Housed in a 42mm stainless steel case and originally rated to 200m of water resistance, this is a watch that was meant to be used in and below the water, and it remains incredibly rare on the vintage market today. 

Abercrombie & Fitch Seafarer 'MKII' ($24,900)

Abercrombie & Fitch Seafarer 'MKII' - IN THE SHOP 

If you thought the yacht timer was a niche complication, then chances are you haven’t heard of the mechanical tide indicator. Produced at the bequest of Abercrombie & Fitch — once, in its pre-mall days, the foremost outdoor retailer in the United States — the Seafarer was designed by a young Jack Heuer with input from his high school physics teacher. Housed in a Heuer case, it went through several iterations between the late 1940s and 1970s, each of which was produced in relatively small numbers. Based upon the ‘solunary’ theory — which posited that there are better and worse times to hunt and fish for particular game depending upon the location of the moon — the watch has a special tide indicator at 9 o’clock, plus a more conventional dual-register chronograph in totalizers at 3 and 6 o’clock. With its colorful looks, sporty design, and fascinating backstory, the Seafarer is — in any iteration — a collector’s dream. This fairly early Ref. 2443, however, with its cool patination, is particularly compelling.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm European Model ($42,500)

Jaeger -LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm European Model - IN THE SHOP 

We’re making one concession and including a dive watch — well, two if you include the oddball Breitling Superocean 'Slow Counting' Chronograph — but it’s for an excellent reason! The Jaeger-LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm is no ordinary diver. In point of fact, it’s one of the earliest underwater alarm watches, which uses a mechanical striking system to audibly rattle the watch case and alert the diver to the end of a fixed period of time. Made for both the American market in a run of less than 1,000 pieces as well as for the European market, this particular example is the latter — and it’s rare as hen’s teeth. Housed in a handsome, 39mm stainless steel case, it features a faded aluminum 12-hour bezel, twin crowns, and a black dial with patinated tritium lume. The lumed ‘syringe’ handset and inner alarm dial are beautifully preserved, and the JLC Calibre K815 bumper alarm movement works perfectly. Produced in 1960, this rare bird is one of the most notable specialist dive watches ever designed — and certainly one of the coolest.