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Frédérique Constant - More than a sailing watch?

Frédérique Constant More than a sailing watch?

Provided it has a countdown timer, a sailing watch can technically get away without even telling the time. So, how can a manufacture movement compete with a digital display? And what actually makes a good sailing watch? We tested the Yacht Timer Regatta Countdown by Frédérique Constant.

In a sailing regatta, the only time zone that matters is the one on board the committee boat, which is where the countdown is launched before the start of the race. Cross the line even one second ahead of the starting signal, and you’ll be penalised, or perhaps even disqualified, depending on the competition rules. Producing a watch that claims to be a sailing watch means making a commitment to competitors, whose aim is not only to cross the line when the countdown has completed, but to cross it at exactly the moment it hits zero.


The start of a race is a crucial moment, an intense and often stressful time. A minimum of two boats, but sometimes up to several hundred, are jostling for the best position on the line. Five minutes before the start, the first signal sounds. At four minutes, you begin to get ready. With one minute to go the pressure soars, as everyone vies to position themselves to cross the line at full speed, and get the race off to the best possible start. That’s why accurate timing is absolutely crucial.

More than a sailing watch?

Sail © All rights reserved

The right technology

It’s not easy to compete with the precision and legibility offered by the digital racing watches available on the market. But opting for a mechanical watch as your racing watch is a little like deciding to race with a classic yacht. You won’t get cutting-edge performance, but your experience will be informed by feelings and emotions associated with the history of your boat or, in this instance, your watch. 

More than a sailing watch?

Yacht Timer Regatta Countdown © Quentin Mayerat/WorldTempus

Nevertheless, there are some displays that can make a regatta watch extremely useful to the racing sailor. The key feature is always the clarity of the display on the dial. The Yacht Timer doesn’t waste any space on embellishments: the dominant function on the dial is the countdown – no date, no seconds – just a grudging nod to convention in the form of standard hours and minutes. The result is a complete absence of visual pollution, allowing the wearer to focus on the countdown, which is the key to a successful start.

More than a sailing watch?

Yacht Timer Regatta Countdown © Quentin Mayerat/WorldTempus


As the minutes tick by, the pressure mounts. Crews take advantage of the right-of-way rules, and speed up or slow down to ensure they are in what they hope is a favourable position. The intense start-line manoeuvring is extremely taxing for the crew, who rely on the team tactician to bellow out the countdown: “Start in 2:30... 1:00 to go... start in 30... 10, 9, 8...” and so on. The governing concept behind the Frédérique Constant sailing watch, ever since the first Yacht Master was released in 1997, is the arrangement of five coloured discs on the upper part of the dial, each representing one elapsed minute. On the five-minute signal, the sailor starts the countdown with a firm press on the pusher, which is designed so it can’t be triggered accidentally. One by one, the grey discs fill with their characteristic colours: white for the first five minutes and red for the next five (some regattas operate with a ten-minute start sequence).

More than a sailing watch?

Yacht Timer Regatta Countdown © Quentin Mayerat/WorldTempus

A glance at the dial enables the sailor to know instinctively and accurately where they are in the countdown. Once the fifth disc is almost filled with colour, they merely have to look at the second hand to announce the countdown as the they prepare to cross the line. 
So, while the Yacht Timer is clearly not a pure competition watch, its chic, minimalist styling nevertheless brings a little mechanical nobility to yacht racing. And, thanks to its sapphire case back and meticulous decoration, it performs as well back in the clubhouse, when the time has come to analyse the day’s adventures, as it does out on the water.  

More than a sailing watch?

Yacht Timer Regatta Countdown © Quentin Mayerat/WorldTempus


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Frédérique Constant has made a successful business out of offering affordable luxury, experiencing growth rates well above the industry average. The owners have a clear mission to make fine watchmaking available to the largest possible audience of watch enthusiasts at sensible prices.

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