You don't need anything more complicated than a diver — unless you're racing — but the regatta timer adds a complexity to timepieces that even a landlubber can love.

What sets a sailing watch apart? It's a little complication known as a regatta or yacht timer. Essentially a reverse chronograph, this is a function used by the skipper to determine the exact time the boat can cross the starting line. On the open water, a yacht can't hover. So instead of a starting line where ships hold their pose, they tack back and forth. A countdown period allows the vessels to get to the best start position without barging the line.

To use the regatta function, you select the countdown interval and synchronize the watch when the audible signal is given to start the countdown. While the manipulations to set the yacht timer may vary, they're often quite simple. Take the Yacht-Master II, to set the regatta timer on this Rolex watch you turn the bezel counterclockwise by a quarter. Next you set the countdown hand to a time up to 10 minutes.

For the Rolex, to set the countdown timer you turn the bezel counterclockwise a quarter. Unscrew the crown and set the red countdown hand. Screw the crown back down and return the bezel to its original position. When the audible signal is given, you start the countdown. If you start the countdown too early, or late, a flyback feature allows you to accurately re-synch your watch without any additional adjustments. When the second audible signal before the start time is given, hitting the re-set button will send the countdown hand back to the nearest minute and keep counting.

Many yacht watches will also have inverter mechanisms that active when the regatta timer hits zero, switching the watch to chronograph mode and allowing the skipper to track elapsed time.


Rolex Yacht-Master II

What else is there to say? The Yacht-Master's regatta complication dominates the dial, making it highly legible, and the complex design is easy to use. This automatic timepiece is water resistant to 100 meters. Model No.: 116680


TAG Heuer Aquaracer Calibre S

This hybrid quarts-automatic watch combines mechanical parts with quartz precision. Hands drift seamlessly between regatta (with flyback feature), Chrono and time modes. Once the countdown is complete, hands start ticking up to keep time during the race. This timepiece is water-resistant to 300 feet. Model No.: CAF7110.BA0803


Omega Seamaster NZL-32 Chrono

The Omega Seamaster Chronometer adds a beautiful visual cue to the countdown: five dots on the dial between seven and 11 o'clock that change color with every minute elapsed. This timepiece is water resistant to 150m. Model No.: 2513.30.00


Timex Intelligent Quartz Yacht Racer Pro

The eye-catching orange dial on this wristwatch makes more of a statement back on shore than the others on this list. But as a quartz, it's also much more affordable. The Yacht Racer Pro has the same countdown and Chrono functions as the others and is water resistant to 100m. Model No.:  TW2P73100ZA


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