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Purpose-built watches have captured the minds and hearts of collectors for decades. Many have found an enduring place in the pantheon of classic designs even though they might not still be used for their intended purpose. The Rolex Explorer, for example, had mountaineering as its genesis, but we can’t think of many that have seen the summit of Everest since the days of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norway, and the Submariner—perhaps the most innovative dive watch—is now more commonly found paired with a three-piece suit than a wetsuit.
Like field watches and divers, regatta timers are a fascinating subset of timepieces that have transcended the purpose for which they were designed and have found a place in daily wear on the wrists of collectors who appreciate the quirkiness of their construction.
From the 1960s to the 1980s, brands such as Rolex, Heuer, Breitling/Wakmann and Lemania all produced their own versions of these unusual watches. They were used onboard sailing yachts to time the countdown at the start of a yachting race, and feature brightly colored dials to denote the remaining time. This complication stems from the unique challenges associated with racing on water.
Unlike a race on dry ground, in a regatta boats are unable to start a race from a dead stop. Short of anchoring, there's no way for them to be perfectly still. At the start of a regatta, yachts are jockeying for position behind a starting buoy for 15 minutes before the starting gun goes off, when a countdown starts and the competing vessels launch past the start line 15 minutes later.
Breitling had released a yachting timer alongside the Reference 765 AVI or Co-Pilot, perhaps the most desirable of their vintage chronographs. In the late 1960s, Breitling followed up the Reference 765 yachting timer with the Reference 7650. The 7650 was slightly larger than the 765, at 43mm, and came with two different bezels--the first being aluminum and silver, and the second painted black and with a redesigned fifteen-minute countdown.
In 1969, shortly before the introduction of the Chronomatic, the Reference 7650 would be given a new reference number, 7660. After that, the manual-wind yachting timers (all powered by Venus movements) would be phased out in favor of the Chronomatic movements.
With a silver colored bezel, this Reference 7650 yacht timer dates from the earlier portion of the production run. Its lugs are as razor-sharp as the daggerboards on an America's Cup catamaran. The dial likewise retains its brilliant colors, the only testament to its age being the luminescent materials on the hour markers and hands, which have taken on a greenish hue.
With a case design that feels comfortable on the wrist, this delightful yachting timer will surely have your yacht timing needs covered, whether you're skippering a yacht or watching from the safety of the pier, cocktail firmly in hand!
Stainless steel case is approximately 43mm (excluding crown and pushers). Venus Calibre 178 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement. Circa 1969.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in excellent condition, retaining sharp lugs and factory brush finishing on the sides of the case. Case does have slight signs of use and wear consistent with age and handling. Bezel is in very good condition with crisp printing and only minor signs of age. Dial is likewise in very good condition with vibrant colors. Luminescent elements of the hour markers and hands have taken on a green hue over time. Breitling crown. Breitling case back has some faint signs of wear but is in otherwise very good condition.
Includes two 20mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle