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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’re 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.
This watch, the Memosail Regatta Timer, was Memosail’s answer to the popular Felsa regatta timer movement, found in watches retailed by Aquastar. It is powered by a modified Valjoux 7733, a popular base caliber found in many chronographs of the time. Valjoux filed the patent for its regatta timer in 1972.
This variation, known as a Valjoux 7737, differs from the movement of other regatta timers in that it features a rotating disc viewed through a partially open dial that reads digitally counts down 15 minutes and then reads “START” when the countdown is complete.
The Memosail Regatta timer used three different cases. The first, produced from 1972 to 1975, was a round chrome-plated case. The second and third versions featured a square case, and only the latest versions featured a solid steel case. All three case designs featured a stainless steel case back, a material proven to be resistant to the sweat and seawater that it would be exposed to in the sport.
Most chrome case Memosail Regatta Timers found today are in fairly rough condition, making this particular example in solid steel a wonderful discovery. It’s a stunningly well-preserved example, practically untouched with crisp bevels, and a flawless dial. It even comes with its original bracelet, signed by Memosail on the clasp.
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!
Solid stainless steel case is approximately 40.5mm (excluding crown and pushers). Valjoux Caliber 7737 Manually-Wound Regatta Timer Movement. Circa 1970s.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in excellent, near mint condition with minimal signs of use and wear and no signs of polishing. Color and printing on the dial are vibrant with no signs of noteworthy discoloration or hand drag. Unsigned crown. Signed case back is in very good condition with minimal signs of use and wear.
Includes 20mm Memosail signed steel bracelet. Bracelet has minimal signs of use and wear in keeping with its age.
Also includes two 20mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle