The nautical lifestyle, with its mix of refinement, adventure and expensive equipment, makes a natural fit for luxury timepieces. Watch companies know this. Just in the past year we’ve seen IWC not only sponsor a team in the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race but also be the official timekeeper for the event. OMEGA and TAG Heuer are sponsoring teams in this summer’s America’s Cup. Rolex has sponsored sailing races since the 1970s. Of course, there are special regatta timing chronographs from all these brands made to be brandished on the salt-sprayed decks of million dollar boats and in yacht clubs.
Officine Panerai does things a little differently. Rather than go for the cutting-edge carbon fiber multi-hull racing scene, the storied Italian brand takes a more nostalgic view on sailing by sponsoring a series of classic yacht regattas up and down New England. Panerai’s connection to classic yachts is more than a logo on a sail. The company’s CEO, Angelo Bonati, is an avid sailor who a few years ago bought and restored the Eilean, a 77-year old Bermuda ketch that serves as an unofficial emblem of Panerai’s sailing spirit.
We were invited to the first of the three American regattas, the Corinthian Classic Yacht Regatta, in the charming maritime port town of Marblehead, Massachusetts. It was a proper mix of flapping Dacron, wooden-hulled 12-meter yachts and cocktails at no less than three proper blue-blood yacht clubs. Oh, and there were a few cool watches, including one of our favorites from this year’s new Panerai crop: the 1950 3 Day Regatta Chrono Flyback. We also pulled mainsail grinder duty in the cockpit of the Valiant, a 12-meter boat built for the 1970 America’s Cup race and the last of the wooden 12-meters. The camera stayed dry long enough to shoot a few photos.