Ulysse Nardin Marine Regatta Chronograph: real-time testing in Bermuda
June 2, 2017: qualification for the 35th edition of the America's Cup was live from Bermuda. Featuring Artemis Racing team, its Regatta Marine by Ulysse Nardin and a tester, Vincent Daveau, watchmaker turned skipper.
Translated from the original French text
There are some invitations that can’t be refused. When Ulysse Nardin offered us a trip to Bermuda to test the latest Marine Regatta chronograph in real time, we wholeheartedly accepted. So, a few weeks ago, we set off to Bermuda – a small 54-km2 island in the North Atlantic Ocean and an associate member of the Carribean Community and the British Overseas Territories. You may be wondering why such an exotic destination was needed to test a regatta chronograph when we could have just gone to Lake Geneva? Well, it is because the small territory was this year's host of the 35th America's Cup edition – the oldest international sailing competition in history.
An ideal place for testing
At first, the idea of organizing this year's edition right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and make the other six title contenders join us at 32° 20' 00'' N - 64° 45' 00'' W did seem a bit peculiar. However, once we got there, we realized that this place seems to have been made for this event. Indeed, it boasts wind speeds oscillating between 10 and 15 knots, the stretch of water is sheltered from strong winds and, at 28° C, the water is a shade of blue as clear as you only see in postcards. It is also close to a magnificent island of bold colors. Well, maybe getting to the village where the America's Cup is hosted is somewhat complicated. Indeed, it is a two-and-a-half hour flight from New York or Miami and, once there, another 45-minute drive on the only road of the archipelago that reaches the spot set up for the teams of the America's Cup. By the time we met the Ulysse Nardin team at Cambridge Beaches Hotel, it was already time to take the head to the Artemis Racing base.
Ideal conditions for a test at sea
We met Loïck Peyron, a French yachtsman and four-time ORMA world champion who also won the Transat bakerly three times, the Transat Jacques-Vabre two times, the Barcelona World Race, the Route du Rhum once, and the Trophée Clairefontaine eight times. While he was with the Energy Team at the 2013 America's Cup, this time he accompanied the Swedish Artemis Racing team, established by wealthy sailing enthusiast Torbjörn Törnqvist. The yachtsman’s impressive track record does not end there – he also won the Jules Verne Trophy in January 2012 with the Banque Populaire maxi-catamaran. He is the team's partner but also Ulysse Nardin's consultant in the developing of watches especially designed for skippers and yachtsmen. The sailor is also a remarkable technician who can as easily introduce the operating mode of Artemis Racing's wing sail as he can explain the countdown complication featured in the Marine Regatta chronograph by Ulysse Nardin, since he himself designed part of the watch.
The ultimate test for a marine chronograph
The best feature of the 44-mm steel watch with an elastomer strap is its countdown complication with hands can be set between 1 to 10 minutes and features a seconds reverse mechanism which starts as soon as the timing of the race starts. Unveiled at the SIHH this year, the complication caught the eye of many because of its unusual and innovative approach to the complex mechanical regatta function already available in the versions by Rolex since 2007 (Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II) and Panerai (Luminor 1950 Regatta America’s Cup). Incidentally, said complication is integrated in the in-house UN-155 self-winding caliber which comprises 650 components and a silicon escapement.
In contrast with rival brands' versions, the advantage of Ulysse Nardin's Marine Regatta chronograph is that the countdown display mode matches the general idea of a countdown since once the chronograph hand is set, it regresses, that is, it moves in the opposite direction of a watch's hands. The crazy thing about this is that once the countdown is over according to the minute/s set, the seconds hand resumes its normal chronograph trajectory as soon as the race starts. It is a visual feast and is particularly practical because the direction in which the hand moves signals whether or not it is time to cross the start line and thus avoiding any penalty.
We interviewed Loïck Peyron in the lounges of the base once the trials were over and asked why the watch did not feature a mechanism to help synchronize the countdown with the official intermediary cannon shots or VHF antenna, like the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II. The answers was that he did not find it useful. He went on to explain: "The timing is rarely started before the cannon shot. On top of that, if there is a slight delay in the start of the timing, there will be a delay in crossing the start line. But that is not detrimental as the delay can only be of a few seconds maximum and does not cause penalties".
Heroes of the day
For the record, Ulysse Nardin's Marine Regatta chronograph - which is available for around €15,900 (retail price) - was strapped on the wrist of Nathan Outteridge, one of Artemis Racing’s skippers, during that day's trials. Indeed, at only 31 (he was born on January 28, 1986) the successful athlete has been world champion of the 49er class several times, he won a gold medal at the Olympic Games in London and a silver medal in Rio. He was also Moth (sailing hydrofoil) world champion in 2011 and 2014. He wore the chronograph at the helm of the Artemis Racing catamaran but also when he was on land.
According to the team's technical managers, it could be that due to the number of important parameters he had to handle at helm, the skipper may have not used the countdown complication to make a perfect start twice. However, they pointed out that he could easily use it in less rough starting conditions.
Whilst on the semi-rigid powered by two 115-hp outboard engines, we got the opportunity to assess the prowess of the sailors in real time thanks to the watch, which is efficient, easy to set, snug on the wrist and, most importantly, easy to read. What more could we ask for?
One last thing – as our pictures show, all the skippers we met during the trials on 2nd and 3rd June 2017 wore their sponsors’ watches, at least during press conferences. However, chances are that they all wore them during the race too. Indeed, Jimmy Spithill, skipper of the Oracle Team USA, must have worn his Panerai watch; Sir Ben Ainslie from English team Land Rover BAR must have had his brand new Zenith on; Peter Burling from Emirates Team New-Zeland surely wore the Omega Speedmaster X33 during the race and Dean Barker from Softbank Team Japan undoubtedly had a Panerai watch on, what with the brand being his team’s sponsor as well as America's Cup Official Watch.