ALL-NEW VERSION OF CLASSIC SAILING WATCH MARKS TAG HEUER’S RETURN TO THE HIGH SEAS
TAG Heuer’s decades-long history in sports timing has encompassed everything from motor racing to skiing and from horse racing to the many disciplines of the Olympic Games.
But it is the fiercely competitive world of high-level yachting that resulted in one its best-loved and most distinctive chronographs: the brightly coloured and instantly recognisable ‘Skipper’.
Made in various series from the original version of 1968 to the final full production model of 1983, the Skipper was once a familiar sight on the wrists of professional and amateur sailors alike – and now, exactly 40 years after it disappeared from the TAG Heuer catalogue, the beloved Skipper is back.
Although later versions of the Skipper used the Autavia case, the very first examples (of which only around 300 were made) were based on the celebrated Carrera chronograph.
In keeping with that important aspect of TAG Heuer’s sailing heritage, the new generation Skipper is derived from the recently-launched ‘glassbox’ Carrera, the design of which lends itself perfectly to the creation of a sailing watch that is both good-looking and practical.
Due to its lack of bezel, the way the glassbox extends to the very edge of the case, the ingenious ‘curved flange’ dial and the perfectly placed chronograph counters, the Carrera Skipper is superbly legible in all conditions.
Such a high degree of legibility is especially important when a boat is bobbing on the water during the crucial regatta ‘pre-start’ period before the gun is fired to signal the off.
The new Skipper also gets the Carrera’s robust yet elegant 39mm diameter case, the latest TH20-06 movement with bi-directional winding, an 80-hour power reserve - and, of course, a high-end, resistant textile strap.
But while the 21st century Skipper is technically bang up to date, it owes its unique and unmissable look to the original model that was born from Jack Heuer’s involvement with the world’s most historic yacht race – the America’s Cup.
To understand how the connection came about, we need to re-wind to the mid- 1940s when high-end sporting goods supplier Abercrombie and Fitch began commissioning Heuer to produce A & F-branded watches to sell in its New York stores.
The first was the Solunar that displayed tide times and which, in the 1950s, led to the creation of the more sophisticated Seafarer and Mareographe chronographs.
The relationship with Abercrombie and Fitch was two decades old by the late 1960s, and it was Jack Heuer’s close friendship with the retailer’s president Walter Haynes that led to Heuer becoming the official timing partner of the America’s Cup boat ‘Intrepid’ – the 12-metre U.S. yacht that was to defend the trophy for the New York Yacht Club against Dame Pattie, the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron’s challenger.
For the 1967 America’s Cup match, Heuer provided Intrepid with a set of hand-held yachting stop watches and equipped her crew with Aquastar wrist watches featuring an ingenious countdown timer comprising a red and white disc that rotated behind a series of five holes.
Intrepid went on to win the event by a decisive four races to nil – in celebration of which Heuer produced the Skipper chronograph with a 30-minute subdial that was adapted to count-down the 15-minute regatta ‘pre-start in three, five-minute segments.
Each of these segments was a different colour, with vivid orange being used to alert the crew to the fact that there was just five minutes to go; green to represent the colour of the boat’s rigging and light teal to replicate the colour of Intrepid’s deck.
The new Skipper revisits that distinctive and colourful livery, with a circular brushed main dial in Carrera signature blue (a tone initially inspired by the sea) and sharply contrasting sub-dials – the 12-hour counter being ‘Intrepid Teal’ and the 15-minute regatta counter having segments in Intrepid teal, Lagoon Green and Regatta Orange.
Other features drawn from the historic watch include the prominent, triangle shaped markers positioned at five- minute intervals around the outer curved flange, the bright orange central seconds hand and the inclusion of the ‘Skipper’ name at the base of the 12-hour counter.
Interest in the Skipper was revived in 2017 when TAG Heuer collaborated with specialist website Hodinkee to produce a run of just 125 watches that paid tribute to the 1968 model.
Collectors subsequently began to seek-out original versions of the Skipper, some examples of which have since fetched as much as $80,000 at auction.
The new Carrera Skipper, however, promises to be considerably more attainable following its July launch as part of the core collection – and the watch that will serve as the ‘flagship’ for a whole series of further maritime models that will mark TAG Heuer’s return to the world of yachts and yachting.