A watch firm and an America’s Cup yachting team from the same country sound like quite a winning combination and that is exactly what happened to Ernesto Bertarelli’s Team Alinghi, sailing out of the Société Nautique de Genève back in 2003. Switzerland was the first land-locked nation to hold the Auld Mug (as the world’s oldest sporting trophy is called). Since Alinghi lifted the trophy 17 years ago the nature of yachting has changed substantially. Gone are the old techniques of sail and tack and in are the new forms of “winging” across the water. America’s Cup yachting is to sailing what Formula 1 cars are to motor racing: the cutting-edge materials, design and form that push the innovative envelope on all things nautical.
Alinghi gave up the America’s Cup in 2010 to the Golden Gate Yacht Club and since then have only competed in GC32 yachting. But this year they are back to compete in the 2021 America’s Cup and have co-branded with Omega as their timing partner. In keeping with the technical ethos of the modern-day yacht, the watch’s (approximate) 44mm case is made from black zirconium oxide ceramic, a durable high-tech material that is lighter and tougher than stainless steel.
We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained…John F. Kennedy
The Alinghi logo, a stylized red swirl designed to evoke the letter “a” as well as two boats vying for advantage at the start of a match race, is highly visible on the dial. A sandblasted and anodized aluminium disc on the sub-dial at 6 o’clock spins when the chronograph is running; the subdial at 3 o’clock incorporates four-minute or five-minute tactical time displays for the racing start. Visually the watch is a composition of Alinghi’s trademark black, red, and white colour scheme from the perforated black and red rubber strap to an engraved tachymeter scale for tracking speeds treated with luminous white Super-LumiNova. The red stop/start pusher of the chronograph is also decorated with the Alinghi logo.
The movement (calibre 1865) manual-wind chronograph is visible through the sapphire crystal back. The finishing on the movement’s plates and bridges is inspired by Alinghi’s new TF35 catamaran and using a laser ablation technique creates a honeycomb effect on the mainplate and barrel bridge which evokes the interior of the boat’s carbon hull.
With this latest foray into yachting by Omega and their use of the “dark side of the moon” Speedmaster as the base watch for the Alinghi design elements, I could not help but think of President John F. Kennedy’s speech at Rice University in 1962: “We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained…” Omega is setting sail with Alinghi on terrestrial shores for a similar purpose: new materials and new techniques for their watches.
Words by Dr. Andrew Hildreth