What Is the Regatta Countdown on Yacht Watches?

A regatta countdown timer is a very specific complication made exclusively for yacht racing and sailing competitions. This complication is important for racers, as they risk a substantial penalty for crossing the starting line too early. While there are certainly other timekeeping methods to keep track of the start time of a sailing race, the intuitiveness, precision, and visibility of a regatta timer can’t be beaten.

In today’s blog, we’ll delve more deeply into the functionality of a regatta timer and some of the best watches that include regatta timer complications.

A regatta timer helps yachter racers and sailors get the timing just right for the start to their race. Unlike a typical motorsport race, a boat can’t simply stay in one place due to the wind in the sails and the water beneath. Thus, there is an invisible start line between two designated buoys. To avoid a penalty, the boats must avoid crossing the starting line until the starting signal is given. Preceding the starting signal, there is a warning signal that notifies racers they have five minutes before the race begins. During this time, the boats will jockey for the best starting position behind the line, maneuvering to ensure they can get a good start. Knowing when the five minutes is up is crucial to getting out of the gates as soon as possible, and a regatta timer is much easier to read than the typical watch timers.

Here is how the countdown signals work for the beginning of a yacht or sailing race:

5 minutes to start: The warning signal of a flag and horn is given to tell racers the five-minute countdown has begun. Skippers can start their regatta timers.

4 minutes to start: This is the second warning flag and horn. The flag will have the rules of the race as part of the signals. Those who started their regatta timers can ensure they’re on track and those who didn’t can begin a four-minute countdown instead.

1 minute to start: The flag changes and a final warning signal is given.

0 minutes to start: The starting flag is waved and the starting signal is sounded.

The regatta timer feature has been around since the 1960s, when a brand called JeanRichard introduced their Aquastar model. The original patent for the rotating bezel timer was submitted by JeanRichard in the 1950s, and the Aquastar Regatta came a little later. This led JeanRichard to change their name to Aquastar S.A. thanks to the overwhelming popularity of their yacht watches.

The Aquastar Regatta would eventually face some competition from the Heuer Yacht Timer. Heuer would introduce several other watch models with yacht timers in the 1960s. Eventually, two of the major luxury watch manufacturers, Rolex and Omega, would enter the yacht watch market. Of course, these two brands are renowned for craftsmanship and innovative design, so they cut no corners when it came to their yacht watches. The Omega Seamaster and the Rolex Yacht-Master are some of the best sailing watches you can buy today.

The prestigious Rolex and Omega brands top our list of favourite luxury yacht watches. Though there are many great alternatives out there, it’s hard to beat these two watchmaking giants and their attention to detail, combined with their luxury materials and impeccable design.

Of course, when suggesting our favourite yacht watches, we have to make sure that the regatta countdown timer is a central and essential feature. With the Seamaster and the modern Yacht-Master II, you can trust you’ll have everything you need for an incredible and precise yacht watch. Let’s take a quick look at these two yacht watches.


The Rolex Yacht-Master is a prestigious watch from Rolex that was released in 1992. However, this watch was, surprisingly, not built for competitive racing. It was a watch built with nautical purposes in mind, but as more of a sailing companion. Thus, in 2007, Rolex made sure to provide a model that would perform all of the functions necessary for competitive racing regattas. The Yacht-Master II would add the programmable countdown time and mechanical memory functions to help skippers get the best start possible during a race.

The Yacht-Master II can easily be synchronized on the fly, and the precision ensures that you won’t miss a beat at the starting line. These watches come standard in a 44mm case size for high visibility, and the Oyster case help provides Rolex’s signature water resistance.

For those looking for a well-rounded watch that is perfectly at home at the regatta and the office, there’s the Omega Seamaster. Many modern models of the Omega Seamaster Chronograph come with the regatta timer, while others are a more standard diving watch. 

One thing you can count on with Omega is that your watch will be equal parts stylish and sporting. The design is subtle and refined enough for the workplace and an upscale night out, while the advanced technology and functionality are up to the challenges of any oceanic adventure. This truly versatile watch is capable of withstanding hundreds of metres of water depth, and, of course, it features the regatta countdown timer.

Timeless Style for Seafaring Adventurers

When you’re in need of a timepiece for your next yachting adventure, sailing competition, or deepsea dive, BQ Watches has you covered. We have an extensive variety of yacht watches and sailing watches available. If you can’t find something you love in our inventory, we’re happy to source a watch for you instead. Get in touch with one of our experts by completing the form below.

BQ's Views - Our Latest Articles

Register Now for Exclusive News and Trade Prices