Sweet Sailing: TAG Heuer Takes to The Water to Celebrate The Return of The Skipper Classic Sailing Watch

By The Time Place Magazine

Renowned for its decades-long history in sports timing, TAG Heuer has been a very visible presence in motor racing, skiing, horse racing, to the many disciplines of the Olympic Games. However, despite its all-out support for these different sports, it is for the fiercely competitive world of high-level yachting that the brand unveiled one of the best-loved and most distinctive chronographs of all time: the vibrantly coloured and very distinguishable “Skipper”.

Originally made in 1968, the Skipper was a familiar sight on the wrists of professional and amateur sailors alike. Initially based on the celebrated Carrera chronograph, the latter versions of the classic sailing watch used the Autavia case, before the line was discontinued in 1983. Forty years later, the Skipper makes a highly anticipated comeback and is once again inspired by the Carrera chronograph, albeit the 2023 version.

TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper 06
TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper 06

Definitive Details

The new Skipper boasts a case derived from the recently launched “glassbox” Carrera, the design of which lends itself perfectly to the creation of a sailing watch that is not only attractive but also practical. The glassbox extends to the very edge—due to its lack of a bezel—and together with the ingenious curved dial and the ideally placed chronograph counters enables the Carrera Skipper to be superbly legible in all conditions. This is especially important right before the crucial regatta “pre-start” period, before the gun is fired to signal the start of the race.

TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper 03
TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper

Apart from the Carrera’s case design, the Skipper also gets the latter’s 39 mm diameter. Powered by the latest TH20-06 movement with bi-directional winding, which is equipped with an 80-hour power reserve, the sailing watch comes with a high-end, resistant textile strap. Reinvigorated and updated for the 21st century, the Skipper retains its colourful dial and appealing look that came about thanks to Jack Heuer’s involvement with the world’s most historic race: the America’s Cup.

Historical Association

In the 1940s, Jack Heuer oversaw the creation of watches commissioned by high-end sporting goods supplier, Abercrombie & Fitch. The first watch that Heuer delivered was the Solunar that displayed tide times. In the 1950s, this model would then lead to the creation of the more sophisticated Seafarer and Mareographe chronographs

The relationship between Heuer and Abercrombie & Fitch flourished for two decades and by the late 1960s, Jack developed a close friendship with the retailer’s president, Walter Haynes, who then paved the way for Heuer to become 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.

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In line with this partnership, Heuer provided Intrepid with a set of hand-held yachting stop watches and equipped her crew with Aquastar wrist watches equipped with a unique countdown timer featuring a red and white disc that rotated behind a series of five holes for the 1967 America’s Cup match. After an action-packed event, Intrepid successfully won all four races. To commemorate this spectacular achievement, 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.

As a lively representation of this win, Heuer made each of the segments a different colour: vivid orange was used to notify the crew that there was just five minutes to go; green was chosen to represent the colour of the boat’s rigging; while light teal mirrored the colour of Intrepid’s deck. This vibrant and distinctive livery is now being re-used for the new Carrera Skipper.

The circular brushed main dial in Carrera signature blue—a shade that was initially inspired by the colour of the sea—serves as a fitting background to offset the two sharply contrasting subdials: the 12-hour counter in Intrepid Teal and the 15-minute regatta counter boasting segments in Intrepid Teal, Lagoon Green, and Regatta Orange.

Apart from the usage of the same colours, the new Skipper also has other similar features to the original, including the prominent, triangle-shaped markers positioned at five-minute intervals around the outer curved flange, the bright orange central seconds hand, and the rendering of the name “Skipper” at the base of the 12-hour counter.

Back In Demand

A true showcase of TAG Heuer’s prowess in quality watchmaking, the Skipper is but one of the brand’s unique timepieces with a distinct history. The appealing and somewhat youthful timepiece would have been consigned to oblivion had interest not been 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. This seemingly inconspicuous undertaking served as the impetus for watch collectors and enthusiasts to seek out original versions of the Skipper, some examples of which have since fetched as much as $80,000 at auction. Seeing the clamour for one of its discontinued models, TAG Heuer was inspired to take the Skipper out of retirement.

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What was once a long forgotten timepiece has now been given new life, thanks to TAG Heuer’s willingness to cater to the demand from eager watch aficionados and followers of the brand. No longer a distant symbol of the brand’s sailing heritage, the Carrera Skipper will now be part of TAG Heuer’s core collection and will serve as the flagship for a whole series of other maritime models that will mark the brand’s return to the world of yachts and yachting.

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