Again, the start of an regatta is a hot thing, all the boats crossing behind an invisible line and try to be on this line at the starting signal. The visibility of the time needs colors – so the balls are colored and the subdials like on the Skipper too.
At first there were the stopwatches produced as yachting versions with different countdown times: 5, 10 and 15 minutes. As some stopwatches for some reasons were put on the wrist with straps it was a matter of time to put the function in wristwatches.
There are 2 “big” methodes of showing an countdown of 5 or 10 minutes before an sailing regatta starts.
1. Visualisation in a subdial with different register (colors, numbers, special bezel)
2. Visualisation with 5 balls with different colors (mostly white/red/blue)
It is realized with a coloured indicator disc turning as countdown and showing the colors from start of the countdown to the start of the race. Simple and very good readable.
The “5 balls” Yachtings
1914 – that means exact 100 years 5-balls! …some historical facts
The countdowns are shown as normal subdials on the dials of these yachting stop watches or with special hands showing the minutes. On the different possibilities of showing the countdown with the rotating indicator disk with the 5 balls (holes in the dial to show) showing the change of color for every 1 minute of the 5-minutes countdown was developed (and registered as patent with model registration above) by Berna 100 years ago.
The patent for the first 5-balls in 1913 was given to BERNA WATCH Co., St.-Imier. It was in 1914 the first sold yachting stopwatch with 5-balls changing the colors for the starting sequence of a regatta.
The first known Berna “in flesh” we know and that´s shown on Marks page should be from around 1930´s, as the spare-parts compartment was added under the influence of Leonidas.
Now we need some business facts!
Berna was created in 1864 and became Droz et Cie in 1887. Berna than was the name of one of their watch models. Around 1905 the company changed its name to Frabrique d’Horlogerie Berna S.A. and later in 1908 it became Berna Watch Co.
Watch-manufacturer Ferdinand Bourquin (1845-1903), sun of Julien Bourquin (1815-1897) as founder of the watchcompany around 1841, officially registered the name “LEONIDAS” in 1902 as brand for watches. He built different stopwatches and got some patents (for instance here).
1911/12 Leonidas was bought by Constant Jeanneret-Droz, the new name of the factory was: “Leonidas Watch Factory, Jeanneret-Droz”.
What a history!
Interesting fact and link to another famous watch-builder of (yachting) watches: Constant Jeanneret-Droz is one of the three sons of Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret (1830-1892) – the founder of the company which is the predecessor of Excelsior Park. First the brothers had a own manufacture named “Jeanneret Frères” and split around 1900. Constant did his own manufacture and take over the Leonidas and the brother of Constant – Henri Jeanneret-Brehm – founded his own manufacture too at the same time: the later Excelsior Park. Excelsior was the name for the stopwatches and later for repeater watches and became the name of the company around 1918. In the cooperation with Gallet they created some great yachting watches.
1916 Constant Jeanneret-Droz died and his sons Charles and Ernest Jeanneret became the owner of “Leonidas Watch Factory, Les Fils Jeanneret-Droz”
Due to economic issues Berna was bought in 1928 by Charles Jeanneret, one of the owners of Leonidas. They kept using the Berna brand mainly for stop watches and chronographs. In the 1950’s the Berna brand name disappeared when Leonidas joined Heuer later.
In the 1930´s Leonidas shows their first yachting timer on a advertisment and here is the first branded Yachting Timer from around 1950, realized with a caliber Venus 120 (using since 1949) modified with a regatta module they developed for it.
1964 the companies Leonidas Watch Factory and Ed. Heuer were merged to “Heuer-Leonidas S.A.” – with Jack Heuer as president. Some time after that watches was produced under the brand HEUER-LEONIDAS. After the merge with TAG in 1985 the brand LEONIDAS was not used anymore.
So this prove the great historical skills of Heuer for building yachting timers.
Source and inspiration for the company history line:
For a long time Marks “Grail” was the early Leonidas Yachting Timer – seems to be the first regatta timer with the 5 balls on the dial in the former history of Heuer. Maybe he changed his mind after the discovery of the earlier Berna Yachting Timer in August 2014 and have now 2 grails 😉
Source of the text and pics: big thank to Mark Reichardt and Joel Pynson to figure out the first 5-balls stopwatch from Berna. Read all on Marks page here.
1960´s – the Felsa 4000N movement and the first Heuer 5 balls Regate
The grandmother of the 5 balls is the Aquastar Regate with the Felsa 4000N movement. It is modified with a special drive wheel for the colordisc.
This watch was branded with the Heuershield too, starting with the partnership from Heuer with Aquastar in the middle of the 60´s.
Since then Heuer sells 5 balls Regatta-watches under his brand, all produced by Aquastar and later with using the Autavia-Cases by their own production.
And Heuer starts the marketing for that Aquastar Regate, labeled with the Heuershield.
The Heuer Aquastar Regate “INTREPID”
The proof of using a Heuer watch for the regattas seems to be the find of an Aquastar Heuer Regate “Intrepid” on eBay in 11/2014. The serial on the back are in line with other known Heuer Aquastars, the main hands may be changed but the seller said: <<According to the person I bought this from: “He confirmed that his father received the watch as a gift from Heuer. His father was one of the crew members on the trial horse for the Intrepid. His father was a skipper on the 1967 Constellation.>>
Jack Heuer stated in his biography “Jack Heuer – The Times of My Life” that Heuer did equip the crews in the summer of 1967.
Here is a read about the relationship:
“…, we were to have another interesting public relations event in the US in the summer of 1967. Doug Grewer, the Vice-President
of Sales of our US subsidiary HT C and also our US Country Manager, lived on Long Island Sound and was active not only in car rallying but also in yachting. He had arranged for Heuer to equip both boats competing in the 1967 America’s Cup with various Heuer-Leonidas “Regatta” watches and Heuer pocket chronographs. The defending U.S. boat was the Intrepid, skippered by Emil “Bus” Mosbacher who had used several models of Heuer timers throughout Intrepid’s successful summer campaign to be selected
as the Cup’s 20th defender. Doug drove up to Newport, Rhode Island, and was photographed on Intrepid presenting Heuer yachting chronographs to the skipper and his crew.
I was to visit Newport myself in 1970 when I presented Heuer pocket chronographs to the crews of Australia’s Gretel II and Baron Bich’s France as they battled each other in trials for the right to be the challenging boat in the 1970 America’s Cup. Marcel (“Baron”) Bich had made his fortune with the BIC brand of disposable ballpoint pens and was bankrolling the French attempt to be selected as the challenging boat. We had prepared two press releases in advance to allow us to respond rapidly as soon as the winner became known (the Australians, as it turned out).”
And there are 2 pics of the crew with Bus Mosbacher from Bettmann collection by GettyImages available showing the Skipper and the crew – the one guy in front is definitely wearing the Heuer Aquastar Felsa 4000N, it seems 2 other crewmembers too. Need to clear the rights for using the pics before showing here. You find them on gettyimages here and here.
Roll call of the Heuer Aquastars!
Here you find the known serials of the rare Aquastar Heuer Regate with the modified movement Felsa 4000N:
|Heuer Aquastar Regate (Felsa 4000N)||Special|
1970´s – the Lemania 1345 movement (build in Aquastar Regate, Tissot, Omega, Heuer, Lemania)
Beginning of the 1970’s one of Lemania’s star designers Albert Piquet developed the regatta caliber 1345 for Aquastar, based on their patent for a 10 minutes countdown timer. The regatta caliber 1345 is derived from the 1341 movement, and is the successor of the first regatta movement, the caliber Felsa 4000N (by the earlier 5 minutes count-down timer patent from Aquastar from the 1960’s).
After the introduction of the Aquastar Regate the Lemania 1345 movement comes available for other brands as well. Several case versions of the Regatta Yachttimers are sold by Aquastar and Tissot. In the 1980’s also Omega, Heuer and Lemania itself used the 1345 movement in different regatta watches.
Whats going on with Heuer?
In 1983 the first 5balls-Regattawatch was launched – the 134.505, with a 10min countdown shown with the 5 balls. Two versions: black and nickle dial. And they launched the hottest of the Heuer 5 balls – the 134.601 Regatta in a Autaviastyle case. That one comes in 3 colors: black PVD, green military PVD (134.602) and grey (134.603).
Stewart from heuerville.co.uk shot the whole sentence of countdown and you find the pictures here.
Two other 5 balls are launched – the wrist-stopwatch 202.515, a nice and good to wear on the wrist Regatta-Timer with 30metres waterresistance. Interesting is the fact, Mark told me – it seems to be an Lemania builded watch which is labeled by Heuer and Aquastar.
And the only stopwatch with 5balls was launched: the Yachting Timer 658.915 with 62mm size. Btw this timer also come to the market labled with Lemania.
1984 Heuer shows in a catalogue the whole world of Heuer 5 balls Regatta watches.
The Autavia-case Regattas in the three colors with color-fitting steel bracelets and the two versions of the more elegant Regattas: the 134.505 with goldplated bezel and black dial and the 134.500 with steel bezel with goldplated screws and silver dial. This are equal to the Lemania Ref. 2001, 2006 and 2007 – just without the bezel and different bracelets.
Interesting too is that there is (08-2014) one of the reference 2007 without bezel but with Heuer-Shield on the dial available on chrono24…
With the same principle of the coloured indicator disc some other yachting stopwatches are invented: Memosail with Valjoux 7737 working with a disc showing numbers and the word “START”, Yema build a watch with a very nice indicator disc as subdial in the later Yachtingraf Valjoux 7733S.
Starting in the 1980´s with the digital quartz movements there were some yachting watches available by Seiko and with the upcoming renaissance of the mechanical movements the luxury brand like Audemars Piguet, Bulgari, Girard-Perregaux and of course Tag Heuer etc. brings some fancy yachtings on the market.
There are some nice companies too specialized in yachting watches only like Alpina, Atlantic, and TNG producing all the time good readable regatta watches.
You can read much more about the vintages and the “new stuff” on the site of my friend Mark Reichardt – he is collecting lots of material since years about Regatta-Timer from Vintage to the new ones
More to read?