The America’s Cup is one of the oldest international sporting events with the “Auld Mug” as the trophy ewer is known, first having been awarded by the Royal Yacht Squadron to the yacht America (for which the Cup was named)in 1851. The arcane nature of the rules (the Cup takes place at irregular intervals and only when a challenging team is deemed to qualify) as well as the very high costs of participation have kept it from wider public appreciation but within the yachting community there is no competition more keenly watched.
The Cup is essentially a two horse race, with the holder of the Cup defending it against a single challenger. After a round of qualifying races (the Louis Vuitton qualifiers; the case for the Cup is made by Louis Vuitton as well) the challenger is selected from amongst the competitors in challenger playoff races. This year the defender was Oracle Team USA, representing the Golden Gate Yacht Club, and the challenger was Emirates Team New Zealand.
In what was widely seen as a major upset (Team New Zealand was nearly done in at one point by a funding shortage) this year the challenger won, with ETNZ taking the Auld Mug in triumph back to Auckland. It remains to be seen whether New Zealand can retain the Cup as long as the record holder: the New York Yacht Club successfully defended the Cup for a jaw-dropping 132 years.
The win by ETNZ didn’t just ensure that traveling to the next America’s Cup will be dramatically more expensive for anyone in the Western Hemisphere who wants to watch; it also comes at a watershed moment for the Cup. For decades dominated by single-hull 12 meter yachts, the 35th America’s Cup this year had competitors sailing hydrofoiling multihull boats with underwater wings, that have sails 77 feet high, an onboard crew of 6, and which can hit speeds of up to 50 miles an hour. (This is not the first time that multi-hull yachts have competed in the Cup but it is only the second time that hydrofoils have competed, with the AC72 class having raced in the 2013 America’s Cup).
Such speeds create considerable danger as well; 12 meter yacht racing was never a particularly safe or sedate sport but the sheer speed the new AC50 (AC stands for America’s Cup) yachts can reach are unprecedented in sailing and crews must wear Kevlar body armor and helmets, as well as carry air canisters should they be trapped under a capsized yacht (such an accident claimed the life of Artemis Racing crew member Andrew Simpson in May of 2013).Hydrofoils when “foiling” with both hulls above the water are so unstable that simply crossing the wake of another yacht can cause a hydrofoil to capsize.
Such a sporting venue is one that can command a great deal of international attention and Omega was a major sponsor of ETNZ this year (it has partnered with Team New Zealand since 1995) with the company’s logo prominently featured on the yacht. The America’s Cup yachts have drawn many analogies from their design to the world of Formula 1 and the comparisons are apt; both now feature extremely technically and technologically driven designs that are both constrained by rules and are also a dramatic departure from normal transportation considerations.
As such it’s also a great place to launch new products or variations on existing products and against the backdrop of the Cup (held in the waters off Bermuda this year) Omega launched new versions of the Planet Ocean GMT, and the X-33.
The Omega Planet Ocean “Deep Black” GMT is a quite large watch at 45.50mm x 17.38mm, with a water resistance of 600 meters. It’s a combination of many of Omega’s most cutting edge features in a dive watch LiquidMetal numbers on the zirconium dioxide ceramic bezel, a helium escape valve, zirconium dioxide case and caseback and inside of course, one of the industry’s most technicall advanced mechanical movements. This is the Omega Co-Axial Master caliber 8906, running at 25,200 vph with a 60 hour power reserve, and featuring a co-axial escapement, with silicon balance spring, free sprung adjustable mass balance, and a resistance to magnetic fields of up to 15,000 gauss strength (and probably considerably in excess of that).
The ETZN branding is confined to the Team’s logo on the caseback and the general color scheme of the watch. One feature worth pointing out is that the bezel has a ten minute countdown scale on it, which facilitates using the Deep Black as a regatta timer in any race with a ten minute countdown before the start.
The other watch introduced at the 35th America’s Cup is the X-33 Regatta. This is a regatta specific version of Omega’s most practical and capable modern aerospace watch, the X-33. This version is slightly different from the pilot/astronaut version of the X-33 in that it doesn’t have the 999 day mission timer function; instead, there is a regatta function dedicated to the 4th pusher which will count down a chosen interval before the start, and which will then count up for a total elapsed time for the race. In addition the LGB (logbook) function allows the recording of time between up to 10 buoys in up to 2 races total.
As with the Planet Ocean Deep Black ETNZ branding is fairly minimal, again confined to the color scheme and on the back of the watch, the ETNZ logo. This is a limited edition of 2,017 pieces world wide; the movement is a high accuracy TCXO (temperature compensated quartz oscillator) caliber 5620, with nine jewels (in the mechanical train for the analogue hands) with a 24 month battery life. The case is grade 2 titanium, with a ceramic/titanium bezel ring, 45mm x 15.09mm. X-33s are notable for the loudness of their alarms; they were specifically designed to allow alarms to be audible even in a noisy cockpit and there are apertures in the caseback to allow the egress of sound. However due in part to these apertures water resistance is only 30 meters; perhaps slightly problematic for a watch intended to be used in an aquatic environment, but probably adequate as long as you are not in a yacht race and find yourself sinking to a depth of 30 meters (God forbid).
Both watches were worn by ETZN crew members. The Speedmaster X-33 Regatta ETNZ Limited Edition is $5,900; the Seamaster Planet Ocean Deep Black GMT Co-Axial Master Chronometer ETNZ is $11,200. Both are currently available and you can find out more about the Auld Mug, Emirates Team New Zealand, and Omega’s partnership with them right here.