Watchmaking’s intertwined relationship with the earth’s seas has been central to its evolution over the last three centuries. Following the Scilly naval disaster of 1707, the Parliament of Great Britain established the Longitude Act in 1714, which offered significant financial rewards to anyone who could figure out how to determine longitude accurately at sea.
After years of research, development, and different “sea clocks,” British horologist John Harrison invented the marine chronometer, (now known as the H4 watch), which would retain timekeeping accuracy even during turbulent seafaring voyages. The pioneering marine chronometer not only paved the way for today’s certified chronometer luxury wristwatches but also cemented horology’s continued fascination with nautical life. And one of our favorite of these sailing watches includes none other than the Rolex Yacht-Master. Be sure to read the full article to learn why we love this watch so much.
Without further ado, here are some of our favorite modern watches inspired by the sea.
Patek Philippe Nautilus
Named after Captain Nemo’s submarine in Jules Verne’s novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and sporting a case fashioned after a ship’s porthole, the Patek Philippe Nautilus’ ties to the sea are unquestionable. In fact, Gerald Genta, the man behind the design of the Nautilus, knew that the Stern family (owners of Patek Philippe) was enthusiastic about sailing and the designer no doubt used this as inspiration for the groundbreaking Patek timepiece. The Nautilus made its debut in 1976 and as a large stainless steel luxury sports watch, it competed directly with the (also Gerald Genta-designed) Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch of that time. With a water resistance rating of 120 meters, the Nautilus watch could accompany even the most active of the well-heeled class.
While the Nautilus began as a stainless steel 42mm men’s model with a simple time and date dial, Patek Philippe has continuously widened the assortment of the collection over the years to include precious metal options, different case sizes, versions with complications, and smaller ladies’ models. Today, the sea-inspired Nautilus is one of the most sought-after luxury watches in the market, with demand far exceeding supply.
Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra
In 2002, Omega launched the Seamaster Aqua Terra collection with, as its name suggests, watches inspired by the sea and land. Positioned as an elegant yet sporty watch to be worn every day, Omega doubled down on the Aqua Terra’s nautical association when it introduced the “teak concept” to the watch dials. The vertical lines (later horizontal) of the Aqua Terra watch dials were designed to mimic the wooden decks of luxury yachts.
While a good majority of the Seamaster Aqua Terra collection is made up of 41mm time and date models, Omega does also make larger and complicated versions for intrepid travelers such as GMT models and World Timer editions. There are also the smaller ladies’ Seamaster Aqua Terra watches. The latest versions of the sea-inspired Aqua Terra come equipped with Omega’s latest generation Master Chronometer automatic movements, which are antimagnetic to 15,000 gauss. In true Omega fashion, the Aqua Terra watches come in a generous range of metals, dial colors, and strap options.
Rolex is well known for its assortment of dive watches built for underwater exploration, but the brand also makes nautical-inspired watches housed in the Yacht-Master collection. First introduced in 1992, the Yacht-Master has carved out its space as a luxury sports watch that shares some design traits with the Submariner but with a more tailored touch. Rolex Yacht-Master watches feature Oyster cases water-resistant to 100 meters for those times you want to jump off the boat for a swim in the sea and rotating bezels as a way to measure elapsed time.
The Yacht-Master is one of Rolex’s most diverse collections, featuring a slew of materials, sizes, and design options. There are stainless steel models topped with platinum bezels, full yellow gold models, and Everose and white gold models with black ceramic bezels and black Oysterflex bracelets. Rolex has also made five different sizes of the Yacht-Master (29mm, 35mm, 37mm, 40mm, and 42mm) over the years, and of those sizes, only the three largest are still in production.
Dressier than divers and more rugged than dress timepieces, luxury watches inspired by the sea offer a great balance of timeless style, continuous comfort, and everyday practicality.