Before wrist watches were used as an aid to start a sailing regatta, this was done with handheld mechanical stopwatches. At the beginning of the 20th century, brands like Breitling, Excelsior Park, Leonidas and Le Phare all developed a Yachting movement with a 5 minute counter, and a sweep hand counting the seconds backwards from 60 to zero. These movements were used in various other watch brands as well, eg. Gallet, Heuer and The Paget. Later versions of the Yachting stopwatches had a 10 or 15 minute countdown, and some models could be worn around the wrist with a strap.
Abercrombie & Fitch
In 1892 David T. Abercrombie started a small waterfront shop in New York, USA, under the name ‘David T. Abercrombie Co’. In 1900 Ezra Fith became his partner, and in 1904 the company’s name was changed into ‘Abercrombie & Fitch Co’. From the beginning the company was specialized in outdoor clothing and excursion products, and offered top-quality gear for hunting, fishing, camping, safaris, climbing, driving, flying and other outings, calling itself ‘Greatest Sporting Goods Store in the World’.
Page 29 from the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog, summer 1957.
In the mid 1940’s Heuer began producing watches and stopwatches for Abercrombie & Fitch, mostly with a special feature (of which the Seafarer chronograph is the most well-known). The summer 1957 catalog shows a ‘Yacht Race Timer’ stopwatch with a 5 minute countdown.
Three different versions of a Abercrombie & Fitch yachting stopwatch.
Aristo / Apollo
Aristo’s history began in 1907, when watchmaker Julius Epple founded the ‘Julius Epple K.G.’ (officially registered in 1936). in Pforzheim, Germany. Later the name changed into ‘Aristo Uhren- und Uhrgehäuse Fabrik’ and again later into ‘Aristo Watch GmbH’ .
At first Aristo used movements from Glashütte and Urofa, but in 1934 the movement factory Maurer & Reiling was taken over and Aristo started to produce their own movements (signed JE for Julius Epple).
Other sub-brands by Aristo that released a Yachting Timer stopwatch were for example Apollo (registered in 1927) and Aristo-Park, both registered by Aristo Import Co. Inc., New York USA, for the American market. You can download page 293 from the 1930’s Sporting Goods Journal Book here, where Aristo Import Co. is offering their Aristo-Park No. 3 Yachting Timer with 5 minute countdown. With a special attention to the build in box in the movement concontaining 8 useful spare-parts.
Apollo Yachting Timer, 4 different versions with old and new Apollo logo. Third model with a caliber BFG 411 movement, engraved Apollo Import Co.
Balma / Balmaster
Balma Yachting Timer with unknown movement.
Balmaster Sports Yachting, but no countdown. Second one with a countdown of 15 minutes. And a version branded Beauwyn Sports Yachting.
In 1899 Arnold Baumgartner founded his watch-movement factory ‘Manufaktur Baumgartner’ in Grenchen, Switzerland. The company first specialised in producing cheap movements. When both his brothers Ernest and Emil joined one year later, the company name was changed into ‘Baumgartner Frères’.
After getting several patents in the years to follow, the company became successful and changed to a partnership in 1916, thus changed the name into ‘Baumgartner Frères S.A.’ In 1926, together with some 25 other manufacturers of watch movements (like Landeron, Lémania, Valjoux, Venus), Baumgartner joined the Ebauche S.A. holding company.
As of 1962 the Baumgartner company does stamp their movements with the BFG logo and its caliber number, which obviously makes their age easier to determine. In the years to follow Baumgartner became successful in particular with the production of many Roskopf movements. At least four of their calibers (611, 411, 412 & 417) were used as Yachting Timers, not only by the bigger brands as described in this overview, but also by numerous smaller watch brands.
Berco-stop Yachting Timer (BFG411?).
Chesterfield Yachting Timer, with the BFG 611 movement signed Chesterfield Watch Ltd.
Chesterfield Yachting Timer, with the BFG 611 movement signed Dolmy Watch Ltd – RC167.
Chronosport Yachting Timer (BFG411?).
Two times Commodoor Yachting Timer, with different crown and dial, with a BFG 417 movement. The inside of the caseback is stamped ‘Wakmann Watch Co’.
Degon Yachting and Huntana Yachting Timer (both BFG?).
Dolmy Yachting Timer with a caliber BFG 611. Both the case and movement are engraved ‘Dolmy Watch LTD’.
Dolmy Yachting Timer with a caliber BFG 411, alternatively branded Chesterfield-Dolmy.
SR Eurastyle Yachting Timer with caliber BFG 411, two slightly different dials.
Fuldex and Presta, both for Yachting and Rowing, with a ‘strokes per minute’ scale (BFG?).
Hoffritz Yachting Timer (BFG411?).
Levrette with a caliber BFG 417.
Luxa Yachting Timer (BFG411?).
Star Yachting Timer, with slightly different dials (BFG411?).
Thalco Yachting Timer, different dials and hands, with a caliber BFG 611 signed E. Schlup – Abrecht.
Tim Yachting Timer with a caliber BFG 611 special movement.
Tim Yachting Timer with slightly different dials.
Velona Yachting, caliber unknown. To be worn around the wrist.
Wakmann Yachting Timer, with a caliber BFG 411 movement. The caseback of this stopwatch is marked Dolmy Watch Ltd.
In 1961 Wakmann registered the brand name Dynameter. Here the Yachting Timer with ref. 209 (BFG411?).
Breitling / Montbrillant
In 1884 the young Léon Breitling, at the age of 24, manufactured his first counter chronograph at his workshop in Saint-Imier, Switzerland. He had founded a small watchmaking firm called ‘G. Léon Breitling’, and specialized himself to the field of chronographs and timers. These precision instruments were intended for sports, science and industry.
In 1892 Léon Breitling moved the company to La Chaux-de-Fonds to larger production facilities. The company name is then changed into ‘G. Léon Breitling SA, Montbrillant Watch Manufactory’ after the street name Rue Montbrillant of the new location. Due to some disagreements with relatives about Breitling as a brandname, the company used the name Montbrillant as brandname (registered in 1899).
When Léon dies in 1914, his son Gaston takes over. And his son Willy takes over the company in 1932, after Gaston died in 1927. In these years Breitling still focussed on chronographs for sport and military purposes, and especially the chronograph for aircraft was developed.
The Paget 5 minute Yachttimer with an early Montbrillant movement.
Two unmarked yachting stopwatches in the 1923 Montbrillant catalogue.
It was not until the end of the 1920’s that the name Breitling began to appear on the dials, later on followed by serial numbers.
As of the 1930’s Breitling no longer produced movements by their own, but instead the company used calibers from Felsa, FHF, Venus, Unitas, etc. that were refined in their own factory.
Read more about the later Breitling Yachting wristwatches in the Brand list here.
Two versions of a Breitling The Leader with an unmarked Montbrillant movement, resembling the ones in the 1923 Montbrillant catalogue. The second one has the name Breitling on the dial and is probably from around 1925. Both stopwatches have the name Benzie of Cowes on the dial.
Benzie of Cowes, established in 1862 as The Yachtsman Jeweller, still there on 61 High Street, Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
Breitling Tel-Rad ref. 1575 with a red countdown scale for 60 seconds in de center. With a Valjoux 362 movement. Circa 1959.
Yachting Breitling ref. 1509 with caliber Valjoux 321, circa 1960’s.
Yachting Breitling with caliber Valjoux 320, circa 1970’s.
Breitling Sprint Yachting with caliber BFG 411, ref. 1.410, dated 1971.
Breitling Yachting Timer, dated 1972. With ‘Sprint’ (left, ref. 04560) or ‘7 Jewels’ on the dial.
Chronosport wrist stopwatch with caliber Valjoux 7770, circa 1980.
Chronosport Startmaster with one pusher.
Chronosport Yachting with 15 minute countdown in an ABS case, with different case-backs.
The history of Excelsior Park starts in 1866 when Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret and his partner Francois Fallet established their watch company ‘Jeanneret & Fallet ’ in Saint-Imir, Switzerland. They produced mainly stopwatches and chronographs.
Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret had three sons: Albert, Henry and Constant, who all came to work for the company. When Fallet left the company, it was renamed into ‘J.F. Jeanneret & Fils ’. But already before Jules-Frédéric died, Albert and his brothers started their own company ‘Albert Jeanneret & Freres ’ in 1889.
In 1891 the brand name Excelsior was registered by Albert Jeanneret & Freres, as he patented (No 3364) a sports stopwatch under that name showing on the movement side a bridge in the shape of a J (for Jeanneret) which will become a trademark for Excelsior Park later. You can download the Swiss patent No 3364 here.
Two years later, in 1893 Albert left the company to continue with Fritz Moeri, and Henry and Constant went on as ‘Jeanneret Freres ’. The remaining brothers split up around 1900. Constant started ‘Constant Jeanneret-Droz ’, and he would later buy Leonidas. Henri started ‘Henri Jeanneret-Brehm ’, with the brand name Excelsior Park. In 1918 the company’s name becomes ‘Les Fils de Jeanneret-Brehm, Excelsior Park ’.
In 1922 Excelsior Park patented a small box inside a movement to put spare parts in. That would also become a kind of trademark for the brand. This idea however has been copied by Leonidas and Berna in particular.
In 1923 ‘Les Fils de Jeanneret-Brehm, Excelsior Park’ registered the Park brandname and the ‘Park Watch Import Co’ company for the American market.
From 1918 through 1983 Excelsior Park manufactured a wide range of stopwatches, branded watches and watch movements for Certina, Gallet, Girard Perregaux and Zenith. They manufactured two yachting movements derived from their calibers JB 1 and JB 2, mainly used for themselves and for Gallet. In 1984 the activities stopped as result of a bankruptcy.
Excelsior and Excelsior Park Yachting Timer.
Four times Excelsior Park Yachting Timer, all with a caliber JB166 movement. Three different crowns and slightly different dials; version 4 to be worn around the wrist.
Left: Park Yachting Timer with 5 min countdown. Movement unknown. Right: Dial branded A. Lecoultre, with a JB166 movement marked ‘Park Watch Co”.
See here (version 20170502) for an overview of some different Yachting models with an EP movement. And here you can download some pages from the 1950 catalogue, showing the JB 1 and JB 2 movement, specifications on the spare-parts box in the movement, and the various Excelsior Park Yachting Timer models at the time.
Gallet / Security / Select
Gallet is the world’s oldest Swiss manufacturer of timekeeping applications, dating back to 1466 when Humbertus Gallet settled in Geneva as a clock maker. As of then the company went on as a family run business. In 1826 it was officially registered as ‘Gallet & Cie ’ by Julien Gallet, who moved the company from Geneva to La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.
Best well known during the 20th century became its line of MultiChron chronograph wristwatches. On their website Galletworld.com they claim to have made the world’s first Yachting stopwatch with a regatta countdown timer in 1915. But I doubt whether this is true (see The Holy Grail section here).
Gallet MultiChron Yachting Timer, both as hand- and wrist-stopwatch.
In 1911 Gallet started to cooperate with Henri Jeanneret-Brehm, and when he started the Excelsior Park brand in 1918, the Gallet company started to focus on the American consumer using EP movements. Léon Gallet’s sister had married Jules Racine who had settled in New York, where he would represent the Gallet brand.
But as the American market would prefer their own domestically styled brands, new names (37 totally!) were created. For example Security and Select, both using an EP stopwatch movement. In later Yachting models movements of Baumgartner Frères were used.
Gallet ad with two of their Yachting stopwatches, and two wristwatches of a later date.
Gallet Yachting Timer, with a caliber EP 1 movement.
Gallet Yachting Timer with 5 minute countdown.
Gallet Yachting Timer with 15 minute countdown. Left with a different crown and ring, and a slightly different dial. Right with the addition ‘by Racine’ on the dial for the American market.
Security Yachting Timer, with 30 minute countdown subdial, movement marked ‘Jules Racine & Co’
Select Yachting Timer with a caliber BFG 611 movement, right with ‘Racine’ on the dial.
Select Yachting Timer, with a caliber BFG 417 movement, and with ‘Racine’ on the dial.
Racine Select Yachting Timer in an ABS case, caliber BFG 417, probably of a more recent date. Right a version to be worn around the wrist with a strap.
In 1882 Johann Adolf Hanhart opened a watch and jewelry shop in Diessenhofen, Switzerland. In 1902 though, the company moved to Schwenningen in Germany, and so Hanhart became a German manufacturer.
In 1920 his sport-loving son Wilhelm Julius Hanhart took over the company, and a few years later in 1924 he started with the production of cheap mechanical stopwatches together with another watchmaker. This turned out to become a great success. From the 1950’s on the company concentrated on the production of mechanical stopwatches, and even today Hanhart is still selling stopwatches for all kind of sporting events.
Caliber tabel in the 1959 Hanhart catalogue.
In their 1959 catalogue, which you can download here, Hanhart shows a single-pusher Yachting stopwatch with a 5 minute countdown, driven by the Caliber 48/Y movement.
Hanhart Yachting with a 5 minute countdown. Three versions with a different logo on the dial.
Hanhart Yachting with a 10 minute countdown and different crown, and a Hanhart Yachting Sportcraft.
Two times Hanhart Yachting in an ABS case and with a 15 minute countdown and a pusher between 10 and 11 o’clock for reset. The left model has ref. number 1217115.
In the 1960’s Hanhart was the first to produce stopwatches with an ABS case. Today, the ‘Hanhart 1882 GmbH’ company is still in operation, and based in Gütenbach, Germany.
Read about the Heuer history in the Brand list here.
One of the earliest listings of a Heuer Yachting chronograph is shown in the 1936 catalogue ‘Chronographs and Timers’ by Ed. Heuer and Co, to be found at Jef Stein his wesite OnTheDash, see here. Shown here is a Yacht Timer with a 5 minute countdown function, ref. 912.
Heuer Yacht Timer, ref. 912, listed in the 1936 catalogue ‘Chronographs and Timers’.
Heuer Yachting, ref. unknown, similar to the ref. 3912 as in the 1959 catalogue (see below). The movement, equal to the one in the above drawing, is clearly marked Ed.Heuer&Co with the Heuer logo.
Since the 1959 catalogue Heuer Yachting stopwatches are shown on a more or less yearly basis, starting with the reference number 33.712 with a 5 minute countdown and an eyelet for a strand, and the reference number 3912 with a 10 minute countdown and a wrist-strap.
The first one has an A.Schild 1564 movement, the second one an A.Schild 736 movement. Later versions of the Heuer Yachting stopwatches use a Lemania, a Valjoux or a Baumgartner Freres movement.
Adolf Schild S.A. (also known as ASSA) was a Swiss ebauche and watch movement maker operation from the 1890’s throughout the 1970’s. The company became one of the largest movement makers in Switzerland by the 1920’s! In 1926 ASSA combined with A. Michel AG and Fabrique d’Horlogerie de Fontainemelon (FHF) to create Ebauches SA. But the quartz crisis in the 1970’s would hit Adolf Schild hard, and to survive it merched with the ETA group. In 1983 Adolf Schild S.A. disappeared from the market.
For a very comprehensive overview of all the Heuer yachting stopwatches that were released between 1959 and 1986, please check the Heuerchrono.com website by Henrik here or the Onthedash.com website by Jeff Stein here.
Heuer ad from 1964.
Heuer Yacht Timer ref. 33.512, with caliber AS 1564, circa 1962. Heuer Trackstar Yacht Timer ref. 603.612, with caliber Valjoux 7710, circa 1976. And Heuer Yachting Timer ref. 603.615, with caliber BFG 411, circa 1980.
Heuer ad in magazine Yachting, November 1984. Showing four Yachttimers, three stopwatches and one chronograph wristwatch.
Ilona Yachting with a 15 minute countdown, movement unknown. See one similar model under Stadion.
The Ingersoll brothers Robert Hawley and Charles Henry started their American ‘Ingersoll Watch Company’ in 1882 in New York City. After initially selling low-cost items as rubber stamps, the first Ingersoll watches were introduced in 1892, and were supplied by the Waterbury Clock Company. In 1896 Ingersoll introduced a watch called the Yankee , setting its price at $1. This made it the cheapest watch available at the time.
In 1904 Ingersoll opened a store in London, Great Britain, and introduced the Crown pocket watch for 5 shillings, which was the same value as $1 at the time. These were produced by a British subsidiary ‘Ingersoll Ltd’ .
Although very successful, the Ingersoll Watch Company went bankrupt in 1921 during the recession that followed World War I, and was then purchased by the Waterbury Clock Company. They sold the London-based Ingersoll Ltd in 1930, making it a wholly British owned enterprise. Eventually this would become the ‘Timex Group USA’ .
Ingersoll Yachtsman with center minute hand and small seconds subdial.
Ingersoll Yachtsman with both minute and second counter from the center.
3 x Ingersoll Yachtsman, branded Henry Jones London EC4, Sowester and Seatimer.
2 x Ingersoll Yachtsman, branded Temsail and Seabord Yacht Timer.
Ingersoll Yachtsman of a bit more recent date.
The brand name Le Phare was first introduced in 1867, when Charles Barbezat-Baillot and Henry Guy started their company in Le Locle, Switzerland, under the name ‘Guye & Barbezat’. They produced complicated watches as chronometers, chronographs and repeaters. Guye died ten years later in 1877, and in 1890 the name of the company changed into ‘Barbezat-Baillot, manufacture La Locloise’.
After receiving several awards at international exhibitions for reliable and affordable repeater watches, Le Phare was so successful that the company changed its name into ‘Manufacture d’Horlogerie Le Phare’ in 1903. The same year the company started to produce stopwatches.
The company specialized itself in producing repetition chronographs, and later Le Phare would become the second largest Swiss producer of chronographs. In 1914 the company was acquired by George Perrenoud, but after the first world war repeater watches became less popular and numerous changes in the management were to follow.
Around 1915 Le Phare has made a regatta movement with a 5 minute countdown, derived from their most popular caliber 114VCC. An unbranded version of the Yachting stopwatch could have been manufactured by Le Phare themselves, but several versions in different cases where launched by The Paget. As a Swiss brand The Paget was registered in 1897 by Weill & Cie, located in La Chaux-de-Fonds (they had an office in London). The brand was transferred to the same company in 1917.
One unbranded and two times The Paget – Tiffany & Co Yachting stopwatch with a 5 minute countdown, all with a Le Phare 114 Special movement, circa 1915.
See here for an overview of some different Yachting models with a Le Phare movement.
Read about the Lemania history in de Brand list here.
In the mid 1980’s Lemania introduced this 5-dot Lemania Regatta stopwatch, ref. 1002, to be worn on the wrist, and driven by a Lemania caliber F10 6280 movement. The indicator disk changes from blue to red to START, which makes it a 10 minute countdown timer.
The same Lemania F10 6280 movement is used in similar versions by Aquastar, Heuer and Omega.
In the same period, mid 1980’s, Lemania introduced this big size Ø 60 mm hand-stopwatch with ref. 1001, again using the 5-dot countdown system. The indicator disk is equal as in ref. 1002, and changes from blue to red to START. Inside is a caliber BFG 412 movement, which was also used by Heuer for a similar version (ref. 658.915).
Pictures from a Danish watersports brochure.
Lemania 1 ATU. with a 10 minute countdown, and a similar version as Tissot Navigator, with a strap to be worn around the wrist. The access to the movement is possible by taking of the glass. To do so you have to take off the crown, and blow air-pressure in untill it pops out. All as instructed on the case-back. The movement is a Lemania caliber 4100 (labeled as Tissot 4100 in the Navigator).
Leonidas / Sportex / Arco / Clebar
In 1841 the Swiss watchmaker Julien Bourquin opened his workshop under his own name in Saint-Imier. When he died in 1897 his son Ferdinand took over, and renamed the company into Ferdinand Bourquin, Successeur de la Maison Julien Bourquin. Specialised in stopwatches and chronographs, Ferdinand Bourquin registered the Leonidas brand name in 1902.
After Ferdinand Bourquin died young (1903), his widow joined with Constant Jeanneret-Droz, one of the three sons of the Excelsior Park founder Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret. In 1910 the company was renamed in the Leonidas Watch Factory S.A., and finally Constant Jeanneret-Droz took over completely in 1912. As he brought the necessary know-how Leonidas produced quit outstanding chronograph movements.
Although Excelsior Park first came up with the idea of a small compartment in the movement with spare parts, Leonidas changed the design and registered their ‘invention’ in 1929, see the Swiss patent CH131402 here.
See for an early 5-dot Yachting stopwatch from around the 1950’s in the Holy Grail section here.
In 1964 Leonidas merged with Ed. Heuer and becomes Heuer-Leonidas S.A. with Jack W. Heuer as managing director. But after Heuer became TAG Heuer in 1984, the name Leonidas disappeared completely.
Leonidas Yacht-Timer, ref. 603612 with white dial, and with black dial. Movement probably Valjoux 7700.
In 1944 Leonidas registered the Sportex brandname, using the cheaper Roskopf movements. After the merge with Heuer, Heuer-Leonidas used the better Baumgartner Frères movements and sold the Sportex stopwatches amongst others in the USA. Most likely the brand Danforth was related to Heuer-Leonidas as well.
Sportex Yachting Timer, with a caliber BFG 411, with white or black dial.
Also in 1944 the brandname Arco was registered by Leonidas, and later on in 1958 Clebar.
Arco Yachting Timer, 2 versions with slightly different dials.
Clebar Yacht-timer, movement unknown. Circa 1960’s.
In 1858 the brothers Hyppolite and Charles-Yvon Robert founded the company H. & C. Robert in Villeret in the Bernese Jura, Switzerland. In 1878 their sons Charles and Georges took over the management and in 1885 also Yvan Robert joined. The company’s name then changed to Robert Frères Villeret. The company began registering several brand names, for example ‘Mercure’, ‘Ariana’, ‘ Tropic’ and ‘Hertha’.
As of 1895 Robert Frères Villeret began with the production of watch movements and pocket watch cases in nickel and silver versions, and in 1908 with chronographs and stopwatches.
In 1923 the brand name ‘Minerva’ was registered, and the company was renamed to ‘Fabrique Minerva, Robert Frères SA, Villeret’ in 1929. The company named (numbered) each major caliber sequentially, starting with nr 1 and so on, preceded by the size. So their first movement was named 18-1.
Minerva’s caliber 19-14 with a 30 minute counter was used in many sports stopwatches. For the Yachting versions only a small modification was necessary to have it with a suitable timer. Exceptional for some of Minerva’s movements is the use of coil springs, see the above picture of the caliber 19-14. You can download a spare-parts list here.
For economic reasons the Robert family left the company in 1935, and eventually in 2006 Minerva is part of Montblanc in the Richemont group.
Minerva Yachting with round crown, in bad condition.
Minerva Yachting, different cases, with later crown.
Minerva Yachting Timer, with additional text ‘The Crow’s nest’.
Read about the Omega history in the Brand list here.
Omega Yachting, with a caliber Omega 9010 movement, 1965.
Omega Yachting ref. 6309, with a manually wound caliber 8010A movement.
Two times Omega Yachting, with a 15 minute countdown.
Seiko Yachting with a Seikosha cal. 9011 (or 1106?) movement. This big size ∅ 57 mm stopwatch has a red (or yellow) canvas strap to be worn around the upper leg. Circa 1960’s.
Smiths Yachting Timer, movement signed Smiths Industries Limited.
Smiths Yachting Timer, another 4 different versions. But the last one shows Made in Switzerland.
Smiths Yacht Timer in ABS case, alternatively branded Sowester.
Stadion Yachting Timer, 3 versions.
Three times Stadion Super with different logo, right with a caliber BFG 411.
Unbranded Yachting Timer worn around the wrist, with unknown movement, 1941.
Unbranded Yachting Timer, dial and caseback marked ‘Camerer Cuss – London’, with unknown movement.
Unbranded, Yachting Timer, different versions. Right with caliber BFG 417.
This stopwatch section of the website is frequently updated, so please visit again!
- Many thanks to Ara Boghigian for sending me the pictures of your Heuer Yachting stopwatch.
- Many thanks to Bob Ryan for sending me the pictures of your Yachting stopwatches.
- Many thanks to Greg Hamilton for your contribution to my collection.
- Many thanks to Manfred Zwehn and Joel Pynson for all your information about the Yachting stopwatches.