Spinnaker Amalfi Yacht Racer 49er

While musing about vintage watch designs last year, I lamented the dearth of good affordable yacht timers. Not because I need to time a yacht, mind you. I just think they look cool. (Hey microbrands, if someone were to make a modern version of the Memosail, I'd be all over that thing.) I dig the nautical motif, bold use of color, and the novelty of a countdown timer. Apparently the folks at Spinnaker thought the same thing and sent me their new Amalfi Yacht Racer 49er for review.

For those who are wondering, a 49er is a high performance, two-person skiff. They have been raced in the Olympics since 2000 and in International Sailing Federation regattas since 1997. Spinnaker sponsors the International 49er Class Association, hence the watch, which is a limited edition of just 250 units. The Amalfi 49er is a multifunction timer powered by a Japanese quartz. Which one, they don't say. Granted, there are only so many possibilities out there, but it irks me when a watchmaker won't provide such basic information up front. Fitting its purpose, the watch ships in a plastic, snap lock container. I did not test if it was water tight, but it did take some physical persuasion to break its seal the first time.


The Amalfi is huge watch; 46mm wide and 14mm thick. It has a screw down crown and is rated for 100m water resistance. The crystal is a common, hardened mineral glass without anti-reflective coating. The case is brushed stainless steel with a polished surface on the tops of the crown guards and on the chamfer that highlights the lugs. Broad, flat chronograph buttons flank a polished, signed, coin-edged crown. The lower button is polished while the upper one is anodized red because, why the hell not? Both buttons have polished, coin-edged collars but they are purely decorative. An engraved case back bears the 49er logo.


The bezel is fixed with a smooth, polished edge, brushed black insert, and engraved numbers. It also features counter-clockwise arrows, which may seem like an odd design choice until you realize the sweephand goes backwards in countdown mode.


There is a good deal of real estate on the 49er's broad face and just about every millimeter is occupied. A top register shows a second time zone, the small seconds is at 9 o'clock, a semi-circular indicator at 6 o'clock shows the mode of operation, the large Spinnaker sail logo and brand name fills the 3 o'clock position, and finally, the date window squeezes in at 4 o'clock. A color blocked tachymetre scale rings the rehaut. It has applied, lumed markers and polished, semi-skeletonized hands with large lumed and painted tips, red for the minute hand and blue for the hour hand. There is a lot going on here. Frankly, more than I would prefer. Yacht timers traditionally use colors as flags for the countdown, but this is a bit overboard - no pun intended. Lume quality is passable, but not very long lived.


On the sample SP-49ER-03, the upper and lower gauges are silver on a black, wave-textured dial. The sweephand and register hands are red except for the white minute hand on the upper subdial. I quickly discovered that it is not the most practical color scheme. The red tends to disappear against the black in anything other than full daylight, a problem shared by the red hands on the gold and black model 05. The yellow hands on the blue model 01 and gray model 04 address this problem. Also, upon the initial unboxing my wife took one look at the high contrast circle and crescent and promptly declared it "a smiling cyclops." I can't unsee that and now, neither can you. For this reason, my favorite is the white dial SP49ER-02; excellent legibility, no happy cyclops.


There are several functions to play with on this watch, and the manual makes them all easy. You've got your stopwatch (1/5th sec) with accumulated elapsed time and split-time functions, second time zone, alarm, countdown timer, and of course, your yacht timer. As that last one is the star, it was the first I tried. Pull the crown to its second position, use the top button to select a 10, 6, or 5 minute countdown on the lower indicator, replace the crown, hit the top button to start. Once activated, the sweephand and small minute hand will move counter-clockwise. Alarms go off each minute, with greater urgency in the last minute and in the final five seconds. Once the countdown is complete, it automatically engages the stopwatch.


The 24mm silicone strap is soft, comfortable, and very red, all of which scored points in my book. Its brushed buckle is a quality piece, showing deep engraving on the frame. Faithful readers already know that The Bum is not a big guy, so it should come as no shock that the 49er dominated my 6.5" wrist. Larger fellows won't have this problem and regardless, the 49er was made for action, not subtlety.


In the end, the 49er is not the affordable yacht timer of my dreams. It is a bit too big, too flashy, and just too much for me; however, it is certainly affordable. You can order one directly from Spinnaker-Watches.com for only $340 and then knock off another 30% with code TTB30. ⬩

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