11 of the best nautical watches to buy right now

By and large, the "sailing watch" species of timepiece shares the sporty, hefty, water-resistant traits of the diver watch but is further stacked with complications useful to the yachtsman.

Digital models are chock-a-block with esoteric features to help a skipper set his course, and many mechanical ones are equipped with clever countdown timers. In the tradition of the cult-favorite Aquastar Regate, watches with such timers help captains racing in regattas to coordinate clean starts at good speeds.

But when a sailing watch is beautiful, any landlubber with an eye for design will simply appreciate the cut of its jib. Look sharp: Here are 11 new and classic models worth taking on the water.

TNG Classic Tornado Sailing Chronograph

The TNG stands for Tack & Gybe. The jargon lets you know you're in good hands: One of the company's founders, Herbert Dercksen, has medalled multiple times in sailing's Tornado World Championships. Made in Switzerland but designed in the Netherlands, this automatic chronograph has five dynamic dots on its face; beneath the dial, a multicoloured disc spins beneath the windows to serve as a five-minute countdown timer. (When it's running, one circle fully changes colour every 60 seconds.) The??dial is also distinguished by a spiffy tactical-planner layout to aid in navigation. It's a watch for winning a race and heading straight to dinner at the yacht club.

Price: $4060.

Breguet Marine Équation Marchante 5887

The captivating complication here would have been meaningful for the time reckoning of seamen 200 years ago, back when Breguet made chronometers for the French Navy. There are two minute hands here: One tracks "civil time," or "mean solar time," like most every other wristwatch. The other, though, keeps "apparent solar time." The eccentricity of the Earth's orbit and the tilt of its axis account for the difference; every now and then, the sun will be at its highest point in the sky at the same moment your phone reads 12:14 p.m. And with its blue dial and alligator strap, the watch is a conversation piece that gives even landlubbers a lot to gab about.

Price: $311,861 (platinum); $291,016 (rose gold).

Timex Intelligent Quartz Yacht Racer Pro

When the watch is in yacht-racing mode, the large second sweep hand runs in reverse for five minutes, or three minutes, or one minute so that racers can get up to speed and start with a full head of steam – and then, at zero, the chronometer automatically starts and moves forward again. Leave it to Timex to execute a highly affordable example of this familiar complication. And so handsomely, too: We like the way its orange dial harmonises with our life vests. On a related note, this watch is 47 millimetres wide, so be careful not to mistake it for a ring buoy.

Price: $298

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Ulysse Nardin Marine Regatta Chronograph

Like the Timex, this watch is a bi-directional chronograph: You press the 10'clock pusher to set the countdown timer and the two o'clock pusher to start it. Unlike the Timex, it was developed by Swiss watchmakers with the help of Sweden's Artemis Racing team. Plus, it's got a three-day power reserve and long lugs that let its surprisingly elegant rubber strap fit the wrist snugly.

Price: $21,519.

Bremont Regatta AC

Bremont's line of regatta watches – conceived by co-founder Giles English, who has a background in naval architecture – feature an unusually elegant dial. The key detail is the pair of arced countdown apertures at 12 o'clock. Some models also feature a 15-minute count-up window. But if you're going to wear this watch while tipsily spilling rum punch on otherwise dry land, then you'll gladly settle for the one pictured here, with its rose-gold case and alligator strap.

Price: $21,512.

Panerai Luminor 1950 Regatta Oracle Team USA 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Titanio

The Luminor 1950 Regatta Oracle is the official watch of the team defending the America's Cup this year, as produced by watchmakers whose history on the water dates back to the Royal Italian Navy. (And yes, that's Oracle, as in Larry Ellison's tech company.) The team colours on the dial are every bit as sophisticated as the movement, which it shares with the Luminor 1950 PCYC Regatta. Each watch features a tachymeter scale enabling a sailor to measure her average speed in knots by the chronograph minute hand.

Price: $124,227.

Suunto Elementum Ventus

This Finnish brand is a hit among serious sailors, and this hard-to-find steel model – which is far more attractive than some of the company's more, um, functional – looking designs-proves why. Its features include a barometric pressure trend graph, an advanced compass, a storm alarm and, for snorkelling, a depth meter.

Price: $580

Garmin Quatix 3

Another favourite of digital seadogs, this stainless-steel smart watch has a built-in high-sensitivity antenna ready for both GPS and Glonass reception, the Russian equivalent of GPS, which will be extra useful if you take to the seas once Putin rules the world. It's preloaded with marine features that range from the straightforward (tracking speed, water depth, wind data) to the more exotic, fish-catching counter option. There's also a standalone Man Overboard button that lets you save a location at one touch, like dropping a pin at the spot where your first mate tumbled over the bow.

Price: $610

Corum Admiral's Cup AC-One 45 Regatta Watch

Corum introduced its first Admiral's Cup watch, named for a now-defunct regatta, in 1960, and the model swiftly became its defining product. Examples have been available in cases ranging from 26mm to 48mm in diameter, often with the brand's famous nautical-flag design on the dial. The version selected here is more appropriate to a pirate ship than a simple sloop, given its 45mm titanium-alloy case and its black crocodile strap.

Price: $15,597.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II

In 2007, when Rolex created the original Yacht-Master II, the rotating Ring Command bezel proved to be its most compelling function. Using it, the skipper can access the countdown programming and synchronise it with the official race countdown on the fly; the mechanism memorises the programming and, at reset, returns to its previous setting. This year's model edits the display to flourish dashing details, such as a triangular marker at 12 o'clock and a rectangular one at six.

Price: $25,376.

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Check out the gallery up top to see 11 of the best sailing watches to sport on dry land.