Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Aquastar Regate (Felsa Cal. 4000N)…

Here’s something different, a sailing timer from the Swiss company Aquastar…

(Click pictures to enlarge)

From the early 1960’s onwards, Aquastar were one of the few companies who featured a sailing timer in their line-up, the purpose of which was to give the wearer a visual countdown to the start of a yacht race.

So how does it work? Well as you’d imagine, arranging a standing start for a yacht race can be a bit tricky(!), so two starting pistols are fired; the first 10 minutes before the start, and the second 5 minutes before the start. It’s then up to the crew to ensure that their yacht crosses the start line as close to the start time as possible, but not before.

When wearing the Aquastar timer, on hearing the second pistol you push the reset button, the centre second hand returns to zero and the five ‘minute markers’ on the dial turn red. As the last five minutes of the countdown elapse the minute markers turn slowly back to silver and when all the markers are silver the race is underway. The system works well, as even at a glance you can see how much time is remaining.

Being Aquastar’s first sailing timer the Regate only tracked the last part of the countdown, but in later models the function was enhanced to cover both parts of the countdown, with blue markers for the first five minutes and red for the second.

During the 1960’s Aquastar watches were distributed by Heuer, and in 1965 they went into partnership to develop sailing timers, the Heuer name being added to the dial of subsequent Regates…

(Picture and Heuer information from OnTheDash)

… and in the 1970’s, Heuer went on to develop its own range of sailing timers and continued to offer a mechanical timers in its line-up until the mid 1980’s. Here is a picture from a 1980’s Heuer brochure…

Ok, back to my watch… Although being in decent cosmetic condition, it arrived with several problems; it would only run for a few seconds, the timer didn’t work and the reset button didn’t do anything.

The movement in this watch is a Felsa 4000N, an 18,000bph calibre with both automatic and hand winding. At first glance, it would seem that the timer function is simply a module added to the base calibre. However, further investigation reveals that the changes go much deeper, including a third wheel with an independent shaft allowing for the second hand to be reset. (I hope to cover how the whole timer mechanism works in a subsequent post.) —-> That post has now been written, see here.

It looked as though someone had tried to fix this watch in the past but given up, the timer mechanism had been assembled incorrectly and judging by the condition of the oil it must have been many years ago. Thankfully all the parts were there, so after a thorough clean and some ‘head scratching’ during assembly it was finally back up and running again.

With the mechanical problems solved, a clean up for the case and a new crystal finished the job (It’s a shame that the dial has a few age spots in the lacquer, but on the whole it’s not bad at all)…

If you would like to read more about the Aquastar brand and its history, check out their website here.

Rich.


3 Responses to “Aquastar Regate (Felsa Cal. 4000N)…”

  1. Chris Leyland Says:

    I purchased an Aquastar Regate – Geneve (with the 10 minute count down) back in the 70’s, while racing sailing dinghys.
    It has always performed flawlessly and now in 2011, it is a quick flick or two, it starts right up,a press of the timer reset – the timer and second hand jump to position and begin its 10 minute count.
    Although I haven’t had it serviced recently, as I don’t wear it as my daily watch anymore, It had been regularly maintained by a genuine watchmaker (as opposed to a jeweler) for many years.
    The only replacements have been the band (now a flex stainless bracelet) and a new crystal due to a scratch on the original while competing (You don’t think about your watch too much when leading a race, it is just go, go go…)
    It was expensive back then, (several weeks wages) but worth every cent. It would be approaching 40 years old.

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