Many sports are reliant on precision timing, but it’s no exaggeration to say that sailing relies on perfect planning and split-second reactions perhaps more than any other. After all, there are very few sports that at their most fundamental seek to outsmart the forces of Mother Nature. A few moments spent watching competitive sailing at the highest level is enough to bring the reality of this home; for those sportsmen on board a 45 metre long racing catamaran, travelling often in excess of 40 knots an hour, skipping over tempestuous waves like a kite, a late tack or momentary misinterpretation of the wind can mean the difference between snatched victory or certain defeat.

This is something, which the extraordinary Land Rover BAR British sailing team is only too aware of. The brainchild of four-time Olympic gold medalist Sir Ben Ainslie, sponsored principally by Land Rover and crewed by some of the finest sailors, strategists, engineers and technical designers on the planet, the team was formed in 2012 with one intention — to win the legendary sailing competition: The America’s Cup. Though the competition is 165 years old this year, and was founded in the UK, a British team has never won the competition, making Ainslie’s objective of returning the fabled trophy to British shores quite possibly his greatest challenge. To help him on his quest, it has been announced that Zenith will be the official timing partner for Land Rover BAR as it attempts to bring the Cup home.

For Zenith to partner with such an endeavour makes perfect sense. For starters, it builds on the manufacture’s new partnership with Land Rover (earlier this year, the two brands collaborated on the El Primero Range Rover Special Edition chronograph, which marked a joint celebration of 1969, the year in which the legendary El Primero movement was born and in which Land Rover launched the original Range Rover — the first ever luxury SUV) and Zenith’s CEO & President Aldo Magada has made it quite clear whilst talking to Revolution that growing long term partnerships with likeminded organisations is key to Zenith’s success. “2016 was an exciting year for Zenith because we announced so many new partnerships. 2017 will be about building on these — now the real work begins.” What is this ‘real work’ as Zenith sees it? “Supporting the Land Rover BAR team and the individuals that make up the team, for example, is hugely important to us,” says Magada.

Of course, the synergies between sailing at this level and fine watchmaking are numerous. Not only is the obvious requirement for accurate timing present, but so too is a joint-interest in pioneering research, technical development and innovation. The sailing boat used by Land Rover BAR is little short of a masterpiece, an aerodynamically perfect carbon fibre structure, fitted with GPS, hydrofoils and state of the art mechanics, whilst the racing team itself is one of the most sustainable on the planet thanks to the efforts made to create an environmentally friendly state-of-the-art base of operations in Portsmouth, England. The team is even currently researching a way to recycle carbon-fibre — a world first.

So too is Zenith characterised by world-beating technical innovations; the reputation of the El Primero movement as the world’s first high-frequency automatic chronograph is of course the stuff of legend, but also is the manufacture’s history of supporting pioneers. An El Primero was strapped to the wrist of Felix Baumgartner during his freefall from the Stratosphere in 2012 for instance. Now, as our Founder Wei Koh pointed out recently, Zenith is making the bold move of contextualizing its timepieces with compelling lifestyle partnerships like those with Land Rover BAR and Range Rover, allowing the brand to take on an entirely new significance to its prospective audience. As Magada explains, “it’s important to us that people understand that you can use Zenith watches in a lot of different environments. We want our watches to be the best companion that they can possibly have in any context.”

Naturally, in partnering with Land Rover BAR, Zenith not only benefits from having Sir Ainslie and all the team as global ambassadors, but also now has a real-world testing environment for its sporting watches. “We want to create the perfect watches for any conditions”, says Magada “sportsmen and ambassadors make the brand better because they help to improve our product. The team helps us to research and pursue elevated performance in our watches.” And what pray tell is the team wearing as they prepare for The America’s Cup 2017, which will take place in Bermuda next May? Naturally, it’s the 45mm El Primero Sport model, housing the El Primero 400B automatic chronograph, with its legendary movement featuring an integrated column-wheel construction and beating at a cadence of 36,000 vibrations/hour. Not that this is the only timepiece that Zenith will be championing in light of this new partnership. Word has it that a new Land Rover BAR El Primero will be launched in a few months’ time, yet another project that places Zenith’s watches in an intriguing lifestyle context.

There can be no doubt that the team’s astonishing success in winning the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series (which precedes the Cup itself) in Japan this weekend just past, was helped in some way by Zenith’s marvelous feats of precision engineering. As Sir Ainslie himself put it whilst speaking with Revolution, “Timing is everything in life. For us, in a competitive environment, it’s critical. Zenith is a pivotal partnership for us as a team; it helps us to maintain our standards.” Of course, this is also a pivotal partnership for Zenith, and marks the latest in a number of inspired moves by the manufacture to demonstrate that fine watchmaking is not just about technical precision, but rather is about the performance of a watch on the wrist of the man who is destined to wear it.

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