Sunday, February 27, 2011

G-Shock #8: Americas Cup and the Helly Hansen Gulfman

[Picture Credit Wikipedia]
Americas Cup is a famous match race between yacht clubs. It started in 1851 and was for the first 120 years a race only involving American and British yachts. In the 1970s, the Australians joined followed by the New Zealanders and in the 1990s, it became a real international challenge. After some controversy abort boat specifications in the 1980s, the arrangers settled on a new standardised yacht class, the International Americas Cup Class (IACC) which also meant it was easier to design and build boats to compete for the Cup. The changes brought in a number of new countries and entrants.

In 1992 it was time for the first Japanese entry from the Nippon Challenge syndicate with a boat named the Nippon (JPN 26). The Nippon was designed by Bruce Farr and skippered by Makoto Namba. 1992 was also the start of a new Americas Cup format where the challengers competed in a qualification series called the Louis Vuitton Cup where the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup got to compete with the holder of the Americas Cup. Nippon Challenge did very well in the cup and ended up in third place, just outside of the challenger final.
[Picture Credit Louis Vuitton]
In the 1995 Louis Vuitton Cup the Nippon Challenge syndicate entered two boats, Nippon 94 (JPN 30) and Nippon 95 (JPN 41), again with Makoto Namba as main skipper. The boats were bult in Japan and designed by Ichiro Yokoyama. As in 1992, Nippon Challenge did very well and ended up in 4th place of the challengers.
For the 2000 Louis Vuitton Cup, which is the main theme of this story, things were a bit different for the Japanese team. As in 1992 and 1995, the head and main financier of the syndicate was Tatsumitsu Yamasaki, head of a large Japanese food company but the Asian recession had meant that the syndicate had less financial resources than before with a budget of only 25 MUSD. Also, Makoto Namba, the skipper for the two previous challenges and one of Japans most experienced sailors was lost at sea duning a yacht race in 1997. Instead, the Australian Peter Gilmour with experience from previous Australian challenges was recruited as skipper. Nippon Challenge entered two boats for the competition, the Asura (JPN 44) and the Idaten (JPN 52). The boats was desigend by a team from Tokyo university and again bult in Japan.
[Picture Credit Yamaha]
In the actual racing, Nippon Challenge again excelled and was beaten only by the Italian entry Prada Challenge in the initial round robin series. In the semi finals, Nippon Challenge had some difficulties and ended up in 4th place with the top two boats qualifying for the challenger final. In the final Prada Challenge beat the top US entry AmericaOne but was later defeated by Team New Zealand for the Americas Cup.
[Picture Credit]
Casio had long been engaged in sports sponsoring and was, together with for example Asahi Breweries, Yamaha and Toyota, one of the main sponsors of the 2000 Nippon Challenge where 20 Japanese companies had participated with USD 750,000 each in sponsorship. In connection with the marketing of it sponsorship, Casio issued four watches under the Nippon Challenge brand.

The first and most expensive was a MR-G, the Nippon Challenge Americas Cup (MRG-1001V-4A) introduced in March 1999 and priced at JPY 62,000.
[Picture Credit Casio]
Already in October 1998, Casio had introduced the MR-G Nippon Cup Tactician (MRG-1001T-2) at JPY 62,000 but I cannot find any references to this watch being associated with the Nippon Challenge.
[Picture Credit Casio]
The mygshock wiki also has two versions of a Nippon Challenge 8200 Frogman listed, the yellow DW-8200AC-8T and the grey jelly DW-8200AC-9T. Both of these are noted not to have been released in Japan.

After this very long discourse, we end up at the theme of todays post, the DW-9700NC-8T Nippon Challenge Gulfman introduced in November 1999 for a listed price of JPY 23,000.
Specifications are here:

The 9700NC is a collaboration with Helly Hansen, a Norwegian sports clothing manufacturer. Helly Hansen makes professional specification sail racing gear and has sponsored many sailing teams such as the Ericsson Racing team who won the 2008/09 Volvo Ocean Race. Helly Hansen was also a 2000 America´s Cup sponsor and an official supplier of the Nippon Challenge team.
For a description of the general functions of the 9700 Gulfman, the previous 50gs post on the USLA Gulfman (which came onto the market only a few months previous to the 9700NC) is a good reference.

The packaging on the HH Gulfman is very similar to the USLA version with the fold and arrow style inner box.
The box also has a Helly Hansen Sticker at the front.
And a Helly Hansen / Nippon Challenge sticker under the flap.
The watch looks like a standard Gulfman from the front.
Blue "G" and lettering on the case.
Matched buttons.
Most of the stock pictures show this watch as white but in real life (at least my version and a few others I have seen), it has a slightly grey color. I do not know if this is aging or it this was original. My guess is that it is a bit of both, as there were very few pure bright white G Shocks 10 years ago. To me, the gray color is good as it tones down the watch a bit and makes it more wearable than a pure white watch would be. Most cameras adjust the grey towards white but here you can see the actual color.
Branding theme continues on the strap with the Helly Hansen logo.
And the Nippon Challenge logo.
Strap keeper is standard and color matched.

Case back is normal titanium with a slightly boring Nippon Challenge / Helly Hansen inscription in the center.
Helly Hansen branding continues with the backlight.
To summarise, this is the classic 9700 Gulfman which to me has great functionality and simple but good design. It is wearable due to its realively small size and low weight due to its titanium construction.
The grey/white coloring together with the blue and red accents makes this a sporty and fresh design great for both summer and winter use.

The 9700NC is unusual but not extremely rare and turns up both on auctions and forum sale sites with some regularity. Pricing at NOS level with boxes etc would be about USD 150-200 which is an excellent price for a very nice watch. If you want something to complement the watch, one of the 2000 Nippon Challenge boats, the Idaten, is presently for sale (as the GBR 52) on the website below. No price is listed.

If you want to learn more about the Nippon Challenge and the Americas Cup, there is a book available as well.

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