The Contessa 32 was designed by David Sadler in 1970 in response to demand for a larger version of his popular Contessa 26, which had been launched by the Jeremy Rogers boatyard 5 years earlier.

The first two hulls were moulded by Jeremy Rogers in the same year. The yacht was an immediate success at the London Boat Show in 1971, winning 'Boat of the Show' and securing numerous orders.

Demand rapidly outstripped production and, while new production facilities were built, the waiting list ran to 2 years. In the next decade, the Rogers' yard built 500 Contessa 32s and when production stopped in 1983, over 700 had been built and sold around the world.

Between 1983 and 1990, an additional 87 were built under licence by J.J. Taylor of Canada after a hull and deck were shipped out and new moulds were made. These 'Canadian Contessas' had several production differences: the tiller was replaced with a wheel, the rig was 3 feet taller, more GRP mouldings replaced wood in the cabins and a "coremat" cored deck replaced the solid deck.

At least 2 other Contessa 32s were built by MacBar Marine in Poole in 1986 and about 15 more were built between 1988 and 1995 by Mike Slack. In 1996, after rebuilding his bankrupt business from scratch, Jeremy Rogers was able to buy back the moulds, restore them and resume production on a bespoke, hand-crafted basis.

The first of these 'new Contessas', Wild Call, was built in 1996. By 2010 another 20 had been built including the Rogers' family boat, Calypso, which was exhibited at the Southampton Boat Show that year. A 2012 update to the specification saw the Contessa being offered in three models, the Pure, Expedition and Classic.