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 five years earlier.

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

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

Between 1973 and 1990, an additional 87 were built under licence by J.J. Taylor of Canada after a hull and deck were shipped out and a set of moulds produced. These 'Canadian Contessas' have various production differences; the tiller was replaced with a wheel, the rig was made 3 feet taller, more GRP mouldings rather than wood were used in the interior, and a coremat cored deck replaced the solid deck.

At least two 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 the moulds back and, after their restoration, was able to resume production of the Contessa 32 on a bespoke hand-crafted basis.

The first of these 'new Contessas', Wild Call, was built in the same year. By 2010 another 20 had been built, of which the Rogers family boat, Calypso, 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.