Just like dive watches are rarely used for diving, surveys have indicated that most buyers have never used the chronograph function in their eponymous watch. Yet, the chronograph continues to be among the most popular watches in the market
The chronograph was invented in 1816 by Louis Moinet, the legendary French watchmaker, painter, sculptor, and one-time close advisor to horology pioneer Abraham-Louis Breguet. He coined the term Chronograph as a combination of the Greek words ‘chronos’ and ‘graph’, which translates to ‘time writer’. The writing part refers to Moinet’s earliest conception of the device, which involved a timepiece with a pen attached to its index that marked the length of the lapsed time. He had developed the device for astronomical measurements. It was yet another French watchmaker, Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec, who transformed Moinet’s idea into a full-fledged chronograph that we know now. He developed it for King Louis XVIII to time horse races in 1821. With the coming of aviation in the early part of the 20th century, the chronograph became a must on airplanes, and later, on the wrists of pilots. Similar was the case with car and bike racing. The modern day chronographs, of course, don’t serve such functions, but their popularity as a watch complication has endured and grown over the years. Not surprisingly then, chronographs are an essential part of every new watch collection. Here is our pick of the 12 best chronographs in the market.
JAEGER-LECOULTRE MASTER CONTROL CHRONOGRAPH CALENDAR
Part of JLC’s Master Control collection, this elegant and vintage-looking watch provides a unique combination of a chronograph, triple calendar, and a moon phase. The 40mm case comes in stainless steel and rose gold. The automatic JLC 759 caliber has a power reserve of 65 hours.
BLANCPAIN AIR COMMAND
This watch is a successor to a chronograph that was originally produced by Blancpain in the 1950s for the US Air Force to time their bombing missions. Only 12 pieces were made, making it one of the rarest and most coveted Blancpain watches of all time. Last year, the brand reissued a 500-piece limited edition of the watch, with a similar design and a new movement. The 42.5mm case is made of steel. It features a ratcheted bidirectional pilot’s bezel with a black polished ceramic insert, and luminous hour markers. On the dial, the inscriptions, the scales, the numerals, the pilot-style hands are all near-identical to the original. Powered by the Blancpain caliber F388B movement with a 50-hour power reserve, and a propeller-shaped, gold-coloured rotor that can be viewed through the caseback.
BREITLING NAVITIMER B03 CHRONOGRAPH RATTRAPANTE 45
Besides its striking 45mm, 18K red gold case, the Stratos Gray dial, and the bidirectional rotating bezel with circular slide, this watch stands out for its rattrapante function — a rare complication that allows measurement of two elapsed times in a race simultaneously, with two superimposed central chronograph hands. The split-second pusher, which is housed in the crown at 3 o’clock, serves to stop and restart the split-second hand, allowing the wearer to measure split times or compare the results of several competitors. The manufacture caliber B03 offers a power reserve of around 70 hours.
TAG HEUER CARRERA SPORT CHRONOGRAPH 44 MM CALIBRE HEUER 02 AUTOMATIC
A lighter and sleeker version of the long running Carrera series of chronographs, this watch is powered by the automatic Heuer 02 Chronograph movement, with a power reserve of 80 hours. The 44mm stainless steel case comes in four variations — a classic black dial and black tachymeter bezel, a green dial with a steel tachymeter bezel, and a blue dial with a blue tachymeter bezel. The best-looking one comes with a black dial and black ceramic bezel. There is also a version with an 18K gold crown and pusher.
HUBLOT BIG BANG ‘MILLENNIAL PINK’ CHRONOGRAPH
A men’s luxury watch in pink would have been unthinkable, until now. But Hublot has broken the barrier with this classy Big Bang, made in collaboration with the Garage Italia, the famous Milanese design house set up by Fiat heir Lapo Elkann with the idea of transforming Italian design, and making it more inclusive. This is a gender-neutral watch in a 42mm pink anodised titanium case. It is driven by Hublot’s HUB1280 UNICO Manufacture self-winding chronograph movement, with a 72-hour power reserve. It comes with a pink-knit velcro strap with an anodised aluminium sports buckle.
OMEGA SPEEDMASTER MOONWATCH CHRONOGRAPH 39.7MM CALIBER 321
OMEGA was a part of all six lunar missions through 1972, starting with the moon landing in 1969, which is honoured by the famous Moonwatch. But the 39.7mm stainless steel case of this watch is inspired by the Speedmaster worn by astronaut Ed White, the first American to walk in space in 1965. It is powered by a new version of Caliber 321, which powered every Speedmaster that went to space. The black step dial features the familiar Moonwatch hands, a vintage OMEGA logo, a small seconds sub-dial, a 30-minute recorder, and 12-hour recorder along with a central chronograph hand. The bezel ring is in polished black ceramic with a tachymeter scale in white enamel. Power reserve of 55 hours.
MONTBLANC HERITAGE MONOPUSHER
Inspired by the classic Minerva chronographs of the 1940s and ’50s, the dial of this watch has a vintage feel to it, due to the salmon colour. Despite being in stainless steel, it has a feel of elegance and luxury. As the name suggests, the 42mm case comes with an all-in-one pusher, which means you have less buttons to deal with. Powered by the automatic MB 25.12 movement, it has a power reserve of 48 hours.
LONGINES SPIRIT 42 MM AUTOMATIC CHRONOMETER CHRONOGRAPH
Powered by the columnwheel-equipped L688.4 movement, this chronograph comes in a 42mm steel case. The date display is lodged between the two chronograph subdials. The dial is available in blue, black, or silver. 64-hour power reserve.
AUDEMARS PIGUET CODE 11.59 SELFWINDING FLYING TOURBILLON CHRONOGRAPH
The openworked watch from the latest Code 11.59 collection is a combination of two great mechanisms: a tourbillon, and an automatic chronograph. Comes in a 41mm, 18K white gold case that encloses an octagonal central container lined with a lacquered blue inner bezel. The chronograph sub-counters sit on the fully exposed movement, with the flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock. The Caliber 2952 openworked selfwinding chronograph movement has a power reserve of 65 hours.
GIRARD-PERREGAUX LAUREATO ABSOLUTE ROCK
This most recent chronograph version of the Laureato gets its name from ‘carbon glass’, the material used in making its integrated 44mm case, bezel, lugs, pushers, and crown. Produced by using an extreme compression process at a very high temperature, carbon glass is said to be 100 times more resistant to water than steel. The case also has blue fibres threaded through it, providing each of the 100 limited edition pieces a unique look. The GP03300-1058 automatic movement has a power reserve of 46 hours.
ZENITH DEFY EL PRIMERO 21 CARBON
Part of Zenith’s newly revived Defy range, this watch, in many ways, is one of the defining high-speed chronograph of our times, with the ability to measure timings down to 1/100th of a second. It features a 30-minute chrono counter at 3 o’clock, a 60-second counter at 6 o’clock, and a power reserve indication at 12 o’clock. The sleek new version released last year is entirely in black and grey carbon, speckled with a few red accents. Powered by the El Primero 9004 automatic caliber, with a 50-hour power reserve.
FREDERIQUE CONSTANT FLYBACK CHRONOGRAPH MANUFACTURE
This chronograph with three sub-dials, including a second ticker, a 30-minute totaliser, and a date register, is powered by the FC-760 caliber with a power reserve of 38 hours. The 42mm case comes in two options, gold with brown dial and a brown leather strap, and a silver case with a blue dial and black leather strap. Both versions feature baton indices and luminous hands.