The end of the year is fast approaching, so it’s time for us to look back at the best watches 2019 brought to the watch community. And there were a lot of interesting novelties. So, we reunited the MONOCHROME team, debated and we today we start our “Best of 2019” series, looking at the five best chronographs of the year – in our opinion, that is… meaning that you’re allowed to disagree and to share your favourite 2019 chronograph watches with us in the comment section.
Blancpain Air Command Chronograph Re-Edition
Why this one? SImple… Look at it. This watch is simply the coolest Blancpain in recent years. While most of the watches produced by the brand are elegant, classic pieces of vintage-inspired divers, this new watch feels different. Blancpain might not be the best-known brand for pilot’s watches (sister-brand Breguet has more pedigree, obviously) but still, the brand, back in the late-1950s produced an elusive watch intended to be worn by the United States Air Force… for whom Blancpain is thought to have created a dozen watches as prototypes.
This year, the brand does two things. First, it confirms the existence of these vintage watches (one of the most sought-after military chronographs of the late 1950s). Second, it offers a truly superb re-edition of this watch, with an ultra-vintage look and modern materials and movement. No hand-wound Valjoux inside, but the high-frequency, integrated chronograph calibre F388B with flyback function. Limited to 500 pieces, this is one for the collectors.
Quick facts: 42.50mm diameter x 13.77mm height – stainless steel case – calibre F388B, in-house – automatic column-wheel flyback chronograph – reference AC01-1130-63A – limited to 500 pieces – CHF 18,500
Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic
Why this one? Because you’re looking at one of the most innovative chronographs of the last decade, and the thinnest chronograph movement and watch ever created. Already possessing the record for the thinnest minute repeater, the thinnest hand-wound tourbillon, the thinnest automatic HMS watch and the thinnest automatic watch (all complications included), Bvlgari now sets its fifth world record with the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph, with an impressive movement.
Inside the signature, bold titanium Octo case is a column-wheel chronograph movement of only 3.3mm… And if that wasn’t enough, it is automatic (with a peripheral rotor) and features a GMT indication. The case is slightly larger than other Octo Finissimo watches but remains ultra-sleek at 6.90mm. No debate, Bvlgari has become the master of the ultra-thin watch.
Quick facts: 42mm diameter x 6.90mm height – sandblasted titanium case – Calibre BVL 318, in-house – automatic with a peripheral rotor – reference 103068 – CHF 16,500
Carl F. Bucherer Heritage BiCompax Annual
Why this one? It could have been just about the look. Indeed, Carl F. Bucherer’s latest creation looks really good. A panda chronograph, with a nicely shaped case, a beautifully designed dial, a relatively restrained diameter (not always the case for the brand…). Visually, there’s already a lot to love here.
But the best comes from the functions. Instead of just launching a chronograph with date, Carl F. Bucherer decided to add some horological content here, with a big date placed where it should be on the dial… And also a month indication, because actually, this watch is an annual calendar, probably the best calendar complication available, requiring just one correction a year, without the cost and the fragility of a perpetual calendar. So all in all, this Heritage BiCompax Annual has the looks and the mechanics.
Quick facts: 41mm diameter x 14.05mm height – stainless steel case – CFB 1972 automatic (modified base ETA 2894) chronograph movement – annual calendar module – reference 00.10803.08.12.01 – limited edition of 888 pieces – CHF 6,900
IWC Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph TOP GUN Ceratanium
Why this one? At MONOCHROME we have a thing for the Pilot’s DoppelChronograph by IWC… The combination goes back to the early 1990s when the brand re-introduced the Flieger collection with the ref. 3711. But it also refers to an iconic movement, the Valjoux-based rattrapante chronograph developed by Richard Habring, a solid, simplified and made-for-action version of this usually delicate complication.
This year, IWC brings back the black DoppelChronograph with a brand new material – Ceratanium – that combines the lightness and robustness of titanium with the non-scratching and non-fading properties of ceramic. The entire watch is treated in black, with a proper instrument look. Yes, it is large and not really accessible, but still, we love it.
Quick facts: 44mm diameter x 16.7mm height – matte-black Ceratanium case, pushers and crown – Calibre IWC 79420, based on Valjoux architecture – automatic split-seconds chronograph – reference IW371815 – EUR 14,700
Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes de Vache 1955 Steel
Why this one? While the two previous editions of the Cornes de Vache, in platinum and in rose gold, were already on our list of favourites, this year Vacheron Constantin presents what could well be the best watch in its “Historiques” collection… a steel Cornes de Vaches chronograph.
This watch is the perfect definition of a high-end, hand-wound chronograph. It has retrained dimensions, elegance, a bit of originality with its tear-drop shaped lugs (but not too much either), a superbly designed dial and a movement that is a feast for the eyes. The new steel model brings a bit more casualness, with its two-tone dial and a vintage leather strap, as well as a slightly less unreasonable price.
Quick facts: 38.5mm diameter x 10.9mm thick – stainless steel case – Calibre 1142, based on Lemania 2310, manufactured in-house – hand-wound column-wheel chronograph – reference 5000H/000A-B582 – EUR 41,600
The boss’ veto… Breitling Navitimer 1959
Why this one? This one didn’t achieve unanimity among the team… But Frank, our founder, loves it and we thought it deserved a special mention in this “best of 2019”. Still, we said in our review that the Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re‑Edition is arguably one of the coolest reissues we’ve seen from any brand in years. And yes, we stand behind this statement.
So why wasn’t it listed in the Top 5..? First of all, one could argue that it is somehow a simple copy-paste of an old model and that it has no creativity. Not entirely wrong, but the result remains very cool. Second, the main problem is that it is now sold-out… Sadly!
Quick facts: 40.9mm diameter x 13.43mm height – stainless steel case – Breitling Manufacture Calibre B09 – hand-wound column-wheel chronograph – reference AB0910371B1X1 – limited edition of 1,959 pieces – EUR 7,700