The chronograph is one of the most popular complications today. It is even more than a complication and has become a watch category in itself. It is stylish, practical and boasts a serious amount of technical complexity. For watch connoisseurs, there aren’t many experiences that are as rewarding as pressing the pushers of a stopwatch or admiring the intricacies of a fine manual-winding column wheel chronograph. Moreover, its important role in watch history, along with the sports and lifestyle associated with the chronograph, are all part of its universal appeal.
Here are 10 of the most iconic chronographs (stopwatches that have set new standards and that have stood the test of time) that you can buy in 2018. Of course, you’ll have your own thoughts on this, so do not hesitate to give us your top 10 most iconic chronographs that can be bought today in the comment section below!
Note: two interesting articles for you, if you want to delve deeper into chronographs:
- A Technical Perspective – Everything you need to know about Chronographs
- The difference between a Chronometer and a Chronograph
A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Up/Down
Presented in 1999 and updated in 2012, the Datograph is one of the nicest, if not the nicest chronograph available on the market. It features a flyback chronograph with a jumping minutes counter, a quick-set oversized date and two sub-dials recognisable because of their positioning. The power reserve is indicated at 6 o’clock. Turn the watch over and the sapphire caseback offers a breathtaking view of the perfectly finished hand-wound calibre L951.6. It is made of over 400 parts including German silver bridges, a column wheel, a horizontal clutch, gold chatons held by blued screws, a swan-neck regulator, etc…
Quick facts: 41mm platinum case – 30m water-resistance – Calibre L951.6, hand-wound movement with hours, minutes, seconds, big date, power reserve indication and flyback chronograph – alligator strap with pin buckle – EUR 82,500 – More information: www.alange-soehne.com
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph
In 1972, the Royal Oak revolutionised the concept of the luxury sports watch and pioneered a new category. Designed by Gérald Genta, the Royal Oak was crafted in steel with an angular case, an octagonal bezel and an integrated bracelet. Since then, Audemars Piguet has released many variations of this icon, including chronographs. At the SIHH 2017, the Royal Oak Chronograph went through a tasteful facelift with two-tone dials. Inside the 41mm case is the automatic calibre 2385, an integrated column wheel movement based on the FP1185.
Quick facts: 41mm steel case – 50m water-resistance – Calibre 2385, automatic movement with hours, minutes, seconds, date and chronograph – steel bracelet with safety clasp – EUR 24,600 – More information: www.audemarspiguet.com
Breguet Type XX Aéronavale 3800ST
Breguet (the brand and the family) has a long history in aviation. In the 1950s, the Aeronavale, the military air power of the French Navy, commissioned several brands with the production of “Type 20” pilot chronographs – including Breguet. During the 1990s, Breguet introduced the modern Type XX automatic flyback chronograph. Among the different models, our preference goes to the reference 3800ST Aeronavale, with no date. Measuring 39mm in diameter, the steel case features a 0 to 60 rotating bezel and a screw-down crown. The black dial has luminescent numerals paired with syringe hands. Inside is the automatic calibre 582 flyback, based on the Lemania 1350.
Quick facts: 39mm steel case – 100m water-resistance – Calibre 582 automatic movement with hours, minutes, seconds and fly-back chronograph – alligator strap with pin buckle – EUR 9,200 – More information: www.breguet.com
Breitling Navitimer 1 B01
Breitling is famous for designing exceptional chronographs and for its long aviation history. An evolution of the Chronomat, the legendary Breitling pilot chronograph was born in 1952. The model stood out with its large, 41mm case. The signature ratcheted rotating bezel ensures smooth and easy handling of the brand’s circular aviation slide rule designed to perform calculations related to air navigation. The latest version, with the in-house calibre B01 with column wheel, vertical clutch and boasting a 70h power reserve, remains faithful to the original design, yet with a slightly larger case of 43mm and some new colours added to the dial. Yet, the design remains a classic.
Quick facts: 43mm steel case – 30m water-resistance – Breitling B01, automatic movement with hours, minutes, seconds, date and chronograph – alligator strap with pin buckle – EUR 7,640 – More information: www.breitling.com
IWC Portugieser Chronograph 3714
One of the most popular IWC collections, the Portugieser was born in the 1930s when two Portuguese businessmen asked for a large steel watch with a movement as precise as a marine chronometer. Today, it is one of the most enduringly popular watch designs. The chronograph version of this icon is sober, harmonious, elegant and immediately recognisable. The IWC Portugieser Chronograph 3714 was born in the mid-1990s and has remained unchanged since, except for some occasional updates to the colour of the dial. This perfect daily wearer is powered by the automatic calibre 79350 based on the 7750 architecture.
Quick facts: 40.9mm steel case – 30m water-resistance – Calibre IWC 79350, automatic movement with hours, minutes, seconds and chronograph – alligator strap with folding buckle – EUR 7,600 – More information: www.iwc.com
Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch
A no-nonsense chronograph designed for auto racing, the ‘Speedy’ was born in 1957 as part of the brand’s holy trinity (Seamaster, Railmaster and Speedmaster). The Ref. CK2915 was easily recognisable thanks to “broad arrow hands” and its tachymeter scale positioned not on the dial but on its bezel – this external scale would become the defining feature of the Speedmaster, as it was the first to display it on the bezel. The Speedmaster took one giant leap forward in 1969 when Buzz Aldrin wore the watch on the surface of the Moon, after being selected by the NASA following extensive testing. Since then, the Omega Speedmaster Professional continues to fascinate and has gone down in history as the “Moonwatch”.
P.S. You should watch our series of videos “The Speedmaster Chronicles” here.
Quick facts: 42mm steel case – hesalite crystal – 50m water-resistance – Calibre 1861, hand-wound movement with hours, minutes, seconds and chronograph – steel bracelet with folding buckle – EUR 4,300– More information: www.omegawatches.com
Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph 5270
What we have here is much more than a chronograph. But there had to be one Patek Philippe in this selection and we felt more attracted by the ref. 5270 than by the ref. 5170 (which is also a timeless classic, but which is now only available with diamond indices). The perpetual calendar chronograph is a complication that “belongs” to Patek Philippe, as the 5270 continues a tradition initiated in 1941. It was introduced in 2011 with a superb in-house movement, as the successor of the 5970, itself an evolution of the 3970. It is now available for the first time in the noblest of all metals, platinum. And it comes with a truly stunning salmon dial that – as often with salmon dials – is elegant, unostentatious but with that very special twist.
Quick facts: 41mm platinum case – 30m water-resistance – Calibre CH 29-535 PS Q CH, hand-wound movement with hours, minutes, seconds, perpetual calendar, day/night and moon phase indications and chronograph – alligator strap with folding buckle – EUR 169,750 – More information: www.patek.com
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
The Daytona has to be one of the top three iconic chronographs of all-time. The notoriety of this watch is immense and it has become one of the most desirable luxury watches ever – be they new models that sell with a premium, or vintage editions that can reach insane prices (remember the $17.8 million Paul Newman’s Daytona…) First launched in 1963, the Daytona was inspired by motor racing. It encapsulates all of Rolex’s values of excellence, quality and functionality. And its versatile style can be worn on nearly any occasion. Since the early 2000s, the Daytona is powered by the automatic in-house calibre 4130, with column wheel and vertical clutch. The latest steel edition, the 116500, features a black ceramic bezel as a nod to the past.
Quick facts: 40mm steel case with Cerachrom bezel – 100m water-resistance – Calibre 4130, automatic movement with hours, minutes, seconds and chronograph – Oyster bracelet with safety clasp – EUR 11,350 – More information: www.rolex.com.
TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf 2018 Limited Edition
Chronographs are a long tradition at TAG Heuer and several of its stopwatches occupy top spots in the list of iconic chronographs, in particular, models associated with the golden age of motor racing, such as the Carrera or the Autavia. Also born in this period (1969), the Monaco is, without a doubt, the most celebrated square chronograph. It was equipped with the innovative calibre 11 automatic movement and immortalised on the wrist of Steve McQueen in the film Le Mans. His car bore the Gulf colours, which is one of the reasons why we have a weakness for the cool vintage racing flair of this limited edition.
Quick facts: 39mm x 39mm steel case – 100m water-resistance – Calibre 11 automatic movement with hours, minutes, seconds, date and chronograph – perforated calfskin strap with folding buckle – EUR 5,250 – More information: www.tagheuer.com
Zenith Chronomaster El Primero 38mm
El Primero (the first) was part of the trilogy of automatic chronograph calibres that hit the market in 1969. It is the only one that is still produced to date. This legendary movement is regarded as one of the best and most accurate chronographs ever created. It features a compact construction incorporating a column wheel and a horizontal clutch. As its oscillator operates at 36,000 vibrations/hours, the seconds hand of El Primero performs 10 jumps per second – meaning that it has the ability to measure a tenth of a second. Among the many watches powered by El Primero, we have selected a superb and faithful reproduction of a Zenith Classic, the Chronomaster with its tri-colour totalisers, in a classic 38mm steel case.
Quick facts: 38mm steel case – 100m water-resistance – Calibre El Primero 400 automatic movement with hours, minutes, seconds, date and chronograph – alligator strap with folding buckle – EUR 6,900 – More information: www.zenith-watches.com