The nights are longer, the days are shorter and Christmas is around the corner… Yes, the end of the year is fast approaching and it means that we have to start looking back at what happened this year. 2021 has been a time for changes in the industry, which had to adapt following the pandemic, and everything entailed by the adoption of new business practices. But it’s also been a year for creativity. For this reason, and until the end of the year, we’ll look back at the best watches unveiled in each category, and we start today by looking at what we think were the best chronographs of 2021. All very different in style, price and complexity, but all featuring a stopwatch function…
Editor’s note: this list reflects the preferences of MONOCHROME’s editorial team and results from an internal vote. This list is, of course, non-exhaustive and remains subjective. If there are other chronograph watches launched in 2021 that made an impression on you, feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comment section.
Airain Type 20 Re-Edition
The Type XX or Type 20 watches have long been a source of inspiration for the brands that once were involved in the creation of the pieces made for French pilots of military forces. Although in recent years, we’ve seen many models inspired by these models, none capture a truly faithful style. Well, one of the brands that was revived recently resurfaced with the ultra-faithful Airain Type 20 Re-Edition. With only very minimal updates compared to the original model, the brand delivers an absolute winner of a watch… If you’re into military pilot’s chronographs and specifically Type 20 watches, it’s hard not to fall in love. Inside is a nice movement – hand-wound column-wheel flyback by La Joux-Perret – and the overall execution is very clean… and the price, at just below 2.5k euros, is completely acceptable for what is delivered. More details in our hands-on article here.
Quick facts: 39.5mm steel case – domed hesalite crystal – bidirectional bezel with 12h countdown scale – 50m water-resistant – matte dial in brown or black – hand-wound column-wheel flyback chronograph by La Joux-Perret, 4Hz, 60h power reserve – leather suede strap – from EUR 2,540
Czapek Antarctique Rattrapante
As stated, we’re covering the chronograph complication here, and that means a whole lot of different watches. Now we move to the big guns, with a watch by an independent watchmaker, with a stunning, complex, ultra-detailed movement: the Czapek Antarctique Rattrapante. Based on the brand’s luxury sports watch with an integrated bracelet, this new version comes with two extras: a split-seconds movement, which is often considered as the pinnacle of chronograph technology, and a movement that has been developed upside-down, with all the chronograph parts – gears, levers, column-wheels, rattrapante clamps – entirely visible through the opened dial. The result… Certainly not the most discreet, but a watch that makes a visual and technical statement. More details in our hands-on article here, and in our video here.
Quick facts: 42.5mm steel case – sapphire crystal glass-box – water-resistant to 120m – openworked dial with blued sword hour and minute hands – proprietary calibre SXH6 (made in partnership with Chronode), automatic split-seconds chronograph, 4Hz, 60h power reserve – integrated stainless steel bracelet – limited edition of 77 pieces – CHF 46,000
IWC Pilot’s Chronograph “Tribute to 3705”
With this very cool-looking model, the Schaffhausen-based brand pays tribute to a cult classic, the 1994 “IWC Fliegerchronograph Keramik”, also known as the Pilot’s Chronograph 3705. The new black-out Flieger chronograph has been released in a 1,000-piece limited edition, which is now sold out. The 41mm case benefits from the brand’s high-tech material, a compound named Ceratanium. Another update endowing this IWC Pilot’s Chronograph Edition “Tribute to 3705” with its old-school flair is the dial. As such, IWC has given this new model the traits of early FliegerChronograph watches, specifically for the hands and indexes. Under the hood, the calibre 69380 is an in-house integrated automatic chronograph. And the result is, without a doubt, typical of the instrumental era of the IWC Flieger watches. More details in our review here.
Quick facts: 41mm black matte case, crown, pushers and caseback in Ceratanium – sapphire crystal – 60m water-resistant – grained, matte black dial – calibre 69380, in-house, automatic column-wheel chronograph, 4Hz, 46h power reserve – black pilot’s calfskin strap – limited to 1,000 pieces (now sold out) – EUR 12,800
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional Master Chronometer
At the beginning of this year, Omega revamped its most iconic watch ever, the Speedmaster Moonwatch, a model that had been practically untouched since the late 1960s. How do you update such an emblematic watch, without ruining its fan base? Well, you do what Omega has done this year by literally changing everything, but with extremely refined details so the original look remains untouched. But everything has been cleverly upgraded. The look is more vintage (stepped dial, bezel with historical references), the overall quality has been improved, a new bracelet has been fitted and, most importantly, the movement keeps the original architecture but with 21st-century technology – co-axial, Master Chronometer, anti-magnetic. And there are many more details to discover, and we explain them all here in our in-depth review.
Quick facts: 42mm steel case – domed sapphire crystal with sapphire caseback or Hesalite crystal with steel caseback (depends on the model) – matte black dial, stepped – calibre 3861, in-house, Master Chronometer certified – hand-wound chronograph with horizontal clutch, 3Hz, 50h power reserve – stainless steel bracelet with folding clasp (also available on leather) – from EUR 5,900
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Split Seconds Chronograph
This one is a typical dream machine… Everything here is (discreetly) over the top, ultra-luxurious, complex, detailed. Based on the new Tonda PF collection of luxury sports watches with integrated bracelets, the top-of-the-range model is this Split Seconds Chronograph. The case and the bracelet are made of platinum, and so is the dial, with its refined sandblasted surface. A heavy and rather large watch, it doesn’t necessarily scream its pedigree, until you turn the watch over and look at the gorgeous PF361 Chronor movement. Almost entirely made of rose gold, it’s a technically advanced rattrapante chronograph with a 5Hz frequency. Second, the decoration is stunning, with high-end finishing all around. It does, however, come at a rather hefty price, to say the least. All the details in our review here.
Quick facts: 42mm platinum case – sapphire crystal – 100m water-resistance – sandblasted solid platinum dial – calibre PF361, in-house – hand-wound split-seconds chronograph with column wheels, 5Hz, 65h power reserve – integrated platinum bracelet – limited to 25 pieces – EUR 155,000
Zenith Chronomaster Sport
The history of Zenith and its legendary automatic chronograph movement, the El Primero, is something most watch enthusiasts know perfectly. But instead of only playing on its heritage and the trend for vintage models, this year Zenith has decided to create the El Primero of modern days. And yes, there’s no other way to say it, the Chronomaster Sport is a home-run! Visually, it plays on classic proportions and on the emblematic codes of the collection – overlapping tricolour counters, case with sharp lugs – and is executed with great attention to detail. Mechanically it has been updated too, with a version of the El Primero movement capable of displaying 1/10th of a second. Taking full advantage of the 5Hz frequency, the central chronograph hand makes one turn in 10 seconds! And forget about all the Zaytona/Daytona-Killer discussions… It’s a great watch, period! More details in our review with video here.
Quick facts: 41mm stainless steel case – sapphire crystal and ceramic bezel – water-resistant to 100m – white or black dial with tricolour counters – El Primero calibre 3600, in-house, automatic column-wheel hi-beat chronograph, 5Hz, 60h power reserve – stainless steel bracelet – from EUR 9,200