If the chronograph is one of the most popular complications, it is also one of the most complex types of movements to manufacture. Not so long ago, just a handful of manufactures had the knowledge or the financial resources to produce their own, in-house mechanical chronograph calibre… but the past 20 years have witnessed the birth of an impressive number of self-developed movements.
During the 1970s, new accurate quartz movements gained popularity and plunged the Swiss watch industry into a deep crisis. Sales of mechanical watches declined sharply, production of mechanical movements was reduced to a trickle, and many Swiss watchmakers went out of business. Zenith is an eloquent example of how stock and production capacities were destroyed (and saved by an act of disobedience for El Primero – read the history of this iconic chronograph here).
Following the renaissance of mechanical watchmaking in the 1980s and 1990s, brands massively invested in movement development and production facilities. At the time, very few watchmakers were actually producing movements. Most of the industry was sourcing from the same movement manufacturers: ETA for industrial movements and a few high-end makers such as Frédéric Piguet, Lemania, Zenith or Girard-Perregaux, to name a few.
To ensure a steady supply of movements and boost their image, brands started to develop their own mechanical movements. These started with standard 3-hand movements but soon the need for the king of complications became apparent. In the late 1990s, only a handful of manufacturers were producing chronograph movements internally. Watch brands mostly relied on outsourced, standardized movements. This was a serious challenge because developing a chronograph movement is no small feat. It was – and still is – regarded as a crowning glory for a manufacture. Most watchmakers will tell you that apart from a minute repeater, the chronograph is the most complex movement to develop.
Fast forward 20 years and today there is an abundance of in-house chronograph movements.
Of course, there are large movement makers like ETA with the ubiquitous 7750 or Sellita with the SW500-1 (an alternative to the 7750). There are also smaller companies such as La Joux-Perret, Vaucher, Agenhor or Concepto. Zenith sill delivers chronographs to LVMH brands. Also, Dubois-Depraz manufactures chronograph modules that are coupled to mechanical movements – even though it just presented an integrated chronograph. However, most of today’s major brands have their own chronograph movements. Here’s a chronology of the in-house chronograph since the late 1990s…
Note: The list gathers some of the largest brands that have presented in-house chronograph movements. There is no official standard for an in-house watch movement and the Swiss watchmaking industry is an intricate ecosystem. Breguet and Blancpain are not included as Swatch Group acquired Blancpain and Frédéric Piguet in 1992 – Breguet and Lemania in 1999. Frédéric Piguet and Lemania, two prominent movement makers were integrated into the Blancpain and Breguet manufactures. We have chosen to present all movements as announced by brands even if within groups, some movements present obvious similarities. For more information about chronographs, you can read our technical perspective here.
A. Lange & Söhne Datograph – 1999
The first A. Lange & Söhne chronograph of the modern era is the benchmark for a high-end chronograph. The Datograph combines everything a purist wants, including exceptional finishing. Among other notable feats, the Datograph incorporates a flyback mechanism, precisely jumping minutes and an outsized date.
Quick facts: calibre L951.6 (Dato Up/Down as of 2012) hand-wound chronograph – 30.6mm x 7.9mm – column wheel and horizontal clutch – 46 jewels – 18,000 vibrations per hour – 60h power reserve
GLASHÜTTE ORIGINAL PANORETROGRAPH – 2000
Fast on the heels of A. Lange & Söhne’s Datograph, Glashütte Original wowed the stage with its PanoRetroGraph, a highly complex flyback chronograph complete with a 30-minute retrograde countdown counter equipped with a chime. Removing the retrograde and chiming, it would become the superb and unconventional PanoGraph from 2002.
Quick facts: calibre 61-03 (PanoGraph) hand-wound chronograph – 32.2mm x 7.2mm – column wheel and horizontal clutch – 41 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 42h power reserve
ROLEX Calibre 4130 – 2000
At Baselworld 2000, Rolex presented its in-house chronograph movement to power the iconic Daytona – which had previously relied on a modified version of the Zenith El Primero (dubbed 4030 at Rolex). The 4130 is a benchmark for the robust, still industrially-made automatic integrated chronograph.
Quick facts: automatic chronograph – 30.5mm – column wheel and vertical clutch – 44 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 72h power reserve
JAEGER-LECOULTRE JLC 751 – 2004
This modern twin-barrel automatic chronograph runs at 28,800 vibrations per hour for a 65h power reserve. It features a column wheel and vertical coupling and was launched inside the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Chronograph.
Quick facts: automatic chronograph – 25.6mm – column wheel and vertical clutch – 37 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 65h power reserve
IWC 89000 – 2007
Since IWC had long used Valjoux-based chronographs, the brand decided to introduce the 89000 family in 2007. The 89000 is a 30mm flyback integrated chronograph running at 28,800 vibrations per hour, with 68h power reserve, column wheel, rocking pinion and Pellaton winding system. It can be combined with various additional functions (including perpetual calendar).
Quick facts: automatic chronograph – 30mm – column wheel and rocking pinion – 40 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 68h power reserve
PIAGET 880P – 2007
Piaget presented its first in-house chronograph in 2007, with the 880P. This integrated movement, with column wheel, will be the base to develop the 883P, the world’s thinnest chronograph (until recently).
Quick facts: automatic chronograph – 26.8mm – column wheel and vertical clutch – 35 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 50h power reserve
PANERAI P.2004 – 2008
Presented in 2008, the Panerai P.2004 is a hand-wound, single push-piece chronograph remarkable for its large diameter and because it incorporates three barrels resulting in impressive 8-day power reserve. It relies on a column wheel and a vertical clutch.
Quick facts: hand-wound chronograph – 30mm – column wheel and vertical clutch – 29 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 192h power reserve
PATEK PHILIPPE CH 29-535 PS – 2009
In 2005, Patek Philippe presented a superb split-second chronograph, calibre CHF 27-525 PS. Manufactured in-house, the calibre was inspired by an old Victorin Piguet Ebauche ref. 5959. The long-awaited first modern Patek Philippe classic in-house chronograph didn’t make its debut in a men’s watch but in a ladies’ watch (reference 7071). The superb CH 29-535 PS is a traditional design with column wheel and horizontal clutch. It was the first to bear the Patek Seal. It made its masculine debut in 2010 when Patek presented the reference 5170, which replaced the reference 5070 based on a Lemania blank.
Quick facts: hand-wound chronograph CH 29-535 PS – 29.6mm – column wheel and horizontal clutch – 33 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 65h power reserve
HUBLOT UNICO – 2009
Presented in 2009, the Hublot Unico stands out with its chronograph mechanism positioned dial side. It is modernly designed to fit with the look of Hublot watches but its architecture is traditional.
Quick facts: automatic chronograph HUB 1242 – 30mm – column wheel and double clutch – 38 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 72h power reserve
BREITLING B01 – 2009
Unveiled in 2009, the Breitling B01 is modernly designed with column wheel and vertical clutch. The B01 calibre is now shared with Tudor watches and used in the Black Bay Chronograph.
Quick facts: automatic chronograph Breitling B01 – 30mm – column wheel and vertical clutch – 47 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 70h power reserve
TAG HEUER Calibre HEUER 01 – 2009
The in-house label of TAG’s calibre 1887 generated controversy when it was introduced because it was based on a Seiko movement – that was manufactured internally by TAG Heuer, though. It became the Heuer 01 when the new Carrera collection was introduced. It was followed in 2013 by the calibre 1969/CH-80, which was this time a real in-house chronograph movement (development included).
Quick facts: automatic chronograph calibre 1887 or Heuer 01 – 29.3mm – column wheel and oscillating pinion – 39 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 50h power reserve
OMEGA Calibre 9300 – 2011
Knowing the industrial organization within the Swatch Group, one could argue for hours about the first ‘in-house’ chronograph at Omega (taking the example of the 1861, which is based on Lemania blanks). This is why we have picked the calibre 9300, the first true in-house integrated automatic chronograph with Co-Axial escapement. Presented in 2011, the 9300 features a silicon balance spring, a double barrel, a column wheel and vertical clutch.
Quick facts: automatic chronograph Omega 9300 – 30mm – column wheel and vertical clutch – 54 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 60h power reserve
CHOPARD 03.05.M – 2012
Chopard has been using in-house movements for a long time with its L.U.C. line of high-end watches. However, when it comes to classic Chopard watches, it’s only with the Chopard Superfast collection that the brand started to use an in-house automatic chronograph. The calibre 03.05.M is a COSC certified column-wheel chronograph with original openworked bridges.
Quick facts: automatic chronograph 03.05.M – 28.80mm – column wheel and vertical clutch – 45 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 60h power reserve
ULYSSE NARDIN UN-150 – 2012
In 2012, Ulysse Nardin bought the Ebel 137 Chronograph. It was renamed UN-150 and reworked in-house with several updates including a silicon hairspring (seen below with the oscillating mass).
Quick facts: automatic chronograph – 31mm – lever chronograph – 25 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 48h power reserve
CARTIER 1904-CH MC – 2013
The Cartier calibre 1904-CH made its debut on board the Calibre de Cartier Chronograph. It is a twin-barrel movement with column wheel and vertical clutch.
Quick facts: automatic chronograph – 26.8mm – column wheel and vertical clutch – 35 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 48h power reserve
GIRARD-PERREGAUX 3800 – 2013
Produced in rather limited quantities so far, the first GP modern integrated in-house chronograph is based on its 3000 series. It features a traditional horizontal clutch and column wheel as well as jumping minutes. Before its development, the brand relied mostly on Dubois-Depraz modules as well as a small, original in-house modular chronograph with its column wheel visible dial side.
Quick facts: hand-wound chronograph – 25.6mm – column wheel and horizontal clutch – 31 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 58h power reserve
VACHERON CONSTANTIN 3300 – 2015
Vacheron Constantin’s first in-house chronograph movement made its debut in the Harmony collection. Bearing the Hallmark of Geneva, it features a classic column wheel and a horizontal clutch and is a mono-pusher hand-wound calibre.
Quick facts: hand-wound chronograph – 32.8mm – column wheel and horizontal clutch – 35 jewels – 21,600 vibrations per hour – 65h power reserve
FREDERIQUE CONSTANT FC-760 – 2017
Frederique Constant’s in-house chronograph stays in line with the concept of affordable luxury, with a retail price just over EUR 3,500. This modular flyback chronograph features an original star-shaped column wheel and a new type of clutch based on a swivelling component with two toothed pinions.
Quick facts: automatic chronograph – 30mm – star-shaped column wheel and specific clutch – 54 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 38h power reserve
AUDEMARS PIGUET 4400 – 2019
Until 2019, AP only manufactured small quantities of high-end, complicated chronographs in-house – in the APRP manufacture. However, the brand relied mostly on outsourced, modular chronograph movements for its simpler watches… until the launch of the high-grade 4400 calibre that debuted with the Code 11.59 collection. This integrated column-wheel, vertical clutch movement was developed as part of a new family of movements together with the AP 4300 automatic base calibre.
Quick facts: automatic chronograph – 32mm – column wheel and vertical clutch – 40 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 70h power reserve
PARMIGIANI FLEURIER PF362 – 2019
Following the presentation of the superb Chronor split-seconds chronograph in 2016, Parmigiani unveiled the calibre PF362 on the same base. This shaped calibre is a high-frequency chronograph with vertical clutch and column wheel.
Quick facts: automatic chronograph – 39.7mm x 31.9mm – column wheel and vertical clutch – 32 jewels – 36,000 vibrations per hour – 65h power reserve
BVLGARI BVL 318 – 2019
Part of the impressive series of records of the Bvlgari Finissimo saga, the BVL318 is the world’s thinnest chronograph (and automatic chronograph) at just 3.30mm thick. To achieve such thinness, the movement is wound by a peripheral rotor while the large diameter has allowed all functions to be arranged horizontally.
Quick facts: automatic chronograph – 37.2mm – column wheel and horizontal clutch – 37 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 55h power reserve