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When the Seconds Rely: 9 Favorite Chronographs of All Time

When the Seconds Rely: 9 Favorite Chronographs of All Time

With a stopwatch function added to the normal time and date capabilities, the chronograph is one of the most popular complicated wristwatches. These nine models, from Switzerland and, Germany and Japan, rank among our current favourites.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph 

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph
Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph

Introduced in 2018, Jaeger- LeCoultre’s Polaris is a contemporary sports chronograph with handsome retro design cues that last year was treated to some major updates. These come in the form of the fully integrated Calibre 761, which beats at 4Hz for 65 hours of power, and revised dials in gradient shades of either blue or grey. For us, the blue version is the one to go for, as the tiny orange accents complement the colour perfectly. The 42mm steel case may be slightly on the larger side for current tastes, but the slender outer bezel, the discreet pair of pushers and the integrated rubber strap or metal bracelet (a fabric strap also comes with either) mean it wears smaller than it looks. As for the beautifully finished movement with its skeletonised oscillating weight, that lovely mechanism could well seal the deal. 

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Ultra-Complication Universelle (RD#4)

The RD#4 is Audemars Piguet's most complicated wristwatch to date
The RD#4 is Audemars Piguet’s most complicated wristwatch to date

With a name that pretty much says it all, Audemars Piguet’s Ultra-Complication Universelle (RD#4) is a staggering statement of watchmaking savoir-faire that pays tribute to the manufacture’s historic L’Universelle pocket watch of 1899, one of the brand’s most complicated timepieces ever. It does so by combining 23 complications – one of them being a flyback chronograph – and a further 17 functions. The flying tourbillon aside, for reasons of space we won’t list them; instead we’ll simply say this technical tour de force is available with either “architectural” (for which read open-worked) or solid dials, the former in 42mm white-gold cases and the latter in either white or pink gold. Re-mortgage the house and you might even be able to afford one.

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

The Rolex Daytona Chronograph
The Rolex Daytona Chronograph

Named for the famous motorsports venue in Florida, the Cosmograph Daytona strangely didn’t set the watch world on fire when it first appeared in 1963. That only happened after Hollywood actor and racing driver Paul Newman strapped one on to his wrist, since when it fast become one of the coolest and most desired watches on the planet. The current reference, unveiled last year to mark the Daytona’s 60th anniversary, features a new calibre 4130 that offers a power reserve of 72 hours as well as Superlative Chronometer accuracy. In the unlikely event you can find one in your local Rolex authorised dealer, choose between steel, a variety of golds or, like the version shown here, 950 platinum with signature ice-blue dial, in which case it also comes with a see-through caseback through which you can admire the movement’s CÔtes de Genève finishing and solid-gold oscillating weight.  

Patek Philippe Reference 5172G

Patek Philippe 5172G
Patek Philippe 5172G

No fancy model names for this most classy chronograph from Patek Philippe; instead, it’s exquisite aesthetics and detailing – such as the beautifully fluted lugs, the slightly recessed winding crown and the stepped bezel of the 41mm white-gold case – that make the Ref 5172 so subtly epic. The dial, with its marginally offset twin sub-counters and artfully restrained graphics, is equally alluring, and as for the hand-wound CH 29-535 PS calibre, a manufacture movement whose chronograph mechanism is the dominant view through the exhibition caseback, well, that simply takes the breath away. Order it with a blue or (as shown here) salmon dial, because both are equally gorgeous.

A Lange & Söhne Saxonia Triple-Split

Best chronographs: A Lange & Söhne Saxonia Triple Split
A Lange & Söhne Saxonia Triple Split

When it pulled the wraps off the Triple Split in 2018, A Lange & Söhne introduced the world’s first mechanical chronograph capable of measuring the times of two separate and concurrent events, at durations of up to 12 hours (for example, comparing the laps of two drivers in the same motor race). It does this with a rattrapante mechanism that controls three pairs of hands either separately or together, a process so difficult that some designers thought it might be unachievable. Beyond the intricacies – and the beauty – of the hand-wound L132.1 chronograph movement, the Triple Split is a work of art in itself: just admire the blue dial and exquisite furniture of this pink-gold version (it also comes in grey with a white gold case), which surely mark the apotheosis of present-day craftsmanship in Germany’s small but influential watchmaking industry.

Vacheron Constantin Historique Cornes De Vache 1955 

Best chronographs: Vacheron Constantin Historique Cornes de Vache 1955
Vacheron Constantin Historique Cornes de Vache 1955

In a 38.5mm steel case that effortlessly combines the best of both a dress and a sports watch, Vacheron Constantin’s Historique Cornes de Vache 1955 is a contemporary recreation of the maison’s ’50s chronograph whose name refers to the cow-horn-style lugs that retain its calf-skin wrist straps. Also evoking the period are the watch’s grey velvet opaline dial, as well as its classic hand-wound 1142 calibre, whose origins lie far back in the Lemania 2310, which dates from the early 1940s and, along with its derivatives, has often been called the greatest chronograph movement ever made. Here it beats at a gentle 3Hz for a power reserve of 48 house and, seen through the caseback crystal, looks absolutely sublime – as does the entire watch itself.

Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Tentagraph

Grand Seiko's first fully mechanical chronograph
Grand Seiko’s first fully mechanical chronograph

Grand Seiko’s first fully mechanical chronograph – until last year, the Japanese brand’s offerings were restricted to its fiendishly clever hybrid Spring Drive movements – the Tentagraph’s name refers to its 10-beats-per-second, twin-barrel automatic Calibre 9SC5, which in spite of a 5Hz frequency nonetheless provides three full days of power – and that’s even when using the chronograph function. If that weren’t impressive enough, Grand Seiko has kitted out its Tentagraph tour de force with a zaratsu-polished titanium case of stunning architectural complexity, as well as a lovely blue dial with “Mount Iwate” texturing and a slim ceramic bezel. Our only reservation concerns the 43.2mm case size, though as it’s curved it may not occupy quite as much wrist real estate as you might think.    

See Also

Richard Mille RM 032 Automatic Winding Flyback Chronograph


Although eschewing Richard Mille’s signature tonneau shape, the RM 032 Automatic Winding Flyback Chronograph is in almost every other respect a typical product of the Swiss manufacture, incorporating hi-tech lightweight materials and the most advanced techniques in its design and construction. With its 30 bar rating, it can dive far deeper than you’re ever likely to go, but it’s also a flyback chronograph, whose ingenious crown mechanism prevents accidental operation while deep underwater. At around 50mm in diameter and 18mm in height, it’s in no way your average dress watch, but in this cool blue colourway, released to celebrate the Voiles de St Barth yacht races, it’ll be coveted by just about every guy in the room. 

Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon

The Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon
The Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon

Launched in the late 1950s as a motorsport watch, a role it still upholds today through its various Racing models, the Omega Speedmaster acquired an entirely separate identity when in the mid-’60s it was flight-qualified by NASA to be used in its Apollo space missions, eventually being worn by the first humans to set foot on the moon. That led to the creation of a series of Speedmaster Moonwatches, the most recent of which was introduced only last month. This latest Dark Side of the Moon version, which celebrates the Apollo 8 mission of 1968, features reliefs of the Moon’s surface on the skeletonised dial and bridges, and a miniature Saturn V rocket as the small second hand. In a 44.25mm black ceramic case, the watch is powered by the hand-wound Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 3869, which beats at 3Hz for a reserve of 50 hours. 

Source: Prestige Online

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