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About Time

Seven Chronographs That Are On The Button

Our pick of the most precise high-end mechanical timers

In its simplest form, a chronograph watch is any that allows you to measure a period of time at the press of a button – separately from keeping time as any watch should. For a number of reasons – the complexity of construction; the design principles associated with adding the function to a watch; the relationships forged between chronographs and racing, sport and the military – they have always been hugely sought-after. A high-end mechanical chronograph is a thing of sheer beauty and craft; even the most basic is a practical tool that every man can find a reason to use day-in, day-out. Here is our pick of seven of the most exciting chronographs around today. 

Baume & Mercier

The connections between cars and chronographs are well-worn, but with good reason; the two have gone hand-in-hand since the 1960s when the likes of Heuer and Rolex forged partnerships with iconic names of the motoring world. That tradition continues just as strongly today and one of the more interesting recent collaborations is between Baume & Mercier and Shelby Cars. Baume & Mercier has produced a number of Capeland chronographs commemorating iconic cars, including this piece which pays homage to the 1964 Shelby Daytona Coupe – complete with snake’s head counterweight to the seconds hand and racing stripes in blue and white on the dial. The watch features a tachymeter scale around the edge, which enables the wearer to calculate their average speed over a known distance.  


  • Breitling Navitimer Aviator 8 Chronograph 43mm Coming soon

Navitimer Aviator 8 Chronograph 43mm

Breitling’s Navitimer is one of the all-time great chronograph designs. Created in 1952, it was defined above all else by its slide-rule logarithmic scales which enabled pilots to carry out complex calculations mid-flight in a pre-digital age. But this year, the icon has undergone its most radical reimagining yet – spawning the Navitimer Aviator 8, a non-slide rule version inspired by Breitling’s Aviation Division clocks and watches of the 1930s and 1940s, the Breitling 8 collection. Shown here with a black dial and sub-dials, inside the black steel case is the in-house calibre B01 chronograph movement with a 70-hour power reserve. Also look out for a special-edition model with an off-white dial and black “Panda” sub-dials – limited to 1,000 pieces, it will be available exclusively through MR PORTER. 


There’s an elegant simplicity to the IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser that is hard to match and it’s a true testament to the line that that holds true even when more functions are added, such as a chronograph. The layout has become a staple of IWC watches; at six o’clock, you have the running seconds indicator (as opposed to the chronograph seconds, which run from the centre); and at 12 o’clock the watch combines chronograph hours and minutes into one subdial – thus covering in two subdials what most chronographs take three to achieve. This is a step up from the basic Portugieser Chronograph, and lets you time events for up to 12 hours. 


Forget what you think you know about Montblanc. Its chronographs are genuine horological marvels, drawing on a rich and expert pedigree. That’s because Montblanc now owns one of the most storied chronograph manufacturers of yesteryear, Minerva, and we reap the benefits in the form of the 1858 monopusher chronograph, so called because you start, stop and re-set the chronograph all with the same button, which is neatly incorporated into the crown. It’s a hand-wound watch, which means when you flip it over you get an uninterrupted view of one of the most attractive movements on the market. 


So serious is Zenith’s standing among chronograph watch brands that its most famous product - the El Primero - is a movement, not a watch (so named because it was one of the first automatic chronographs ever made). The watch you see here is actually one of the brand’s less well-known designs, based originally on a 1960s model created for the Italian military, hence the “Tipo CP-2” designation. Of course it uses an El Primero movement, here altered to take a two-subdial layout instead of the brand’s more typical three. The bidirectional rotating bezel, luminous hands and numerals and green canvas strap complete the military look. 


Sometimes – on holiday especially, and during whatever passes for a British summer – it’s more important for your watch to be wearable, practical and durable than for it to follow in the most august horological footsteps. Enter the TAG Heuer Formula 1 – a quartz chronograph that’s water-resistant to 200m as well as boasting a tachymeter bezel. The more petrol-savvy among you will have noticed the Gulf Oil-style blue and orange colour scheme (something which runs in Heuer’s history via Mr Steve McQueen and the Monaco), which is deployed here not only across the dial but also on the Nato fabric strap. 


It says a lot about Bremont that in less than two decades of operation and facing a crowded field of very handsome chronographs that have existed for a half century or more, it has managed to create a design that is recognisably its own, not derivative of anything else and objectively well-proportioned. The Alt-1 C is as close as the aviation-obsessed brand gets to a hero watch; this version takes a dressier approach with a polished steel case, serif Breguet numerals and a black and grey dial, all presented on an alligator leather strap.

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