Watchmaking, at its core, has always been about functionality. By wearing a timekeeper, not only did you get an instant update on at what point in the day you are in, but dependent on complication, you also had the opportunity to see at what point the moon was at in its cycle, what year you are in and even the opportunity to time various events (the big race or dinner). Since their invention more than 200 years ago, chronographs have established themselves the most versatile additions to the field of timekeeping. The very first was conceived as an aid to astronomical observations; over the years, chronographs have proven visually appealing as well as useful in day to day life. While nobody is entirely sure when the first chronograph was conceived, we do often point to Mr Nicolas Rieussec’s creation of 1821, which saw a spot of ink dropped onto a rotating disc of paper and dropped another when the timed event came to an end. Since then, it has become a complication we have seen from almost every brand out there. As we approach the new year, we felt the time was right to spotlight some of the best chronographs chronographs that are on the market in 2023.
Longines Avigation BigEye
The Longines Avigation BigEye has without doubt been one of the stand out chronographs of recent times. Aside from its oversized sub dial layout, [titanium is even more wearable](https://teddybaldassarre.com/blogs/watches/best-titanium-watches-a-complete-guide). A re-issue of a chronograph with a 1930s’ design, the petrol blue dial is one that has to be seen to be believed.
Tissot Heritage 1973
The Tissot Heritage 1973 Chronograph was developed with Kessel Classics in mind; the barrel case and orange accents look right at home amongst the cars the shop preps for races like the Monte-Carlo Rally and the Bernina Granturismo in St. Moritz. The Tissot Navigator watch of the '70s was the blueprint for the new Heritage 1973 Chronograph, with its tonneau case and panda-style chronograph registers. Since the design language is already out there. Tissot nails it, and there are a variety of finishes present that make this an exciting bit of metal with which to encapsulate an ETA Valjoux 7753.
Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope Day-Date
The simple Bauhaus design of the Max Bill has been a hit in design circles since its first release in 1961. Max Bill would become one of the prime movers within the modernist design movement in Europe. Eventually, he landed Junghans as a client, and his involvement left a lasting mark on the German brand, which is still evident in watches like the Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope. The Max Bill Chronoscope series was not designed by Max Bill. Rather, these watches are a faithful extension of the iconic three handed watches designed by the man himself. And they are indeed true to the original intent, right down to Max Bill’s distinct rendering of the Arabic numeral ‘four.’ Functional and beautiful, you can’t go wrong.
Oris Divers Sixty Five Chronograph
When taking in the Divers Sixty-Five chronograph, think bronze Carl Brashear chronograph of 2018 and combine it with the 40mm steel and bronze Diver Sixty-Five. It’s a potent mix! A 43mm chrono, in steel with bronze and rose gold accents. We love the fact it is a no-date two-register chronograph layout with a gilt application over a black dial, perfect for any challenge in or out the boardroom.
MIDO Multifort Patrimony Chronograph
In 2021 Mido presented a new chronograph in the Multifort collection characterised by a fascinating vintage style, the Multifort Patrimony Chronograph. Inspired by one of the brand’s oldest chronographs, the Multifort Multichrono from 1937. Few do reissues as well as Mido, that’s for sure. The lugs are a triumph.
Longines Master Calendar Chronograph
The Master Collection was first created in 2005, delivering mechanical complexity and purity. A 40mm stainless steel case, a reliable Calibre L678 automatic movement with a 42-hour power reserve, the silver, barleycorn dial is equipped with Arabic numerals, blue steel hands, chronograph functionality, a moonphase display, and day, date, and month indicators.We like the dial design with its traditional printed Arabic hour numerals and a barley corn pattern-aesthetic stamped. This is designed to mimic the look of guilloche-engraved dials, water resistant to 30 meters.
The Seagull 1963 turned heads when it was re-released. It’s a great looking and affordable watch with authentic vintage styling that refers to non-Swiss watch-making history. The 1963 boasts a hand wound column-wheel chronograph movement, the ST19, is the resurrection of the movement developed in 1961 under project 304. What is charming is that little has changed since the 304 of 1963.
Seiko Presage SRQ023
Baselworld 2017 saw Seiko unveil a full range of watches for their Seiko Presage Enamel Collection. In total, there were four, all mechanically powered, each with hand-made enamel dials. The SRQ23 is a wildly beautiful, 42mm dress watch that any collection could do with.
Sinn 103 St Sa
The Sinn 103 is a proper tool watch. The chronograph is paired with a bi-directional, 60-minute countdown bezel, day and date indications at three o’clock, screw-down pushers and crown guards to protect the mechanism, as well as an anti-reflective coating on the front sapphire crystal. The star of the show? those syringe hands.
Based on a streamlined version of the 256 pilot's chronograph developed for the Japanese market, the 356 series was created in 1996 with the characteristic FLIEGER logo on the matte black dial. With a case diameter of 38.5 mm, it is a classically elegant chrono. Everything is designed to ensure accurate reading of the various times, down the the hour, minute and centrally positioned second hand which are all skeletonized, and coated in lume for guaranteed legibility. If you’re in the market for a pilots watch, you could hardly go wrong with this Sinn 356.
Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture
The Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture was first released at Baselworld in 2017. Evocative of chronographs of the 1930s, it represented phenomenal value for a flyback chronograph with an in-house movement. Now there are two further iterations of these original designs, both 42mm and feature the FC-760 Manufacture caliber movement and new two-tone dial and sub-dial configurations in blue or chocolate brown – both impossible not to love.
Tudor Black Bay Chronograph
Everything Tudor touches seems to turn to gold at the moment. Rolex’s little brother just can’t do anything wrong. The mad popular Black Bay also comes as a chronograph. The stainless steel 41mm case is polished and satin finish and fixed steel bezel with tachymetric scale. The iconic ‘snowflake’ hands evoke the brand's heritage from their introduction in 1969 from a line of Tudor watches used by the French National Navy. The dial features a date window at 6 o’clock and two sub dials; a second hand register at 9 o’clock and the 45 minute register at 3 o’clock, which are both hollowed out for maximum readability. Bottom line, this the Black Bay Chrono is a perfect balance between value, build quality and style.
Tissot Heritage 1948
Tissot has long been known for making high-quality, [Swiss made watches](https://teddybaldassarre.com/blogs/watches/45-best-swiss-watch-brands-a-complete-guide-2021) at relatively affordable prices. The Tissot Heritage 1948 Chronograph, which was officially unveiled at Baselworld 2017 was inspired by a model from Tissot’s archive. It is hard not to love the retro styling and attractive price point. Presented in a 39.5mm stainless steel case, the Tissot Heritage 1948 Chronograph is paired with a 1970’s style Milanese mesh bracelet or a leather strap, both of which are attractive for different reasons. It’s monochromatic design is reminiscent of a sports chronograph from several decades ago. There is no contrasting use of colour, no fluffy ancillary details, just exactly what you need, exactly where you need it. The vintage Tissot logo is a particularly nice touch.
IWC Chronograph Spitfire
IWC really are THE pilot specialists. With quite a pedigree and certainly a strong back catalog to lean on, the Pilot's Watch Chronograph Spitfire is a perfectly proportioned, modern sports watch. It was the first member of the family to feature a chronograph movement from the 69000-calibre family. It is available in multiple variations in steel, bronze and ceratanium. With traditional pilot watch layout, with sub dials at 12, 6 and 9 o’clock, and reduced case sizes, really nothing not to love!
Tag Heuer Monaco
The TAG Monaco is without doubt the king of vintage racing and the pole position design from Tag. This reference is the first Monaco outfitted with an in-house Heuer 02 movement. It’s vintage vibes are faithful to the blue, square-faced original on Steve McQueen’s wrist in the 1970s. It is packed with 80 hours power reserve and the two-sub dial chronograph are recognisable from across the room.
Hamilton American Classic Intra-Matic Auto Chrono
Hamilton have been [flying](https://teddybaldassarre.com/blogs/watches/pilot-watches) (quite literally in recent years). And the Intra-Matic Auto Chrono was a smash hit when it dropped. It is a modern reworking of a 1968 reference that bridged a sporty stance with classic elegance. That 60s vibe is a perfect match for the H-31 automatic movement. Oh – and that 40mm sizing is a real sweet spot. If you're in the market for a manual-wind chronograph but aren't ready to stretch your budget to the Speedmaster level, Hamilton has delivered a terrific alternative.
IWC Portugieser Chronograph
The IWC Portugieser Chronograph is universally appreciated. The perfect balance between style and understatement. The harmoniously design with its recessed totalizers has been the most coveted member of the Portugieser family since 1998. The IWC Portugieser Chronograph By equipping the IWC Portugieser Chronograph with the new in-house caliber 69355, IWC moved this watch into a new category altogether. The Portugieser Chronograph is one of IWC Schaffhausen’s most iconic models. With its compact diameter of 41 millimeters, it fits almost any wrist.
Breitling Premier B01
Designed by Willy Breitling in the 1940s, the Premier was the brand’s first-ever watch dedicated to style. Featuring elegant details and modern-retro touches, it features rectangular chronograph pushers, as well as a bi-compax chronograph. The Premier displays a variety of elegant design details such as the grooves on the case-side or the open sapphire caseback.
OMEGA Speedmaster Professional
You know the deal. The Speedmaster was originally introduced in 1957 as a racing watch. It wasn't until 1969, when the hand-wound chronograph accompanied the crew of Apollo 11 onto the surface of the Moon, that things really got interesting. One of the closest current references to either of these models is this one, the reference 3184.108.40.206.01.001. It is identical to the watch worn by the Apollo 11 crew other than the leather strap, the luminescent material used in the hands and hour markers, and the exact movement, which is caliber 1861, a modern version of the original 861 movement. A true icon with modern sensibility.
Zenith Chronomaster Original
Zenith have had a blockbuster few years. The Chronomaster Original is a winner on every level - design, history and movement. Crafted in a 38mm steel case in the same proportions as the A386, paired with the iconic tri-colour dial and a blue leather strap. Powered by the El Primero 3600 automatic high-frequency chronograph movement with 1/10th of a second chronograph function and a power reserve of 60 hours.
Introduced in 1963, the Cosmograph Daytona was designed to meet the demands of professional racing drivers. It is an icon forever joined in name and function to the high-performance world of motor sport. More than 50 years after its creation, the Cosmograph Daytona remains in a class of its own among sport chronographs and continues to transcend time.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph
The Polaris is all about styling and function. We love the angular numerals, clean case design, bold dial and wide tachymeter scale around the dial's edge, a slim bezel, and a pair of totalizers instead of a running seconds register, all making this a really practical chronograph for actual use. The pusher have nice snap to them and the in-house caliber 751 movement inside is a nicely finished workhorse that you can count on. Despite the larger 42mm size, this watch definitely has the feel of a mid-century sports watch through and through.
Patek Philippe 5172G
Patek is Patek. You know what you are getting: top notch finishing, great resale, and bucket loads of history. The 5172 is a classic chronograph, with column wheel, horizontal clutch and manual winding. It is one for the purist. Design wise, it boasts a white gold case with round guilloched pushers and three-tier lugs. It’s sapphire-crystal “box” glass is wonderful and the dial also sports an all-new look with a blue background and contrast luminescent white gold applied Arabic numerals and hands. It’s pricey - but guaranteed to deliver.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes De Vache
Elegance personified, the 38.5mm Cornes De Vache is everything Vacheron is known for: sublime movement finishing, elegant proportions and no screaming and shouting. The name comes from the French for “Cows Horns”. Available in three executions, steel, rose gold and platinum. If you’re in the market for a dress watch with style - you’ve just found it.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore
Launched back in 1994, the blown up Royal Oak of the 1970’s was a smash hit from day one. This newly designed 43 mm model in stainless steel and black ceramics is powered by Calibre 4401, and is every bit a Royal Oak Offshore, just with modern updates. The smoked taupe “Méga Tapisserie” dial is a sight to behold and the matching interchangeable rubber straps are very much a shift to multi purpose options for AP.
A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Up/Down
This model was introduced in 2012. The dial is crafted from solid silver and boasts solid-gold appliques and hour markers. The hands are made of rhodiumed gold and blued as well as rhodiumed steel. Lange deserves its reputation for being at the top of the tree, and the Datograph is the definitive chronograph (you only need to turn it over and see the movement).
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