Watches with Tachymeters: How They Work and Our 15 Top Tachymeter Watches
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Watches with Tachymeters: How They Work and Our 15 Top Tachymeter Watches

It's a common refrain in the watch collector community that chronographs are one of the most popular complications while at the same time being one of the least practical in day-to-day life. Many of the most famous chronograph watches are also equipped with tachymeter scales, and while fans of these watches mostly agree that they look very cool, few of them have ever used the scale with the stopwatch function, and many wouldn't really know how. Nevertheless, the tachymeter on a watch was invented for a utilitarian, practical purpose once upon a time and it's worth briefly exploring those origins and exploring those capabilities.

Breitling Premier B01 Tachymeter ScaleEssentially, a tachymeter (also called a tachometer) is a numerical scale on a watch’s dial or bezel that is used in conjunction with a chronograph seconds hand to measure an object’s speed over a predetermined distance. It is often used to determine miles or kilometers per hour and is thus a common feature of chronograph watches whose design is inspired by automobile racing; we'll showcase several icons of that category in our list below. Unlike divers’ watch bezels, which should rotate in one direction to set dive times, or other types of bezel scales used for calculations and conversions, like the circular slide rule on Breitling’s Navitimer, most of which are bidirectional, a tachymeter scale bezel should be fixed. The numerical scale typically starts around the 6- or 7-second marker on the minute track, and is usually indicated in units of speed starting at 500 (though increments of 400 or 600 can be found in some cases, depending on which second marks the start of the scale).

How to use tachymeter watch

How does it work? First, there's a bit of math to do: Start with determining whether you’ll be measuring in miles of kilometers. Then keep in mind the equation T=3600/t, in which capital “T” is the tachymeter value (i.e., the MPH) and small “t” is the elapsed time divided into the “3600” seconds per hour. The classic example for using a wrist tachymeter is determining speed based on the distance between two mile markers on a road or highway. At the first marker, activate the watch’s chronograph to start the central counter hand, then stop the chronograph at the second marker. Read where the hand stopped on both the seconds scale and the tachymeter scale. If it took 45 seconds to get from Marker A to Marker B, and the “00:45” lines up with the 80 on the tachymeter, you’re going 80 MPH (3,600 divided by 45 equals 80). Furthermore, once you establish a consistent speed, you can use the same scale to determine distance traveled. If there are no more mile markers to assist you on a trip, and you’re traveling at 60 MPH or above (the scale ends at 60), simply note where the seconds hand passes the “80” marker (in the above example) to determine when another mile has been traversed. If you’re traveling slower than 60 MPH, it gets a little trickier: you’ll have to multiply the lower speed by 2 and then divide the tachymeter reading by that same number for an accurate distance.

Omega Speedmaster tachymeter scale Of course, all of this might be a little too much work for today’s watch-wearing driver, who has all the benefits of modern dashboard technology to make all these calculations. Chronograph watches with tachymeters are fun and stylish tools nonetheless, at their highest level combining vintage low-tech appeal with the enduring romance of auto racing in their presentation. Here are 15 of our favorites. 

Seiko Prospex Speedtimer SSC813

Seiko Prospex Speedtimer

Price: $675, Case Size: 39mm, Thickness: 13.3mm, Lug-to-Lug: 45.5mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Crystal: Sapphire, Movement: Seiko Solar Caliber V192

The original Seiko Speedtimer, released in 1969, was among the world’s first self-winding chronograph watches, equipped with the legendary Caliber 6139. When Seiko revived the Speedtimer, as part of its sport-oriented Prospex collection, it decided to eschew the automatic mechanical movement in favor a new, high-tech, solar-powered one, Caliber V192, which enhances reliability and runs up to six months on a single charge from any light source. The tachymeter scale is etched into the stationary bezel, and the dial’s intuitive design uses red detailing for the central seconds hand and the elapsed minutes hand on the 6 o’clock subdial at 6 o’clock for easy reading of the chronograph displays. The date window is nestled unobtrusively between the indexes at 4 and 5 o’clock, helping to enhance the overall legibility of the sunray-finished dial.

Bulova Lunar Pilot

Bulova Lunar Pilot 50th Anniversary

Price: $525, Case Size: 45mm, Thickness: 13.5mm, Lug-to-Lug: 52mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Crystal: sapphire, Movement: Quartz Bulova 262kHz

The Bulova Lunar Pilot takes its cues from the chronograph watch worn by  astronaut Dave Scott on the Moon during the Apollo 15 mission. Commemorating 50 years since that landmark mission is this 50th Anniversary Limited Edition, which closely replicates the original model that was specially engineered for space travel, with a chronograph to track the duration of oxygen supplies, battery power, and other life-sustaining onboard systems. The 45mm case, made of grade 5 titanium with gold-toned details and tachymeter ring around the edge, replicates the original, which was engineered to withstand changes in pressure, temperatures, atmospheric conditions, and gravity. Behind a gold-toned commemorative caseback is Bulova’s proprietary UHF (ultra high frequency) quartz caliber, beating at 262 Hz for an extremely high degree of timekeeping accuracy. 

Mido Multifort Chronograph

Mido Multifort Patrimony ChronographPrice: $2,390, Reference: M0404273604200, Case Size: 42mm, Case Height: 15.2mm, Lug Width: 21mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 50 meters, Movement: Automatic Mido Caliber 60 (ETA A05.H31)

Mido introduced the Multifort, its first watch with an automatic movement, as well as being notable for its antimagnetic and shock-and-water-resistant properties, in 1934 and has been building the collection ever since. This 42mm bicompax chronograph with a rose-gold PVD-treated case evokes the Multichrono model of 1937. Its appealing vintage details include the domed dial with tachymeter scale, faceted sword hands, and Arabic numerals; tapered lugs and pump chrono pushers on the case; and the box-style crystal over the dial. Powering the watch is the automatic ETA-based Caliber 60, offering a 60-hour power reserve.

Hamilton American Classic Intra-Matic 68 Autochrono

Hamilton American Classic Intra-Matic Auto Chrono

Price: $2,195, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 14.4mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Crystal: Sapphire, Movement: Automatic Hamilton H-31 (Valjoux 7750 base)

Based on the original Hamilton Chrono-Matic — one of the world’s first self-winding chronographs, debuting in 1968 — the Intra-Matic Autochrono has a 42-mm steel case with elongated lugs, pump-stye pushers, and a large, right-side-mounted crown. Its black “reverse Panda” dial has an outer white tachymeter scale, applied hour markers with luminescent inserts, and two parallel, snail-finished white subdials for running seconds and 30 elapsed chronograph minutes. A vintage-style Hamilton logo appears at 12 o’clock. The movement is the automatic Hamilton Caliber H-31, based on the ETA 7750, which maintains a 60-hour power reserve. The black leather perforated strap harmonizes with the tachymeter details to give the watch a classic "racing" look.

Tissot Heritage 1973

Tissot Heritage 1973

Price: $2,100, Case size: 43mm, Thickness: 14.8mm, Lug to Lug: 47mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic ETA Valjoux 7753

Tissot's Heritage 1973 is a motorsport-inspired chronograph whose retro design hearkens back to the Tissot Navigator, a watch worn in the 1970s by Swiss Formula One driver Loris Kessel. Tissot worked with Kessel’s son and his racing team to produce this modern homage, with an expanded, cushion-shaped 43mm steel case with an array of high-end finishes and a sharp, black-and-white “panda”-style dial bordered by a black tachymeter scale on its periphery. The front crystal is scratch-resistant sapphire, while the back exhibition window uses a more period-appropriate mineral glass to showcase the automatic integrated chronograph caliber inside, with its golden rotor engraved with a Tissot logo. The black calfskin strap with racing-style perforations is a reproduction of the original.

Raymond Weil Freelancer Chronograph

Raymond Weil Freelancer Chronograph

Price: $2,100, Case size: 43mm, Thickness: 14.8mm, Lug to Lug: 47mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic ETA Valjoux 7753

Raymond Weil added a new dark green-toned chronograph to its elegantly sporty Freelancer collection in 2022. The 43.5mm stainless steel case has brushed and polished surfaces and is highlighted by a tachymeter bezel with an insert made of green ceramic. Matching the bezel’s olive tones is the tricompax dial, with subdials at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock all framed by silver-toned circular borders and sporting silvered steel hands. The main hour and minute hand are in the barrel shape of the Freelancer line and the dial’s outer edge has a subtle grooved pattern (inspired by phonograph records) that is repeated in miniature on the snailed subdials. Ticking inside is the new proprietary automatic Caliber RW5030, based on the reliable ETA Valjoux 7753, with a 56-hour power reserve. The watch comes mounted on a genuine calf leather strap in a shade of green that continues the monochromatic appeal of the timepiece.

Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture

Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph

Price: $4,295 - $4,595, Case Size: 42mm, Case Height: 15.5mm, Strap Width: 20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Automatic FC-760

Powered by an in-house movement developed specially for it, Frederique Constant’s Flyback Chronograph is inspired by models from the 1930s. The automatic Caliber FC-760 inside has an unconventional, star-shaped column wheel that rotates on bearings to govern the integrated stopwatch’s start, stop, and reset functions. Working in unison with the operating lever, which is controlled by the start/stop push-piece, the star-shaped wheel is responsible for the mechanism’s exceptionally smooth operation. The watch’s case measures 42mm in diameter and available in either stainless steel or rose-gold-plated steel. The tricompax dial features subdials at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock for the 30-minute chronograph counter, analog date display, and small seconds indicator, respectively. In another nod to its historical inspirations, the tachymeter scale appears on the dial’s periphery rather than on the bezel. A high complication at an amazing price point, this watch’s value is enhanced by the haute horlogerie decorations on the movement, visible through a sapphire caseback.

Tudor Black Bay Chrono

Tudor Black Bay Chrono

Price: $5,000 - $7,200, Case Size: 41mm, Case Thickness: 14.79mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Automatic Tudor Caliber MT5813

To develop the movement for the first-ever chronograph watch in its popular Black Bay collection, Tudor turned not to its parent brand Rolex but to an outside source, fellow Swiss sports-watch giant Breitling. The resulting Caliber MT5813, which uses Breitling’s self-winding B01 movement as a base, features an integrated chronograph powered by a column wheel, a 70-hour power reserve and a COSC chronometer certification. The bezel on the 41mm steel case does not rotate and its anodized aluminum bezel insert is inscribed with a tachymeter scale (rather than the dive-time scale characteristic of the Black Bay family), bringing this model more into the realm of motorsport than marine exploration. The screw-down crown and chrono pushers help ensure the same 200-meter water resistance as the diving models, and the dial feature contrasting "panda" subdials at 3 and 9 o’clock as well as a date window at 6 o’clock.

Omega Speedmaster “Moonwatch”

Omega Speedmaster Snoopy 2020

Price: $9,600, Reference: 310., Case Size: 42mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Lug to Lug: 48mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 50 meters, Movement: Omega Master Chronometer Caliber 3861, manually wound

The Omega Speedmaster, the first watch to go to the moon, is also the first watch to move the tachymeter scale from the dial to the bezel, kicking off an enduring stylistic trend. This Anniversary Edition of the "Moonwatch," released in 2020, commemorates 50 years since Omega received its first “Silver Snoopy” award from NASA in 1970 for its contribution to the U.S. space program. (Long story short, Snoopy from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip served as an official NASA mascot at the time.) The watch has the classic Speedmaster configuration, with a 42mm steel case, tachymeter-scale bezel (here in blue ceramic), and tricompax dial with blue PVD indexes and blue subdials for chronograph minutes and hours and running seconds — the latter subdial featuring an image of an astronaut Snoopy. The cartoon beagle also makes an appearance on the back of the watch, in a spacecraft poised at the tip of a hand, which begins cruising in a circle when the chronograph, powered by Omega’s manually wound Master Chronometer Caliber 3861, is activated.

TAG Heuer Carrera Porsche Chronograph Special Edition

TAG Heuer Carrera x Porsche

Price: $6,950, Reference: CBN2A5A.FC6481, Case Size: 44mm, Case Height: 15.27mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic Caliber Heuer 02

Named for the Carrera Panamerica road race by its designer, founding family scion and former CEO Jack Heuer, the TAG Heuer Carrera made its debut in 1964 and swiftly became a trendsetter in the genre of motorsport-inspired chronograph wristwatches with its recessed subdials, minute-scale flange, and tachymeter bezel. Developed in collaboration with Posrche, TAG Heuer's longtime automotive partner, the Carrera Porsche Chronograph Special Edition adopts the classic tricompax design of the Carrera and adds some Porsche-inspired aesthetic details. Among the latter are the red Porsche inscription emblazoning the engraved black ceramic tachymeter-scale bezel; applied numerals in a Porsche dashboard font; a unique, asphalt-motif textured dial; and an overall color scheme in the classic Porsche colors of red, black and gray. The three black subdials feature red details and azurage centers. The 44-mm steel case contains a specially modified version of the Heuer 02 caliber with a black rotor formed to resemble a Porsche steering wheel.

Breitling Chronomat B01

Breitling ChronoMat B01

Price: $8,500, Case Size: 42mm, Case Height: 15.1mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Lug to Lug: 50.5mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Automatic Breitling Caliber 01

Breitling's original 1948 Chronomat, which introduced the slide-rule bezel now emblematic of its more famous Navitimer model, was revamped in 1984 for Italy’s famed Frecce Tricolori aerial squadron, with a tachymeter-scale flange and “rider tabs” at the quarter-hours on the rotating bezel used to set countdown times with the built-in stopwatch. Breitling updated the design again in 2020 for a slew of new models, including this steel-cased model, on a steel Rouleaux bracelet, with a tricompax panda-style dial with contrasting snailed subdials at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. On the modern Chronomat models, the rider tabs are interchangeable, meaning they can be used either for tallying up or counting down the first 15-minute interval via the bezel. Inside is the brand's in-house, chronograph-equipped movement, the automatic Caliber B01.

Blancpain Air Command

Blancpain Air Command

Price: $18,500, Case Size: 42.5mm, Thickness: 13.7mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Automatic Blancpain Caliber 3888

Revived in 2019 as a limited edition in steel, the Blancpain Air Command traces its history to a prototype made for the French Ministry of Defence in the 1950s, and its successor that was produced in limited numbers for the U.S. Air Force shortly thereafter. In 2021, the vintage-flavored aviation watch joined Blancpain’s regular lineup in a satin-brushed case made of grade 23 titanium (a higher grade than those usually found in watchmaking) and a contemporary blue dial. Among the watch’s retro utilitarian elements are its ratcheted bidirectional bezel that enables a pilot to keep track of his fuel reserve in flight and a tachymeter scale on the dial's edge for calculating air speeds. The flyback chronograph-equipped Caliber F385 inside holds a power reserve of 50 hours and is finished in a stark, mostly matte finish that differentiates it from Blancpain’s usual ornately decorated movements.

Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph

Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph

Price: $5,790, Reference: 168589-3002, Case Size: 42mm Case Height: 12.67mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 50 meters, Movement: Automatic ETA Caliber 2894-2

Chopard’s decades-long partnership with the Mille Miglia series of classic car rallies has yielded a wealth of sharp, motorsport-inspired wristwatches at a more accessible price point than many of the manufacture's high-jewelry ladies’ watches and its higher-end L.U.C series. The Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph sports a dial with large, legible Arabic numerals, in a vintage font used on the dashboards of the historical cars that drive in the Mille Miglia races. Three snailed subdials at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock tally the running seconds, chronograph hours and chronograph minutes, respectively. A racing-inspired tachymeter scale appears on the flange and a bright red Mille Miglia logo joins the date window at 3 o'clock. Two pump pushers flank the screwed crown on the round, steel case to operate the chronograph. The textured pattern on the black rubber strap, evoking the treads of Dunlop racing tires, carries on the rally-racing theme.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph

Taking their cues from the original 1968 Polaris, a groundbreaking alarm-equipped divers’ watch, the watches in Jaeger-LeCoultre's modern Polaris collection feature dive-inspired inner rotating bezels, dials with three concentric circles with contrasting finishes, vintage-inspired Arabic numerals and trapezoidal indexes, and large luminous hands. The Polaris Chronograph is the sportiest of the collection, its inner bezel sporting a racing-inspired tachymeter scale and its chronograph pushers designed to ensure an ideal grip. Like all watches in the series, its dial consists of three concentric circles with contrasting finishes: sunray in the center, graining on the outer circle, and opaline for the rotating inner bezel flange. The dial’s bicompax layout has a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock and small seconds at 9 o’clock. Beating behind a sapphire caseback and holding a 65-hour power reserve is Jaeger-LeCoultre's self-winding manufacture Caliber 751. 

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

Rolex Daytona Meteorite Dial

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona, originally a manually wound chronograph, and named after the famous racetrack in Florida, was first launched in 1963 and has been produced in various versions ever since, forever linked to the high-performance world of motorsport and consistently one of the most coveted watch models in the world. This version released in 2021 features an 18k white-gold case and an intriguingly textured dial made of metallic meteorite. Derived from the remnants of an exploded asteroid of primarily iron and nickel, the meteorite dials are interwoven with crystallized surface patterns that make each one unique and impossible to replicate. The tachymeter bezel atop the case is made from Cerachrom, a durable, virtually scratchproof material patented by Rolex; other patents abound throughout the movement, the in-house, COSC-certified Caliber 4130, which beats inside and amasses a 70-hour power reserve.


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