At its simplest, the function of a chronograph is akin to that of a stopwatch. At its most complex, it can be used to calculate speed or distance with the addition of a tachymeter, airplane take-off sequences with a flyback module, and timing of simultaneous events with a rattrapante. Higher-end versions of the chronograph tend to utilize more elaborate mechanisms such as column wheels and vertical clutches, which make for a more durable movement with smoother starts, stops, and resets. The chronograph is also one of the most popular complications found on wrists worldwide, rivaling only the date indicator in its ubiquity. In this section, we photographed eleven of our favorite chronographs.
Styled by Logan R. Baker and Shyam Patel
Photography by Jens Mortensen
The Panerai Luminor is recognized even by non-watch lovers for its protruding crown protection system. The Swiss watchmaker with Italian roots balances out this watch’s signature design feature by moving the flyback chronograph pushers to the left side of the case. Price: $14,700.
It comes as little surprise that Hermès is arguably the leading fashion marque with a foot in fine watchmaking. The house even owns a percentage of Parmigiani Fleurier’s Vaucher movement factory, allowing the family-owned company to make some of its own mechanical movements. Price: $7,100.
Parmigiani Fleurier is a watchmaker for connoisseurs. With very limited production and calibers produced to exacting standards, the company is capable of making virtually every part of its watches in-house, from cases and dials to screws and escapements. This know-how is brought to bear in the Tonda Metrographe, a chronograph created with younger collectors in mind. Price: $11,500.
Ralph Lauren’s affinity for watch collecting caused him to wait until 2009 to make his first watches in collaboration with the Richemont Group. Mr. Lauren wanted to pick the right partner and make watches of real quality. Like his fashions, the resulting watches exude taste and restraint. This chronograph is equipped with a movement from Swiss powerhouse Jaeger-LeCoultre. Price: $9,500.
Within the bold, angular case of the Octo Ultranero Chronograph ticks one of watchmaking’s most famous automatic chronograph movements. Due to its ownership by LVMH, Bulgari has access to sister brand Zenith’s El Primero, an integrated column wheel chronograph that first launched in 1969 and remains a tried and true classic. Price: $13,400.
While every mechanical timepiece that leaves the workshops of Patek Philippe is collectible, the Ref. 5170 Chronograph is an especially prized model because it represents a milestone for the company. Prior to 2010, this chronograph’s predecessor, Ref. 5070, used a very fine—albeit supplied—movement from Lémania. The engine in this 5170 is all Patek Philippe. Price: $81,000.
L.U.C, the line of fine timepieces named for company founder Louis-Ulysse Chopard, is the highest expression of watchmaking at Chopard. The brainchild of Copresident Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, himself a serious watch collector, the line is crafted in Fleurier at Chopard Manufacture using hand-finishing techniques. Price: $40,260.
The subtle red-gold hue of this chronograph’s case matches its ardoise dial seamlessly. A member of the brand’s signature Portugieser line of timepieces, the watch blends in regardless of the setting. It pairs just as well underneath the sleeve of a suit jacket during a night on the town, or, when given the chance to breathe, at a day on the beach with rolled-up sleeves. Price: $16,600.
With a name that evokes a legend, the Excalibur needed a bold design to separate it from the pack of round watches that compete for collector’s attention. Cue the crenelated bezel, stretched Roman numerals, oversize case, and three-part lugs. The watch called Excalibur lives up to its outsize name. Price: $45,900.
The Hublot Big Bang is one of the most successful sport-luxury watch designs of the modern era. Here it is equipped with a chronograph movement, Unico, made in-house at Hublot in the outskirts of Geneva. Price: $19,900.
This chronograph with annual calendar mechanism is one of the best values in modern, high-end watchmaking. Ulysse Nardin has demonstrated its seriousness by investing considerably in independence over the last decade. Not only is this complex movement made in-house, but even the silicon hairspring at its heart is crafted by Ulysse Nardin. Price: $11,900.