Sexy seconds Featured

Fly me to the moon: attractive departures in chronograph watches

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24 May 2013

It's all been done before? Not true! The creativity of top watch brands yields a remarkable range of new ideas, season after season, even in consolidated patterns such as the chronograph. An example is the new Chronograph Grande Date by Blancpain, a watch for women with a mother-of-pearl dial embellished with 40 diamonds around the bezel, and two waves of 17 diamonds that ripple out from the centre. These curving lines suggest two subdials, minimalistically-rendered with numbers in differing sizes for the 12-hour counter and the 30-minute counter. Chronograph seconds are shown on the centre hand, while time is displayed on an offset dial with Roman numerals. The watch is deliciously eccentric: everything is brought together by the delightful colour scheme, with the pearly dial and the red gold case and buckle. The back of the watch is characterized by the petal-shaped oscillating weight visible through the sapphire caseback.

Harry Winston's Ocean Sport™ Ladies chronograph is another watch that gives feminine appeal to traditionally men-oriented functions. The automatic-wound movement powers a complex, multi-level dial, on which hour and minute subdials are balanced by another small dial at 3 o'clock with the shuriken, now part of the Harry Winston DNA. The shuriken is a weapon used by the ninjas, but here it provides a more tranquil indication of the passage of seconds, and above all it enables the user to ensure that her watch is running correctly. The beauty of this watch is enhanced by the brilliant-cut diamonds on the bezel.

One of Montblanc's new watches this year is the Nicolas Rieussec Rising Hours. Like the others in this series, this piece has rotating discs instead of hands. In the Rising Hours complication, the hours are shown digitally, with skeleton numbers on a disc so that the digits change colour – daytime numerals in grey, and night-time numerals in blue – by means of an ingenious patented mechanism. This extension of the rotating discs feature accompanies four others: one for the date at 3 o'clock, one for the day at 9 o'clock, and two for the chronograph counters, united by the characteristic bridge. This watch has a red gold case, which creates a beautiful contrast with the grain d'orge guilloché decoration on the dial and the brown alligator strap.

Audemars Piguet continues its tradition of creating high-end watches that appeal to discerning collectors, and this year's new products include the Tradition Tourbillon Minute Repeater Chronograph, in two 10-piece limited editions, one in pink and white gold, and the other in titanium and white gold. The cushion-shaped case is based on one of the marque's 1920s pocket watches, while the technology is state-of-the-art, with the minute repeater function enhanced in particular by the titanium case which provides the highest sound volume. The tourbillon at 6 o'clock offers a hypnotic indication of the passage of time. Chronograph seconds are recorded by the centre-sweep hand, and minutes on the subdial at 3 o'clock.

Panerai has a long tradition of watch design innovation, and the Luminor 1950 3-Days Chrono Flyback (PAM00524) is a powerhouse of originality. It is the first chronograph by Officine Panerai to use the new in-house P.9100 calibre, with flyback function controlled by a push-button at 8 o'clock that instantly returns the chronograph hands to zero and restarts it. Clarity is enhanced by the arrangement of hands, with chronograph minutes and seconds shown by central-sweep seconds in different colours, and a single subdial for small seconds.

The Omega Speedmaster has gone down in watchmaking legend for its close connections to NASA's space missions. The marque's 'First Omega in Space' limited edition celebrates a watch purchased by Wally Schirra at a Houston jeweller and worn during his Mercury Atlas 8 mission in October 1962, over 50 years ago. The self-winding calibre 1861 movement is often described as the definitive chronograph, with 30-minute and 12-hour counters at 3 o'clock and 6 o'clock, and small seconds at 9 o'clock. It was stringently tested by NASA, and on 21 July 1969, it became the first watch to land on the moon.

These examples show that the chronograph remains a favourite theme, though with ever-new variations, and the increasing interest in this function on the part of female connoisseurs.