The chronograph, with its subdials and pushers, is one of the most familiar watch types on the market. It's easy to point out that a smartphone costing a fraction of the price would be far more accurate. But there are some situations in which having a chronograph on your wrist can be useful. Timing boiled eggs, your rendition of the Minute Waltz, or your Personal Best to the letterbox and back.
Sometimes, a chronograph becomes a life-saver. On 15 April 1970, in the crippled spacecraft Apollo 13, with all electronic systems down, astronaut Jack Swigert used his Omega Speedmaster to accurately time a 14-second engine burn, necessary to get them back onto course for earth. Omega's close links to the Apollo space missions are celebrated this year by the Omega Speedmaster Professional Apollo 11 45th Anniversary Limited Edition. The 2014 edition has black PVD dial, laser-engraved markings, Sedna gold hands, hour markers and bezel, and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.
Moving back a century or so brings us to Charles Darwin, whose work is commemorated by IWC's Aquatimer Chronograph Edition 'Expedition Charles Darwin,' a very striking watch with its black dial creating a lovely contrast with the bronze used for case and bezel, the first time that IWC Schaffhausen has used this material. Chronograph time is measured by the central seconds hand and the top subdial, for up to sixty minutes. The piece also has all the characteristics of a diver's watch, with 300 metres water resistance, and the revolutionary rotating bezel, in which the outer bezel controls the movement of the inner bezel for easier reading of dive time.
Bulgari is a brand most famous for its jewellery, but its watches are also superb, produced by a vertically-integrated manufacture that combines Swiss precision with a very Italian design flair. The Octo Velocissimo looks extraordinary, very masculine with its multi-faceted, Stealth aircraft-type case. The automatic movement is the high-frequency (36,000 vibrations per hour) Velocissimo calibre, powering the classic functions with central chronograph second hand, and three subdials for chronograph hours and minutes, and small seconds. The Velocissimo is available in three versions, an 18-carat pink gold case on an alligator strap, steel case with alligator strap, and steel case with steel bracelet.
One of the most famous chronographs of all time is the Daytona, or to be precise, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona. It reached its 50th anniversary last year, for which a 950 platinum version was made. This year, a jewelled version has been presented, with platinum dial entirely paved by 437 diamonds. The bezel is set with 36 baguette-cut diamonds, while the chronograph counters are in ice blue colour, reserved by Rolex for its platinum models. The Cosmograph Daytona has the Calibre 4130 movement, which, like all Rolex Perpetual movements, is COSC-certified for precision, making the watch a certified Swiss chronometer.