Serious Timing: Timepieces You Can Rely On

Chronographs that are designed to do the job.

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20 December 2016

The chronograph is one of the favourite watch complications. But one of the strange things about some chronograph watches is that in many cases they are more scenic than functional. The subdials are treated as purely decorative motifs. And fairly often, the seconds scale at the edge of the dial – where you read off the elapsed time using the centre chronograph seconds hand – is not complete, with big chunky hour markers obscuring the fractional seconds markings so that at best, your reading is an approximation. This is not the case for the watches featured here, all masterpieces of functional perfection as well as beauty.

ZenithThe Heritage Pilot Café Racer
Lovers of fine watches are aware that a mechanical timepiece is never going to be as accurate as an electronic device. But all the same, watchmakers strive to make their chronographs as accurate as possible, so that you can take readings to fractions of a second. The Heritage Pilot Café Racer by Zenith is powered by the legendary El Primero 4069 calibre, which runs at the unusually fast rate of 36,000 vibrations per hour, 5 Hertz, so that precision of readings attains a tenth of a second.
 
The Patek Philippe 5170 is an absolute classic in the genre, now with pink gold case and a dial of elegant simplicity. Nothing detracts from the task in hand, no calendar window, and a minimum of markings on the dial. The Caliber CH 29-535 PS is superb, Patek Philippe’s first in-house chronograph movement, hand-wound, with crown wheel and an instantaneously-jumping 30-minute counter. A simple feature, complex to attain, that makes taking readings easier.

 

Related: How to Understand Watch Dials

omegaSpeedmaster Moonphase by Omega

The crown wheel is a mark of quality for a chronograph, providing smoother pusher operation and also enabling the chronograph to be left running indefinitely without any problems of increased wear. In the Omega Speedmaster Moonphase, chronograph hours and minutes are shown on one subdial, so that the watch could also be used for a second time zone. The watch has large hour markers with luminescent coating, but they are positioned so that the chronograph seconds scale right at the edge of the dial is perfectly visible all the way around.

vacheron constantVacheron Constantin

Overseas is an iconic collection for Vacheron Constantin, and the brand has presented the new range that includes new models, new movements, and handy interchangeable bracelets and straps. The Calibre 5200 chronograph movement is as beautiful as it isOverseas is an iconic collection for Vacheron Constantin, and the brand has presented the new range that includes new models, new movements, and handy interchangeable bracelets and straps. The Calibre 5200 chronograph movement is as beautiful as it is functional, with a gold oscillating weight providing the energy to wind the mainspring, and the column wheel visible through the sapphire caseback. The dial is pure perfection, very three-dimensional, with the chronograph seconds on the inner bezel flange, and subdials for chronograph minutes and hours.