Feature: 10 Awesome Chronographs For Every Budget
Have you got anywhere between five-hundred and a million dollars and fancy spending it on a chronograph? Well, look no further because we’ve got just the thing for you. Here’s ten different chronographs for ten different budgets—and every single one is awesome.
Furlan Marri Havana Salmon
The chronograph watch, a device that can record a period of time of your choosing—including such typical events as the boiling of an egg or the birthing of your child—has been in existence since 1816. From recording the wonders of the solar system to the fastest horse at the races, it’s been established not just as a practical device but a beautiful one too, and you can hardly disagree that newbie Furlan Marri’s attempt is a very pretty looking thing.
It’s affordable too, tipping the scales at $550. It comes in a whole bundle of different colours, including this Havana Salmon, and really pops with its well-considered designs and neatly sculpted details, such as the curved hands and engraved pushers. At 38mm in diameter and 11.3mm thick, it stays away from wearing too large, without being puny either. A Seiko mecha-quartz VK64 inside keeps the cost down without sacrificing on reliability.
Studio Underd0g Watermel0n
If mechanical is more your thing, then you might be thinking that you won’t find anything the right side of $1,000. Thanks to the Seagull watch company in Tianjin, China, and a plucky young band called Studio Underd0g, your dream of owning a mechanical chronograph for under $600 can stay very much alive.
You’ll notice that where the Watermel0n variation of the Studio Underd0g chronograph benefits in value, it lacks in subtlety, and that’s exactly the reason it exists. At 38.5mm across and 13.6mm thick, where it remains restrained in its proportions, it makes up for in the punch of its colour. Green and pink, the international colours of watermelon, adorn the watch, alongside hidden details like the melon seed markers. If you like the style but not the brightness, Studio Underd0g also caters to more subdued tastes as well.
Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope
If you like your buildings big, blocky and monochrome, then you’ll love the Max Bill Chronoscope from German watchmaker Junghans. That’s because the watch’s namesake, Max Bill, was a man who designed buildings that were big, blocky and monochrome. You can just tell by the everything about this watch that Max Bill’s favourite colour was concrete.
An alumni of the Bauhaus school of design, Max liked to keep things simple and functional, lending a certain purity to his work that had the not inconsequential side effect of being rather pleasing on the eye. The watch he designed for Junghans is very much the same. At 40mm across and 14.4mm thick, it’s heading towards the larger side, but the thin bezel and minimalist details do a good job of hiding that. Here with a black case and white dial, its clarity could almost have you believe that Apple have started making mechanical watches. This one can be yours for around $2,000.
TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Anniversary
If you lament the plain and boring default so many watchmakers fall to when it comes to designing their latest timepieces, then TAG Heuer has the answer: the $6,500 Carrera 160 Years Anniversary. This limited edition of 1,000 may be pared back in its design, harking back to its early chronographs with its 39mm diameter and classic Heuer logo, but the flash of colour is anything but boring.
Taking inspiration from the Carrera Montreal of the 1970s, there’s a whole lot of primary colour going on that should, by all accounts, make it look like a child’s painting—but somehow it doesn’t. Instead it gets away with being a fun watch full of character, which is good.
It’s also full of the calibre Heuer 02, a Swiss Made column-wheel chronograph with a decent 80 hours of power reserve. Those 80 hours do plump up the case to 14mm thick, but it wears it well. The only downside is that the standard Carrera is quite a bit cheaper.
Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43
Unmistakable and yet easy to make a mistake whilst reading is the calling card of Breitling’s most famous pilot’s chronograph, but then you don’t need to know what all those numbers mean so long as you think it looks good. There are buttons in my car whose functions remain a mystery to me, and I’m sure that same mentality can be extended to a watch as well.
As if to encourage that, Breitling has given the Navitimer a colourful makeover, offering green, salmon and the blue you see here alongside the usual monochrome versions. The contrasting black sub-dials and slide rule bezel give the watch another little visual lift, broadening the model’s popularity with people who otherwise didn’t want a maths lesson every time they read their watch.
The 43mm diameter is still very much Breitling, with all that extra material—plus the in-house calibre B-01—going some way towards justifying the $8,000 price. It’s a modern refresh of a classic watch for sure, but you’ll pay a modern price as well.
Zenith Chronomaster Revival El Primero
We couldn’t get this far without mentioning Rolex, but rather than to recommend one, it’s to doff our caps to the people that saved them—or at least saved the Daytona. That’s because Zenith very kindly loaned its famous El Primero movement to Rolex so the failing Daytona could be kickstarted with automatic winding.
These days, listing the El Primero’s record as supposedly the first Swiss integrated automatic chronograph sounds a bit unremarkable, and it’s just not needed when the movement is as good as it is anyway. It’s massively overengineered, runs at a steaming ten beats per second instead of eight, and in this $8,500 Chronomaster Revival, looks excellent from every angle. I could’ve chosen the El Primero we’re all familiar with, but I think this one is cooler.
If you’re sick of watches made by people you’ve heard of and want to find the indie tent at this particular festival, you’ve found it right here with Habring2. Designed and built by the former IWC watchmaker Richard Habring, who invented the method IWC uses to make its split-second chronographs, it’ll be no surprise to you to learn this particular chronograph is of the split-second variety. Richard just had to wait until the IWC patent ran out.
And you’ll be glad it did, because this $10,000 watch is made all the better for it. The familiar movement may source its base design from the architecture of the ETA 7750, but on top of—literally—the high-quality finish is a module of Habring’s very own, converting what was once an ordinary chronograph into one that can pause without losing its place. The mechanism doesn’t just function beautifully, it looks cool too. In fact, I imagine most owners will use the 42mm chronograph watch upside down just to peer at it in action.
Panerai Radiomir 1940 Chronograph Oro Rosso
You wouldn’t have figured seeing a Panerai in a list of exceptional chronograph watches, the Italian watchmaker better known for its time-only configurations, but as they say, here’s one anyway. And this one’s a special one, released in very limited numbers at just under $60,000 because—well, because Panerai fancied it.
What makes this hefty 45mm Radiomir extra special is the chronograph movement itself. It’s not one sourced from the brand’s own stable. That usually means cheaping out, but here it’s the opposite. It’s to the remarkable watchmaker Minerva that Panerai turned its attention, specifically to the calibre 13-22, a Patek Philippe-rivalling hand-wound calibre that looks every bit this watch’s price point. It’s an unusual but interesting combination for sure, like putting a studded leather jacket on the queen…
Patek Philippe 5172G
Speaking of Patek Philippe, it’s hard to have a list of awesome chronographs and not include a Patek Philippe. This is the watchmaker that invented much of what goes in a chronograph watch, and so the 5172G, even at a whopping $75,000 was always going to be here. There are many other high-end chronographs for sure, but this one is the daddy.
It looks pretty subtle at first glance, but surprisingly it’s anything but. The white gold case is one of the larger here at 41mm across, and is adorned by Art Deco stepped legs and engraved pushers. You might recognise those pushers from the Furlan Marri before. Patek Philippe did it first.
The rich blue dial and syringe markers are all very nice, but really it’s the calibre CH 29-535 PS we’re all here for. If the Panerai combo was a bit too oddball for you, then you’ll be right at home with this.
Patek Philippe Nautilus 5976/1G
In a move that will send the world reeling, our last chronograph in the list is also a Patek Philippe, but once we’re through I think you’ll agree it has earnt its place at the top. Quite specifically because of how much it costs: at launch the 5976/1G anniversary edition would have spanked your wallet for near $100,000, but now you’ll be lucky to get away with change from a million.
Seems like a lot for a watch that looks almost identical to the $60,000 5980, but as well as the shock price it also has a whole bunch of surprises up its sleeves as well. First off is that the white gold case is a whopping 50mm across, making it one of the largest wristwatches Patek Philippe has ever made. That’s partly in aid of fitting the confusingly long anniversary messaging across the dial and partly—well, I think that’s it. It also swaps the usual metal markers for surprisingly subtle baguette diamonds. They made 1,300 to celebrate 40 years of the Nautilus, and now this brute goes for $1m. That’s a pretty happy birthday!
That is by no means an exhaustive list, but there’s no denying it’s a good one. But perhaps you think it could be better?