When looking at the abundance of luxury sports watches available in the market, one type stands out as the most prevalent and popular: the chronograph. More than just a time keeping instrument, the chronograph also records time. During its heyday, the chronograph was important to a variety of fields including sports, aviation, and military. While today, time recording is typically relegated to computers, this hasn’t stopped the popularity of luxury chronographs. Whether or not the chronograph function is used is of no consequence since it’s the aesthetics of a chrono that is particularly appealing for today’s consumer. Let’s review five highly popular luxury chronographs.
The Omega Speedmaster
Making its debut in 1957, the Omega Speedmaster is one of the most famous luxury chronographs on earth and beyond—literally. As the first watch to reach the moon on the historic lunar landing of 1969, the Omega Speedmaster quickly gained its celebrated nickname, the “Moonwatch.”
Staying close to the original NASA approved timepiece, modern Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch models sport the iconic black dial, black bezel with the tachymetric scale, stainless steel case. Plus, they run on manual-wound calibers.
However, as Omega’s signature chronograph collection, there’s a slew of other Speedmaster models too. With a variety of sizes, materials, and movements, there are plenty of Omega Speedmaster chronograph watches to choose from.
The Rolex Daytona
While Rolex had already manufactured chronographs prior to the 1960s, it was in 1963 that the Swiss watchmaking giant unveiled the Cosmograph. Later known as the Comosgraph Daytona, or simply, Daytona, this is arguably one of the most coveted luxury chronographs to own.
Prior to 1988, Rolex Daytona watches were manual-wound. In 1988 however, Rolex introduced the first automatic Daytona chronograph powered by a movement based on the famed Zenith El-Primero movement. Finally, in 2000, the company revamped the Daytona to include their own in-house movement—the Caliber 4130, which still powers the Rolex chronograph today.
In terms of style, the Daytona is instantly recognizable thanks to its 40mm case, tachymeter engraved bezel, trio of registers on the dial, and the duo of pushers flanking the winding crown. The Rolex Daytona is available in a range of materials including gold, platinum, and steel, and the most modern versions also have ceramic bezels.
The Breitling Chronomat
Along with Heuer and Hamilton, Breitling was part of a consortium to develop the world’s first automatic chronograph movement. In fact, long before that, Léon Breitling—the founder of Breitling—was instrumental in the development of the modern-day chronograph.
Presented in the early 1940s, the Breitling Chronomat included an integrated slide rule along with the time and chronograph functions. Since the watch allowed for complex calculations, it quickly became the go-to timepiece for mathematicians and scientists of the era.
Fast-forward to the 1980s and the Chronomat made headlines again. During what is now referred to as the “Quartz Crisis” Breitling took a bold step by reintroducing the Chronomat. But this time, it ran on an automatic mechanical movement. The bet paid off and the Chronomat has since become one of Breitling’s most popular chronographs available in a range of metals, colors, and additional functions.
The Breitling Navitimer
A direct descendant of the Chronomat, the Breitling Navitimer came out in 1952. Taking it a step further from its predecessor, the Navitimer incorporated an enhanced slide rule bezel. By allowing pilots to compute complex navigational calculations, the Navitimer became the quintessential aviator’s chronograph.
Although the Breitling Navitimer has undergone several enhancements throughout its 65-year history, the fundamental design traits are still there. For instance, a very technical dial and a large case.
Today, the Navitimer collection is Breitling’s signature line. In addition to in-house movements, the Navitimer also offers a variety of additional functions to the chronograph. There are Navitimers with GMT, World Timer, and others functions.
The IWC Portuguese Chronograph
The IWC Portuguese collection did not begin as a chronograph. However, the chronograph version became the company’s most successful watch ever produced since its introduction in the 1990s.
The inaugural Portuguese dates back to the 1930s. Two businessmen from Portugal commissioned large wrist watches from the International Watch Company. To this day, the look of the IWC Portuguese is very much like a pocket watch. Take note of the railway style minute track. The dials of the IWC Portuguese Chronograph watches are minimalistic and beautifully balanced while the bezels are super slim.
Always presented on a leather band, both steel and gold IWC Portuguese Chronograph watches lean more towards a dress timepiece than a sports watch.
The chronograph has always been a very popular luxury watch choice. As a result, every fine watchmaker includes several versions in their collections. And that’s great for the consumer because that means plenty of styles, sizes, materials, and price points to choose from.