Chronographs are watches that have stopwatch functions, and they’ve been around for centuries. The best chronograph watches in the world come in all shapes and sizes, from heritage to sports models.
We’ll go over what you need to know about the different kinds of chronographs on the market before we get into our list of top 14 chronograph watches below!
Types of Chronograph Watches
There are two main types of chronograph watches: the mechanical and quartz variants. The mechanical ones have an actual hand which you can use to measure time with, while quartz models are electronic devices that feature a digital display instead.
Although they seem pretty similar on paper, their overall performance is actually quite different! Mechanical chronographs are powered by a spring, which you’ll need to wind regularly.
They can also be affected by various factors like magnetism and gravity (especially the ones with tourbillion movements). On the other hand, quartz chronographs are battery-powered devices that generally offer pretty stable performance in multiple conditions – they’re not as susceptible to external forces!
Unlike an automatic watch where the mechanism is internal, a chronograph watch has a stopwatch function and other dials clearly on display. On most chronographs, there is a second hand which moves when you start the stopwatch.
History of Chronograph Watches
French watchmaker Louis Moinet is credited with inventing the first chronograph in 1816.
Not long after, the Rattrapante chronograph was created. Meaning to catch up in French, this kind of watch was invented in 1844 by Adolphe Nicole.
A rattrapante chronograph has two seconds hands – it lets you record an event by pressing the button that starts and stops one of the hands, then allows you to record another separate time with the other hand. A lot of rattrapante chronographs are designed for sports watch enthusiasts because they’re often equipped with tachymeter scales on their outer bezels.
Another kind of chronograph on the market is called a Column-Wheel and it was invented by Louis Moinet in 1816. A column wheel controls the way that two separate chronograph seconds hands work together, and they were originally designed to be used as stopwatches instead of luxury watches.
The best part about this kind of watch is their simplicity – they have fewer parts than other kinds of chronographs which allows them to be more accurate. Column-wheel watches are also very easy for the user to operate because there’s only one button necessary, so you can start and stop both hands at once with just the press of a single button!
A third kind of watch that falls into the chronograph category is called a Perpetual Calendar. It’s capable of displaying both calendar dates and moon phases.
Perpetual Calendar watches are often equipped with two rattrapante hands for recording multiple events. The best part about this kind of chronograph is that it’s extremely useful – you can use the stopwatch function to time your laps during a race.
The first ever automatic chronograph was launched in 1969 as a joint venture between watchmakers Breitling, Hamilton and Heuer and movement specialist Dubois Dépraz.
Now let’s get into our list of the best chronographs on the market. We’ll be going over their features, what they’re capable of doing and where you can buy them from.
14. Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
The Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph is a unique watch that combines two classic designs, a perpetual calendar and chronograph.
This stunning timepiece has many features that make it aesthetically pleasing and also functional. The dial of this watch features an automatic movement with the day, date and month indicator at 12 o’clock and moonphase indication at 6 o’clock as well as the chronograph function.
13. Omega Speedmaster
The Omega Speedmaster is a watch that has been worn by astronauts and James Bond alike. It’s the only watch to have been approved for use in space, so it should be no surprise that this Swiss-made chronograph has a fascinating history. In fact, NASA chose the Omega Speedmaster as its official timepiece because of its accuracy and reliability under extreme conditions.
In 1962, astronaut Wally Schirra wore the Speedmaster during the Mercury-Atlas 8 mission. This helped pave the way for NASA’s decision in 1965 to use this model as the official U.S. astronauts’ watch with their launch of Gemini 3 and subsequent missions through Apollo 11 in 1969 which included lunar landings.
The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch has a stainless steel case, tachymeter bezel and black dial with luminous accents. It’s also water-resistant up to 50 meters deep.
12. Zenith El Primero
Zenith El Primero is a luxury watch that has been in production since 1969. It has become known as one of the most accurate timepieces ever produced.
El Primero means the first in Spanish, as Zenith was the first high frequency automatic chronograph movement to be fully integrated. The Zenith El Primero movement is a high frequency automatic winding chronograph with a power reserve of 50-55 hours, depending on the version chosen. It is water resistant to 10 ATM.
This model has been around for over 50 years, starting out as a handmade timepiece that sold for $15,000 USD and becoming available in more affordable quartz versions priced between $4000-$5000 today.
This extravagant watch comes in a number of different styles and colors with the option to add diamonds for an additional price.
11. A.Lange & Sohne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon Rattrapante Chronograph
A. Lange & Sohne are known for their high-end luxury watches with complicated features and the Datograph is no exception. This high-end chronograph has 729 parts!
There is a perpetual calendar that allows you to display the date, day of week and moon phases throughout different cycles. This watch also has a flyback chronograph with a jumping minute counter.
The chronograph has a column wheel mechanism like we talked about earlier, which makes it extremely accurate! It also comes with their patented stop-seconds tourbillon system ensuring optimal precision over time.
10. Hublot MP-05 “LaFerrari”
The LaFerrari is inspired by the iconic car of the same name. This sporty chronograph has titanium bridges and other components that are made out of grade five black PVD finished titanium while others are crafted from TPT carbon.
The entire movement has an astonishing 50 day power reserve and contains a chronograph function with one minute flying tourbillon. This limited edition watch has a total of 637 components.
9. Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute
The Petite Heure Minute from Jaquet Droz is an elegant timepiece that offers remarkable features at a very affordable price. This watch has a Rattrapante chronograph that’s great for recording multiple events, as well as a perpetual calendar with moon phases and date display.
You can also use the stopwatch function to time things like your laps during a race or if you’re cooking something in the kitchen. The Petite Heure Minute from Jaquet Droz is an elegant timepiece that offers remarkable features. There are several versions including the Petite Heure Minute Dragon, Buffalo and Smalta Clara Humming Bird.
8. Breguet Classique Chronograph
Abraham-Louis Breguet created the world’s first self-winding watch known as the Perpétuelle in 1780, and the world’s first wristwatch in 1810.
The Classique chronograph from Breguet has a very elegant design that’s inspired by the movements of pocket watches. This luxurious watch is decorated with rose gold and has chronograph subdials for recording seconds, minutes and hours at a time.
This Breguet watch also comes with their patented self-winding technology which means you don’t have to worry about changing battery or winding up your watch every few days!
7. Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Chronograph
The Jaeger-LeCoultre has a sporty look to it that’s suitable for casual and formal occasions alike. This chronograph comes with an antimagnetic movement which is great for protecting it from damage when you’re in a magnetic field.
Inspired by vintage styling, the Master Chronograph has two counters that indicate hours and minutes. There’s a tachometer around the outer perimeter, which comes in handy for measuring the speed of travel from one point to another.
6. Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
The Daytona from Rolex is one of the most sought-after chronographs on the market and it’s easy to see why! This watch has a 40mm Oystersteel case. Oystersteel is a superior stainless steel alloy which takes on a lovely sheen when polished.
It also comes with the Rolex patented Oysterlock safety clasp that ensures your watch stays securely fastened to your wrist at all times.
Paul Newman was a big fan of the Rolex Daytona. His 1968 Rolex Daytona watch sold for a record-breaking $17.8 million. On the back, it is inscribed with the words, “Drive carefully, me”!
5. A Lange & Sohne Tourbograph Perpetual “Pour le Merite“
Introduced in 2017, the Tourbograph Perpetual “Pour le Merite” from A. Lange & Sohne is a limited edition of 50 timepieces that’s great for collectors or people who love to show off their watches! This chronograph has a solid silver dial and platinum case.
It is a unique combination of a fusée-and-chain transmission with a chronograph, rattrapante, perpetural calendar and tourbillon.
4. Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/12G
The Nautilus from Patek is one of their most popular watches and it’s easy to see why! Designed by famous watchmaker Gérald Genta, this distinctive chronograph was inspired by the submarine in Jules Verne’s classic novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
The shape is designed to resemble a ship’s porthole. This iconic watch has a stainless steel case and works equally well in sporty and formal settings.
It also comes with their patented chronograph function which is great if you need to measure the time of something very precisely.
3. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
Also designed by Gérald Genta, The Royal Oak looks sporty yet classy. It has a distinctive octagonal bezel and an easy-to-use chronograph function if you need to record multiple events in a single day.
There are quite a few different versions, including the A-series Royal Oak, the UAE limited edition and the Royal Oak Offshore. This timepiece was worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie End of Days.
2. IWC Schaffhausen Portuguieser Chronograph
The Portuguieser from IWC is a very classy looking watch that goes well with both casual and formal wear. This chronograph timepiece comes in stainless steel with a see-through glass back.
It has an easy to read display which makes it perfect for people who can’t see small numbers or subdials easily.
1. TAG Heuer Carrera
The TAG Heuer is a great chronograph for people who want something smart yet casual. This watch comes in various stylish editions that makes it perfect to wear on formal occasions.
It has a patented chronograph function which means you can easily determine the time of multiple events with just one press.
The actor Steve McQueen was a fan of TAG Heuer and had a prized Heuer Monaco watch that he wore in the movie Le Mans.
We hope this list of the best chronograph watches in the world has been helpful as you consider investing in a new watch. Which model caught your eye? Let us know if there are any questions you still have about these timepieces.
Chrono24: The World’s Watch Market
Do you love collecting and trading luxury watches? If so, Chrono24 is the site for you. They have a huge selection of chronograph models.Chrono24 isn’t just a website to buy or sell one type of watch; it’s an entire marketplace that specializes in all types of luxury timepieces.
Whether you’re looking for Rolex, Breitling, Cartier or Movado watches or other brands, Chrono24 will have something to suit your needs. You can also trade in vintage watch models and get money back on them.
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