11 of the best chronographs of 2020 under $10,000 Aussie dollars (and wayyyy under $10,000USD)Thor Svaboe
There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a strong year for chronograph releases. From vintage reissues to thoroughly modern expressions of the wrist-worn stopwatch, the range of offerings has been diverse and exciting. Let’s take a look at 11 of the best chronographs of 2020 under $10K.
TAG Heuer Carrera 160th Silver
True to its pure ’60s inspiration, the TAG Heuer Carrera 160th Silver is sharp enough to straddle three categories, and still come up trumps. As a pitch-perfect vintage chronograph it retains the original inspiration, as viewed through a non-reflective Leica lens in perfect filtered daylight. The functionality and legibility is superb through one of the purest silver sunray dials out there, with razor-sharp print and clean-cut black hands. With its versatile 39mm size and slender case it sits as well with an Italian suit as a pure dress watch and, with its versatile clean-cut style, would make a perfect one-watch collection. Should you want more pizzazz and colours in the same case, read on. Price: $9350AU.
Montblanc Heritage Monopusher Chronograph salmon dial
Another great introduction to 1940s and ’50s vintage style is the delicious salmon-coloured dial of the Monopusher Chronograph introduced this year by Montblanc. While this is inspired by the Minerva chronographs in their golden age, by using the MB 25.12 calibre based on the Sellita SW510, this retains its status as a great value proposition. Especially for what is in essence a complicated watch, sitting on the dressier side of sports, and with the unusual freshness of the dial colour in all its salmon splendour. A smooth dial surface, framed by a crisp seconds track with red numerals popping at the four quadrants, is dressed up by a textured ring holding the applied 12, 6 and buttoned indices. At 42mm it can seem large for its vintage style, but short lugs and the brilliance of the single chrono pusher makes it remain on the slender side of perfection. Price: $7650AU.
TAG Heuer Carrera 160th Montreal
The Montreal has the same slender case as the Carrera 160th Silver, ’60s proportionate with subtle tweaks to the ’60s origin, retaining the slim bezel and sharp bevels on the angled lugs. The dial shows how much a little colour does to change the personality of a watch. The white, matt visage is transformed with flashes of yellow lume, with a bright red popping seconds hand and minute track. An elegant navy blue frames the dial, separating it from the colourful rehaut minute track. The dark blue also colours the snailed perfection of the registers, complemented by a dressy navy crocodile strap. The two words are Sharp and Fresh. Price: $9800AU.
Seiko SEGA 60th Anniversary white dial
Now for something completely different, uniquely Japanese, and Fun with a capital F. The solid quartz calibre 7T92 powers this ultra fresh, very Japanese take on a sports chronograph, and we love it. Made for the 60th Anniversary of SEGA, it looks large, but here is the idiosyncratic charm: it is a perfect 38.5mm, in vintage Goldilocks territory. Utter brilliance made metal by Seiko, and incredible value for a fresh everyday beater, in a classic crisp silver with blue details. Now the only question is why this wasn’t extended into a whole range, as the expression hotcakes would undersell its popularity in a huge way. Price: $590AU.
Bell & Ross BR V3-94 Black Steel Chronograph
If you can imagine a battle-ready love child of the Daytona and a Speedmaster, remixed by the French pilot watch lab at Bell & Ross, here you are. A 43mm case is not svelte, but the Vintage range of Bell & Ross has an ergonomic case shape, and this is a mission tool with legibility on point, not meant to double as your dress watch, come on … The case has a bold, brushed exemplary tool vibe on a H-link bracelet, no frills and all function. The dial is the ABC of legibility and functional bliss. Large black hands with the ends lumed up to the max, and the fighter jet-ended needle seconds setting the tone. Recessed chronograph registers are marked to easily separate them in low light, and a more discreet and natural placement of the date window would be an impossibility. Monochrome bliss. Price: $6800AU on steel bracelet.
Baltic Bicompax Sector dial
Baltic is a microbrand success for a reason, and one of the reasons is their one case-fits-all genius approach. The short-lugged 38mm brushed case — which is the base of the HMS, the Bicompax and the Aquascaphe — is vintage perfection, and so are the new sector dials. The Bicompax 002 might well be the world’s best-value sector dial chronograph at €630, with a proportionate dial design and a remarkably solid manual-wind ST1901 Seagull movement, regulated and fitted by their watchmakers in Besançon. Take your pick from the delightful slender cases of the black and silver version, a JLC-like silver dial with blue accents, and the dressy touch of the dark blue and gilt. When you combine this with seven strap choices or a beads-of-rice bracelet, the choices are as fresh as they are endless. Price: $896AU.
Longines Spirit Chronograph
The Spirit collection from Longines is one of their best new ranges for years, with the Chronograph being one of the strongest references. Longines has managed to stir up a winning formula of vintage aviation inspiration while remaining timeless, which is no mean feat. The chronograph retains a clean and modern look within a medium case size, and large, functional crown and pushers toughening up the image. The Spirit Chronograph has a chameleon-like ability to become a pure vintage-inspired pilot’s watch with a matt black dial on hand-stitched brown leather, or a tough, lean modern sports watch in sunray blue on the superb 3-link bracelet. Name your style, pick your colour. Price: $4500AU.
Longines Heritage Chronograph “Tuxedo Dial”
Deeply inspired by the 1940s, this “Tuxedo Dial” chronograph has it all. Vintage elegance in a perfect mix with function, as a true homage to a classic Longines reference, sharpened up in a delightful 40mm case. The heart is the proven L888 calibre with a chronograph module, resulting in a strong 54 hours of power reserve — ’40s style with the reliability of today. And that dial … the splendour of a maximalist, two-tone vintage dial with delicate blued steel details and recessed bicompax registers. The period-perfect stepped bezel and polished case, along with the classic Longines logo, are but small details that make up a striking chronograph, and an introduction to the elegant ’40s. Price: $4550AU.
Breitling Top Time Limited Edition
Breitling, this year you punched your way onto my favourites list with this colourful rendition of the Zorro-masked ’60s Top Time. Within a slightly large 41mm case sits one of the most distinctive colour combinations of any vintage chronograph, and is proof that you can be bold when looking at the past for inspiration, not only the one-for-all calm tones of black or silver. A classic gold B sits proudly under 12, and balances the Breitling logo perfectly between the two angular black sections of the dial. The scene is made even more eye-catching by inverting the minute track colours, recessed perfect panda registers with pointers only the ’60s could have produced, and eye-popping red accents and hands. The boldest and freshest move by Breitling in years, applause. Price: $6950AU.
Kurono Chronograph 1
The intrinsically Japanese, pure art deco style of Hajime Asaoka has been made accessible through Kurono. Though not easy to catch with their ultra-rapid sell-out times, it is definitely worth the wait. Asaoka’s influence saturates a dial with new details to discover at every glance. From the classic duotone tachymeter and seconds track, to beautiful polished button indices, and delightful frames for the recessed registers. The Asaoka trademarks of a monolithic 12 o’clock indice and art deco pinstriped inner dial makes it clear why this microbrand is nominated by the GPHG in two categories. The classic ’40s style polished casework is clean period-perfection, as are the well-proportioned pushers and crown. Price: $3680AU.
Bulgari Aluminium Chronograph
Incredibly fresh, familiar, unusually light, and at a brilliant value point, that is the Bulgari Aluminium Chronograph. Through the unusual use of aluminium, we have this year’s most fun and unexpected release from Bulgari. This is monochrome perfection in a silky smooth case that makes you check your arm repeatedly for the lack of weight, on a semi-linked solid rubber bracelet, which is just as puzzling as the aluminium case and pure comfort on the wrist. With a rock solid ETA 2894-2-based B130 caliber, it sits at the perfect 40mm diameter, with a cool black-on-white panda dial and tough BVLGARI-logoed black bezel. With the finishing details of the popping red lollipop seconds and the black PVD pushers and crown, this might be unbeatable for the price. Price: $6250AU.
DOXA SUB 200 C-Graph
Sneaking in with days to spare is this summer-fresh tricompax chronograph from a fully revitalised and forward looking DOXA, one of just a handful of brands – particularly Rolex, their partner in crime in inventing the Helium Release Valve – that pioneered and developed the dive watch from the 1960s. This model, though, is strikingly contemporary, and demonstrates how adaptable the colourful aesthetic and classic shape of the SUB 200 really is. Note though, this is not for the slender of wrist. While the lug to lug is kind and sub-50mm, it’s a watch with 17.4mm of height, and serious wrist presence. For lovers of the masculine and muscular case sizes! Price: $4290 on rubber, $4350 on bracelet,