Editor’s note: If you missed the first part of this series, make sure you check out eleven of our favourite chronographs of 2020 under $10K right here. In this part we are looking at the other side of the coin – the best chronographs of 2020 that ring the till at $10K and over. Here we go.
Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph
This was one of the 2020 high points for AP, engaging Andrew in our big feature here, and myself as soon as we saw the press photos. It sparked much discussion on the mighty internet; to me it is a delectable vision of the colourful past made future proof. If you are an ascetic minimalist, look away now, as the aesthetic mixes colour and materiality unlike any other reference in their catalogue, with the high-tech heart of the renowned movement from the CODE 11.59. The shape is delightfully round, with an unfeasibly smooth transition from pink gold bezel to case side, with oblong pushers and vintage-styled crown as proportionate as they are delightful. The functionality is as strong as the gold dial is vibrant, with blued hands and teardrop lugs completing a pure vintage composition of delightful contrasts that will pull you in. Price: CHF49,500
Hublot Big Bang Integral King Gold
Yes, finally Hublot took the anticipated step into the strong integrated bracelet game, with their usual flair and bold lines. The 42mm version in King Gold is as lustruous as it is brash, yet infused with a technical attention to detail and chronograph functionality. The case and thick bracelet are brushed with bold striations, and broad, decisive angular bevels create flashes of reflection that – if you had any doubts – mean this is not for the shy of wrist. The presence is one of bombproof strength, and even with the black details toughening up the act, it has a warm presence through the use of the trademark King Gold alloy. Price: $73,200AU.
IWC Top Gun “SFTI”
If you associate IWC only with the classicism of the Portugieser, then you need to wake up. This is an uncompromising black chronograph, requiring you to take your mission seriously. The SFTI edition of the chronograph from the Top Gun line is a limited edition ceramic-cased 44mm weapon, with a Ceratanium caseback. Unashamedly large at, yet light, the dramatic monochrome is accented by just the right amount of fresh red, in the fun jet fighter seconds hand counter balance, delicate pointer in the 6 o’clock register, and the pushers. Legibility is crystal clear, suit up. Price: $14,100AU.
Chopard Alpine Eagle XL
As one of the best dials of 2020, the Alpine Eagle surprised and delighted with its dazzling and ethical steel alloy, and bold re-creation of its ’80s inspiration. This time we are going large at 44mm while retaining its intricate dial structure — broken up by the sporty touch of chronograph functionality. Even if I feel my wrist needs a proper workout schedule to wear this muscular version of the Alpine Eagle, the new detailed dial and the pop of a red seconds hand tip makes for a strong contender in the integrated bracelet game and a very tempting proposition. Price: CHF19,200
Omega Snoopy 50th Anniversary
Finally, a Snoopy version of the Speedmaster made accessible, and instead of going safe, Omega pulled out the stops for this one. First, the freshest of fresh blue in the tough fabric strap that sets the tone for an unexpected dial of a pure silvery white, with all blue details, from the classic handset, the recessed registers – right down to the indices. Snoopy dances happily in the register at 9 o’clock but the pièce de résistance is the caseback, so much so that you will want to wear it on the reverse. Nothing will prepare you for the theatre that unfolds under the sapphire caseback. Dominated by a sharply realistic, metallic crystalline image of the moon, the Earth visible as if distant, rotates in time with each second, and when you press the chronograph pusher? The jaw-dropping wow-factor of a small moving spaceship with Snoopy as the pilot appearing and gliding across the expanse of Space. Omega has out-Speedied the Speedy. Price: $14,700AU.
A. Lange & Söhne, 1815 Rattrapante Honeygold
I have no doubt that I could write this entire paragraph on the brilliant lustre and rich warmth of the Honeygold from A. Lange & Söhne, yet this is but a mere frame for this masterpiece from the town of Glashütte. As part of a trilogy of limited edition watches to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the 1815 foundation, the Rattrapante is Germanic perfection in 41.2mm. A classic black dial is framed by an exquisitely printed tachymeter scale, the minute occasional red markings on the railway-track minute scale making tiny pops of colour in this beguiling mix of golden print, with some of the world’s most exact artisans having hand-finished feuille hands in gold, and the contrasting white gold rattrapante seconds and 30-minute pointer. Balanced perfection within a classic complication. Price: €126,700
Audemars Piguet Flying Tourbillon Chronograph
A gothic temple of perfection, perfect symmetry framing what is the wondrous spectacle of the flying tourbillon. The CODE 11.59 range has clearly been a focus at Audemars Piguet in what has been a strong 2020, and this is the pinnacle. The Flying Tourbillon Chronograph is a masterpiece of horological complexity that beguiles you with its midnight blue details and top-tier symmetrical beauty. Any description of this CODE 11.59, with its openworked design noting the lack of a traditional dial, is seriously underselling this symmetrical feast of angles, curves and delicately shaped bridges in galvanic black titanium and nickel silver. This is a holy union of metallurgy and symmetry, forming an almost gothic pattern of skeletonisation, being both intrinsically distracting yet calming in its beauty. Price: CHF240,000
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph Ice Blue dial
Earlier this autumn, Audemars Piguet quietly tip-toed into the room and released a frosty breeze of a limited Royal Oak to everyone’s surprise. As if by magic, a new reference of the perfectly sized 39mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph Limited Edition in 18k white gold appeared on their website. This was no revolution, but rather a superb dial colour variation suiting the white gold to a tee. This was a sharp move by AP, though with a short 100-piece production run they might be gone already, as this combination is a bright menthol-fresh breeze for the wrist. Cool, sharp, familiar yet fresh, svelte and slim. Three plus three, what’s not to love? Price: $59,000US.
Patek Philippe ref. 5270J Perpetual Calendar
The clean-cut rounded bezel of the 5270 case holds what for many is the grail of grails, and the perfect combination of a perpetual calendar and a chronograph. From the slight flare out of the classic fluted, stepped lugs, to the distinctly Patek shape of the lozenge pushers, the timeless aura of this renowned reference is deeply set within its silver opaline dial. The CH 29-353 PS Q calibre is a work of art and remarkably slim for its complexity, so you’d be forgiven for spending most of your time loupe on, peering through the rear sapphire crystal. Price: $168,970US.
JLC Master Control Chronograph Calendar
Jaeger-LeCoultre plays a strong game in 2020, a year that will be remembered for their remastering of the Master Control range. This traditional complication, within what seems to be a classic case, manages to still exude an air of modernity. The case is traditional, yes, but with a broad lug and muscular side profile that tightens up the lines and gives it a more sporty tone, with a sharp bevel to the lug top and strong horizontal brushing. The dial is pure JLC, and — from the depth created by the sloping pulsation-marked rehaut, through the balance of the dial layout, with the logo between the day/month windows at 12 —has a calm air of confidence. The choice of a more casual light brown hand-stitched strap sits perfectly with the silver sunray dial and adds a welcome contrast. Price: $23,500AU.
IWC Portugieser Chronograph (silver, with blue croc and dial details)
No single model speaks more clearly of IWC than a Pilot or the evergreen Portugieser chronograph with its classic vertical bicompax layout. At 41mm it remains a balanced proposition, strong pushers and crown underlining the attitude. With a blend of classicism in the dial and broad, curved lugs, it is how casual or formal you want it to be. It has a chameleon-like ability to change styles, from classic boardroom formality in gold on a brown crocodile strap, to the fresh, casual air of this silver dial with fresh blue Arabic numerals and feuille hands. Price: $11,900AU.
Hublot Big Bang Millennial Pink
The cutting-edge design of the Big Bang in 2020 is still there, though now straddling the line of becoming a classic design in its own right. What better reference to underline the strong presence of the Hublot attitude than this sugar-pink fresh masterpiece. The big yet light case is made from satin-finished and polished millennial pink anodised aluminium, and is pure summer delight on a fabric velcro strap. With its intricate openworked movement and tough exterior, the brilliance of contrasts endow it with an even stronger presence than one of its darker, intimidating ceramic predecessors, and we love it for that. Price: $29,200AU.
Moser Streamliner Flyback Chronograph
Sleek, smooth and unlike any other watch out there, Moser knocked us out with its Streamliner, inspired by the streamlined designs of the ’20s yet here looking like it’s plucked from a book on future watch visions. The intense striations of the dial structure and castellated seconds track has a strong contrast in the delightful script of the Moser logo under what is not 12, but a large 60 to focus its chronograph functionality. The futuristic armadillo-esque shape of the bracelet is as joyful to touch as it is comfortable, and flows into the brushed case. The futurist vision is complete with the bullhorns of the pushers and red pop of the seconds hand, cementing the image of H. Moser & Cie. as the masters of the unexpected. Price: CHF39,900
Omega Ed White 321
Is this the Speedmaster to top it all? The real deal, on the sharp flat link bracelet of its original inspiration, and the remade caliber 321. Steel on steel with a sapphire crystal as well as caseback, modernity ensues, but is necessary to bring both clarity and an everyday solidity to the quintessential tool watch chronograph, as worn by astronaut Ed White, including the twist of a pitch-perfect bezel in ceramic. The case design, based on the ref.105.003 sans the Moonwatch crown guards, tightens up the lines on what is a stone-cold classic, and the flat link bracelet makes the picture complete. Should you turn it around to view the hyper-reality of the Sedna gold-finished re-created movement, you will be forgiven for missing an appointment or three. Price: $21,450AU.
Atelier de Chronométrie #8 Split-Seconds Chronograph
Spain has the possibility of knocking out the Vallée de Joux by virtue of the Atelier de Chronométrie, and they might only need this reference to do it. A pure vintage design vision is as delightfully maximalist as it is true to its inspiration, from teardrop lugs down to a Lange-competing detailed bicompax dial saturated with detail and classic whimsy. Pure handcrafted haute horology, this is the vision of one Californian collector, the first rattrapante complication for what is the Spanish royalty of watchmaking. And yes, the movement is the iconic vintage Venus calibre 185, entirely reworked and hand-finished to the perfection expected in 2020. Mind-blowing classicism made real, in a svelte case of iconic proportionality. Price: €85,000