Given the disruptive effects of the pandemic upon watch manufacturers, it’s understandable that some are now cagey about taking too many big risks. At this year’s Watches & Wonders, many brands chose to expand on their design languages without pushing things too far and the results are some truly refined watches. But whether it be bright colours, vintage reissues or revolutionary engineering, the one certainty is the chronograph remains as popular a complication as ever. Here’s my pick of the top 5 chronographs of Watches & Wonders 2021.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41
As ubiquitous as the Flieger style may be to a watch enthusiast’s eye, there’s still a lot to get excited about when it comes to the . While it’s renowned legibility may once have been attributed to its size, the reduced case diameter from 43mm to 41mm maintains its ease-of-reading with bold Arabic numerals and aggressive sword hands. With added practicality in the form of quick-release straps and bracelets, and an improved 100m of water resistance, the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 is as functional as it is beautiful, in either luscious blue or green dials. Price: $6,500 USD on rubber/leather and $7,200 USD on the bracelet.
Tudor Black Bay Chronograph
While the overall design of the isn’t entirely new, the all-steel construction certainly grants it a new lease on life. Without the gold luxury aspect of the two-tone S&G version, the Black Bay Chronograph is now a whole lot closer to its tool-watch origins, as well as a whole lot more affordable. The two panda dial options are also very welcome. Providing all-encompassing tool attitude in the black, or a more fresh and sporty look in the white, it ensures a wide range of appeal in a very competitive part of the market. Price 4,950 CHF on the bracelet, 4,650 CHF on a bund strap or woven fabric strap
Zenith Defy Extreme
Zenith have been hitting the watch world hard and fast with a healthy mix of vintage-inspired reissues and boundary-pushing new releases in recent years, and t chronographs belongs to the latter category. It’s not afraid to have some monstrous wrist presence with its 45mm diameter, however the short lugs and integrated look of the strap or bracelet allow it to easily conform to the average wrist. It’s smoked-sapphire skeleton dial allows the angular parts of the movement to appear one with the crisp edges of the case, giving the whole watch a retro-futuristic techno vibe.
Price 21,900 CHF
Breitling Premier B25 Datora 42 Copper
One of the big standouts of 2021’s Watches & Wonders was . Branching out from some of their more iconic and historical lines like the Navitimer, this copper-toned chronograph is just dripping in 1940s class and elegance, accentuated by the snail-trail subdials and syringe hands. While the modern sizing of 42mm is certainly a departure from the spirit of the originals, one can’t complain at being able to see the gorgeous blue and silver moon phase indicator within the date ring with even more clarity. Price: $16,990 AUD
Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Split-Second Chronograph Ultra-Thin
It may not be the most affordable watch on this list, but the is surely the most beautiful. The lightly-grained dial is the perfect backdrop for the blued hands and platinum markers, granting just enough texture to be legible without creating any jarring contrast. The movement is a feast for the eyes, with the peripheral winding rotor allowing for every one of the complex and hand-finished components to be ogled. It’s watches like these which remind us of why Vacheron Constantin deserve their spot in the holy trinity. Price: $288,000 USD