Discover the Best Chronograph Watches at Every Budget
By Oren Hartov
Pushers: Small buttons that protrude from the case and allow the wearer to start, stop, and rest the chronograph. There are “pump” pushers that do not screw down, and “screw-down” pushers — threaded like a screw-down crown, they allow for increased water resistance.Monopusher: A chronograph that uses a single pusher for start, stop, and rest duties. Willy Breitling invented the dual-pusher chronograph, which improved upon this design, in 1934.Totalizer: Also called a sub-register or a sub-dial, this small dial within the larger watch dial shows running seconds, elapsed minutes, elapsed hours, or other timing information.Rattrapante: Called a “split-seconds” chronograph in English, the rattrapante features dual central seconds hands and allows the user to time two events simultaneously. Flyback: A chronograph in which a single push will stop and rest the chronograph, allowing for the timing of successive events, such as laps.These high-performance timepieces look great and won't break the bankAutomatic Chronograph: Until 1969, all chronographs were hand-wound. The Calibre 11, El Primero, and Caliber 6139 were some of the earliest automatic chronographs.Tachymeter: A scale often found around the periphery of the dial — or on the bezel — of a chronograph that allows the user to calculate speed.Telemeter: A scale often found around the periphery of the dial — or on the bezel — of a chronograph that allows the user to calculate the distance between an object and the observer. Pulsometer: A scale often found around the periphery of the dial — or on the bezel — of a chronograph that allows the user to calculate pulse. Clutch: A type of coupling connecting the chronograph to the gear train for the watch’s main timekeeping. A “horizontal clutch” is slimmer and more common, while a “vertical clutch” is more often found in higher-end chronographs, and makes for smoother chronograph operation. Ten Chronographs to Buy
Key Terms  
The other “moon watch,” the high frequency quartz-powered Lunar Pilot descends from a mechanical chronograph worn by astronaut Dave Scott on the lunar surface. (The crystal had popped off his NASA-issued Speedmaster.) Widely available for well under $1,000 in various configurations, the contemporary Lunar Pilot beats at a whopping 262 kHz and features large “paddle” pushers, a Speedmaster-esque dial, and an optional, subtle date window. Not everyone will be able to pull off a 45mm case, but if you’ve got the wrist for it, the Lunar Pilot is an awesome, affordable chrono, and a solid choice. 
Bulova Lunar Pilot 
Of course, a great chronograph needn’t be mechanical. To wit: Seiko’s excellent Speedtimer is a quartz-powered star. In fact, its quartz V192 movement is solar-powered, and features an incredible 6-month power reserve once fully charged. With multiple dial and bezel colors to choose from, plus superb proportions and a matching stainless steel bracelet, the Speedtimer is the perfect, affordable entry into the chronograph world. Best of all? They can often be had on Amazon for around $500 — which is quite the value proposition, if you ask us. 
Seiko Speedtimer Chronograph
Another vintage-inspired reissue, this handsome tool watch uses an uncommon Seiko automatic chronograph movement that manages to include a column wheel and vertical clutch — making for super-smooth chronograph operation — in a timepiece costing less than $2,000. Its contemporary-feeling 39mm case, sapphire crystal, and automatic operation will be appreciated by modern wearers, while its throwback aesthetics and breathable “rally” strap will please vintage watch enthusiasts. For this kind of money, there simply isn’t much competition from other medium-sized brands. 
Yema Speedgraf 
Styled after a watch issued to RAF pilots in the 1970s, the Khaki Aviation Pioneer Mechanical Chrono is such a spot-on recreation, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the original from the current iteration. Well sized at 40mm and featuring vintage-colored lume, it looks like a museum-grade piece of vintage militaria — but the hand-wound Hamilton Calibre H-51-Si beating away inside makes use of a silicon balance spring and features an impressive 60-hour power reserve. Strap this baby on — and add a good scarf — and you’ll be ready to take to the skies!
Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pioneer Mechanical Chrono
If you’re not deep into vintage chronographs, you might never have heard of the Universal Genève Uni-Compax. A gorgeous watch made in the 1960s, the Uni-Compax is rare, with good examples selling in excess of $25,000. Thankfully, noted watch world veteran William Massena revived the design in the form of his contemporary Uni-Racer. Available in multiple colors — including classic “panda” and “reverse-panda” designs — this handwound, Swiss-made beauty is a sleeper hit, and well worth the price of admission.
Massena LAB Uni-Racer
If you dig the Daytona aesthetic but don’t want to wait years for a watch allocation — or spend nearly 15 Gs — then you should check out the Tudor Black Bay Chrono. A fantastic design in its own right, this chunky tool watch looks handsome in all its different configurations, from two-tone, to panda, to reverse-panda, and from bracelet to “Bund” strap to fabric strap. Powered by an in-house Tudor movement and waterproof to 200m, this is a serious adventurer’s watch that’s ready to take on the world, and it’s so well built that your grandkid will be wearing it one day.
Tudor Black Bay Chrono
Given its famed association with NASA — it was the first watch worn on the surface of the Moon, after all — it’s no surprise that the Omega Speedmaster Professional is consistently at the top of the watch buying public’s mind. Produced in several configurations and available at various price points, the Speedy is a perennial horological favorite, and deservedly so: Legible, practical, handsome, and widely available, it’s simply a winner of a wristwatch, and one of the best chronographs ever made. (Especially in its current steel iteration with the 3861 movement — the contemporary bracelet is a vast improvement over the last generation.)
Omega Speedmaster Professional 
Duh. The world’s most famous chronograph — excepting, of course, the Omega Speedmaster — the Daytona was born in the early 1960s following Rolex’s sponsorship of the 24 Hours of Daytona in Florida. Of course, it was far from Rolex’s first rodeo as far as chronos were concerned; the brand had been making them for decades already in various guises. Today, the Daytona is difficult to acquire at retail, and vintage hand-wound examples sell for tens (and sometimes hundreds) of thousands of dollars. The contemporary, automatic version features the latest materials and an excellent, in-house Rolex movement in the form of the Calibre 4130.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 
Not all chronographs are tool watches. Take the IWC Portugieser line — beautiful to behold, these watches are made for an evening out on the town, or as accompaniment to a finely tailored suit at the office. This particular model features the collection’s classic up-down configuration, with the totalizers placed at 12 and 6 o’clock, plus a stunning 18K gold case, an in-house movement, and a mesmerizing slate grey dial in a sunray finish. If you’re looking for a pilot’s watch, IWC has plenty of those — but classics such as the Portugieser shouldn’t be overlooked. 
IWC Portugieser Chronograph 
In haute horlogerie, chronographs are often combined with other complications to form, well, more complicated watches, called “grand complications.” This particular “grand comp” combines a split-seconds chronograph with a perpetual calendar, which is controlled by a single pusher inset into a platinum case in a lefthand configuration. Emblematic of the type of high-end watchmaking for which Patek Philippe has long been known, it’s priced at “If You Have to Ask…,” but such is the cost of owning a timepiece that takes decades of experience to produce.This article was featured in the InsideHook newsletter. Sign up now.
Patek Philippe 5773P Grand Complication