Iconic chronographs. For most of us, a list of five or six watches immediately pops into our minds when thinking about them. Chronographs have become culturally significant ambassadors of this watch world and have helped shape it into what it is today. In this article, we dive into what we feel are the must-haves if you’re serious about building a full chronograph collection or if you’d just like to own one of the most iconic watches in the genre. Either way, we hope it’ll help you find the right chronograph for you.

When we started thinking about this list, so many thoughts sprung to mind, and not just the specific watches that should be on it. Though those alone can lead to a whole lot of discussion, we also considered whether our readers would rather go for vintage or modern timepieces. The answer to that question is obviously very personal. In the end, we chose to focus on currently available chronographs that have a rich history and have become icons of the watch industry. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the most legendary chronographs that are available today.

iconic chronographs

Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch

You didn’t think for a second that we would not start this list with the Speedmaster, did you? The Moonwatch is the most iconic chronograph in the world, and with the latest generation, Omega did a fantastic job of updating a classic. The 42mm case is based on the fourth-generation Speedmaster case, and the beautiful step dial, the dot-over-ninety (DON) bezel, and the chronograph hand with its short-end “teardrop” shape are great updates that hint back at the great Speedmaster Moonwatch legacy. Add Omega’s Co-Axial Master Chronometer caliber 3861 as well as the brilliantly updated bracelet that tapers from 20 to 15mm with its stylish clasp, and the current Speedmaster Professional is nothing short of impressive. At €7,100 for the Hesalite and €8,100 for the sapphire version, the Moonwatch can be yours.

How long can you sit tight for a Rolex? iconic chronographs

Picture courtesy of Xupes

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

If the Speedmaster was a logical first for us here at Fratello, the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona was an immediate second. The Daytona is, without a doubt, the most commercially popular chronograph in the world today. As a result, prices for a current stainless steel Daytona ref. 116500LN at one point were triple the €13,800 list price. A quick check tells us that a new one might not be triple the MSRP anymore, but you’ll still have to pay at least double that on the parallel market. It goes to show the incredible popularity of the watch with a large audience. What you get is Rolex’s iconic chronograph with its 40mm case, screw-down pushers, black ceramic bezel, and instantly recognizable dial. Pick your favorite from either a white- or a black-dial version, and you will own one of the most iconic and certainly most comfortable chronographs on the market today.

iconic chronographs

Breitling Navitimer

Another chronograph that shaped the watch world is the Breitling Navitimer. Earlier this year, Breitling updated its iconic pilot’s watch, introducing the newest generation of models. You have the choice of a 41mm, 43mm, or 46mm case. As Mike explained, the previous 41mm Navitimer was still powered by an ETA 7750 movement, but Breitling now also equips the smallest of the Navitimer models with its chronometer-certified B01 caliber. Additionally, the brand redesigned the dial, which is now bowl-shaped and no longer far away from the domed crystal. Breitling also updated the date window and handset (from which the “B anchor” symbol has disappeared), and the bezel is now more rounded as well. Overall, the new Navitimer feels more elegant than its predecessor. The stainless steel 41mm version on a leather strap comes in at €8,300, the 43mm version is €8,400, and the 46mm version is €8,500.


Zenith Chronomaster Original

Zenith has really delivered when it comes to bringing back some of its iconic El Primero models from the past. As many of you will know, Zenith introduced its three iconic El Primero models back in 1969. The A384, A385, and A386 were the result of Zenith’s quest to introduce the world’s first automatic chronograph movement. The A386 is, without a doubt, the most popular. Zenith decided to bring back this classic from the past under the name Chronomaster Original. The current Chronomaster Original respects the watch’s original 38mm size and houses the automatic El Primero 3600 movement. It has 35 jewels, 60 hours of power reserve, and a unique 1/10th-of-a-second central chronograph hand. On top of that, Zenith also updated the bracelet and introduced new dial variants. At €8,800 on a leather strap and €9,200 on the bracelet, the Chronomaster Original is the perfect successor to the original A386.

Five alternatives to the Rolex Daytona

TAG Heuer Monaco

Should you go with the Monaco or the Carrera when it comes to TAG Heuer? While the Monaco is definitely the brand’s most recognizable chronograph, I prefer the Carrera and a vintage one at that. In particular, the stylish Carrera 2447 with its legendary Valjoux 72 movement is a classic. But we only see that retro charm in some of the brand’s current limited editions and less so in the modern Carrera collection. That’s where the Monaco collection does a better job. The Monaco still has that charming presence with its 39mm square case and iconic dial. The current Monaco is powered by the brand’s in-house automatic Calibre Heuer 02 with 80 hours of power reserve. It comes with either the famous blue/white dial or a black/white dial. On a leather strap, either model costs €6,400, and on a bracelet, either retails for €6,700.

IWC Portugieser Chronograph

I’ve had a soft spot for the IWC Portugieser ref. 3714 ever since I saw it for the first time. There is something special about the Portugieser’s presence that balances vintage appeal and contemporary relevance. It makes the watch a very stylish statement that I love. The current Portigieser collection was introduced in 2020 and saw an upgrade to modern in-house movements. The Portugieser comes with a 41mm stainless steel case with its recognizable pump-style pushers. The dial features that typical vertical Portigueser layout, and the watch is powered by the automatic IWC caliber 69355. The movement is visible through the sapphire case back and provides 46 hours of power reserve. The Portugieser comes with a choice of different dial colors, including silver, blue, black, red, and green. On a leather strap, the watch is €9,100, and on a stainless steel bracelet, it is €10,200.

Datograph Up/Down

A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Up/Down

The first Datograph was introduced in 1999 and was quickly hailed as one of the best chronographs ever created. The legendary Philippe Dufour owns a pink gold version and has stated on multiple occasions that the Datograph is the best chronograph ever made. Currently, A. Lange & Söhne has two Datograph models in its collection. The first is the Datograph Up/Down, and the second is the Datograph Perpetual. The Datograph Up/Down is the one that takes after the original model the most. It comes with a 41mm case in platinum or pink gold. Both feature a black dial with silver registers, the famous outsize date, and a power-reserve display. Inside the case, you will find the brilliant caliber L951.6, which consists of 451 parts and delivers 60 hours of power reserve. The Datograph Up/Down in platinum is a work of magic that can be yours for €102,200.

Back on cloud nine with Patek Philippe

Patek Philippe 5172G

We close this list off with the brilliant Patek Philippe 5172G. This manually wound watch continues the Geneva brand’s rich tradition of creating amazing chronographs. As such, this selection is more of an homage to Patek’s history of mechanical chronographs rather than just one model. The 5172G is the follow-up to the legendary 5170 and the 5070 before that. The watch comes in two different versions that both feature a 41mm white gold case. The first has a blue dial, and the second model was introduced earlier this year and features a gilded opaline rose gold dial. Inside both versions, you will find the in-house caliber CH 29-535 PS. The manual-winding chronograph movement consists of 270 parts and provides 65 hours of power reserve. At CHF 68,000, this Patek Philippe is hardly an affordable timepiece, but it is as impressive as its price would suggest.

A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Up/Down

Final thoughts

There you have it — a list of the eight most iconic chronographs that we feel should be part of your collection at some point. But I say this with a smile, of course, because the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph and Patek Philippe 5172G are incredibly expensive. On top of that, I certainly realize that this list is by no means complete. There are different watches that could have been on this list depending on your preferences as an enthusiast/collector. That’s why I pass the question to you…

What is your favorite chronograph watch ever? Let us know in the comments section, and tell us the reasons why!