Fall approaches and everyone returns from their much-deserved summer holidays, the watch industry is slowly starting to speed up as well — time to reflect and share my top 5 chronographs of 2019, so far.
September will bring us a bunch of events that will go on until early December and the holiday season. Of course, not only events will occur but possibly a bunch of new releases too. One of the forerunners was the drop of Hamilton’s new Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical an excellent timepiece for under €1.000,-. However, before the news starts to hit us, let’s look back at some of the more exciting releases of this year. Well, interesting to me. I tried to gather watches from different brands and price ranges to cater to as many of you as possible. There are only two common features about them; I like them all and, more importantly, they are all chronographs.
Earlier this year we already published a Top 5 article about dive watches and one on sub-€1,000 timepieces. You well received both of those, so it was inevitable for another similar piece to follow. The reason I chose for a top 5 chronographs overview is straightforward; I like them. More important than that though we have seen a large number of new releases this year that were chronographs. It seems that brands focus on this complication rather heavily these days, which is excellent news to chronograph fans like most of the Fratello team and me.
The cheapest of them all in this top 5 chronographs article. Undone blew into the watch scene a few years ago offering full customizable cheap quartz (and a bit more expensive mechanical) watches. It is a great concept that allows you to have a timepiece created exactly as you want. We reviewed a good few of their watches in the past (see here and here). The biggest plus with any Undone watch are the looks as well as the customisation as mentioned above and the price. The design is based on the original military Type XX watches made for the French Air Force. You can modify a few things like the case, the dial or the strap. If you want (and have one) even your logo can be on the face. All of this will set you back $316 (including free shipping). It’s not the bee’s knees but a fun little alternative for less than €300.
Let’s move on to a new price segment with the Tissot Heritage 1973. Albeit this model is a limited edition of 1973 pieces, I’ve seen a good few being offered by various sources. The original design comes from a vintage Tissot piece with an updated look, size and movement. I’m a vintage guy at heart, so I prefer the 70s version, but this reedition is also not a bad looking watch. Just under €2K (€1.990,-), the Tissot Heritage 1973 is a lot of bank for the buck. The panda dial is clean and sporty. The case is 43mm with excellent polishing work bringing back the mix of brushed and polished edges of the 1970s. The 7750 inside is a workhorse and trusted caliber that is easy to service, and parts are readily available. What more do you want for this much money? Perhaps a version with no date.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the man behind the brand Staudt. Yvo Staudt is an energetic and fun young guy who, when you meet him, will talk about music and accordion. Before he even mentions that he owns a watch brand. To many, a brand is only a name, but once you get to know the story, it becomes so much more. Since I met him, I follow the new releases, and I have to say the Praeludium with British Racing Green dial was something I truly appreciated.
To start with, you don’t see green watches too often, especially not from a small brand like Staudt. The watch also has great size at 41mm. The Praeludium’s vintage vibe comes from the pump pushers and the slim leaf hands. The fact that the bi-compax, duotone dial is hand-painted is just the bonus. It can be yours for €2.989,-.
Since Georges Kern arrived at Breitling (from IWC), everybody was talking about the brand. Either praising Kern and his bold decisions or voicing their dissatisfaction with the new path he chose for Breitling. Me, I only care about the products they are releasing. While the first boom, the Navitimer 8, was ok, their Premier B01 release was the watch that hit a home run for me. I was never the Navitimer guy, certainly understood the people who appreciated the model though. For me, the Breitling Premier B01 symbolises the new era at the brand perfectly. It’s also based on a vintage model but with enough added features and updates that the model family’s name is the only thing resembles heritage. The column-wheel chronometer in-house movement is a work of art, and the looks are great just like the size. The price is €7.700,-.
The last watch on our list will step over the imaginary 10K price line. As a matter of fact, it’s well above that. The Blancpain AirCommand Chronograph is 18,000.- CHF (excluding tax) but wait and see what you are getting for this money.
To start with, it’s a Blancpain. The brand is in the luxury segment of the Swatch Group hierarchy, right next to Breguet. So, it is no surprise that their timepieces will command a high price (no pun intended). It is also limited to 500 pieces. Lastly, the AirCommand Chronograph is no ordinary watch but – yes, again – a re-edition of a vintage model. In this case, however, the original watch is so rare that you can barely find one let alone own one. Your only chance of getting a military-esque timepiece would be to pull the trigger on this Blancpain AirCommand Chronograph. Did I say it’s a Flyback with a column wheel?
Let me highlight again that this Top 5 list is a reflection of my preference when it comes to chronographs from 2019. There have been many more cool watches hitting the market this year. I’m looking at you Doxa. Still, these were for one reason or another the ones that tickled my fancy. If I had to choose one and money wasn’t an issue, I think I’d go with the Staudt. Why? I guess for its originality and difference from all the other brands. Still, I like the other four models as well for various reasons. Let’s see what the rest of the year brings us in terms of new watches. Perhaps I have to update by list or better yet, write a new one.
Balázs joined Fratello Watches in 2014 and he has been a fan of watches as long as he can remember. His passion for watches really took off in 2007 when he purchased his first fine Swiss timepiece. From 2007 up... read more