The Seven Best Chronographs Under €2,000 — Hamilton, Certina, Nivada Grenchen And More…
We love the challenge of a good list here at Fratello. Especially when it comes to smaller budgets, it’s a great challenge to figure out the best options. With ever-increasing prices, it’s not always easy to come up with a list of affordable contenders. For this list, we picked the best mechanical chronographs under €2,000. As it turns out, there are plenty of options available for the money. But some of the obvious picks of the past are not an option anymore. So let’s find out what the best chronographs under €2,000 are.
I am going to honest…I am one of those people that loves making lists. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about music, sports, or watches. When it comes to watches, I have a special interest in creating lists with affordable options. Finding out whether there are incredible watches within a normal budget is a great thing to do. For most people, it’s not a normal thing to be spending 10K on a watch regularly. The same is true for me. So that’s why it’s especially interesting to see what’s out there without having to empty your pockets. For this list, we look at some of the best chronograph options out there for €2,000. And by best, we mean a varied list of options based on technical merits and great design. So without further ado, let’s jump in.
1. Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver
The Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver by Nivada Grenchen was one of the best releases of 2020. Balazs explained in his review that we are swamped by re-issues, re-editions, and re-interpretations of iconic watches from the past. Usually, brands don’t stick to the original vintage piece. We have seen brands like Breitling and Zenith create great renditions of their iconic pieces. Hopefully, it’s not just a trend but something we will continue to see from brands.
But the story of the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver is even more interesting. As Balazs put it nicely: it’s a reedition that not only stays true to the original but also resurrects an iconic brand from the golden age of Swiss watchmaking. There is the choice of going for a manual winding or an automatic version, and each comes in a variety of different dial configurations. Prices for the manual versions start at €1,460, and the automatic versions start at €1,630. I enjoyed trying the two versions you see in the image above (and in this morning’s excellent article on the brand’s history), and I was impressed by how well the 38.3mm size wears and the high level of quality and detail that define these watches — a great opener to this list!
2. Tissot Heritage 1948
In my weekly series of articles about vintage watches, I just finished writing about the best watches from the 1970s. After seeing so many great watches from the ’70s, I had my mind set on adding a great 1970s inspired chronograph. The perfect addition would have been the Tissot Heritage 1973, as it perfectly captures what makes the 1970s such a great era in watches. But to my disappointment, the price of the Heritage 1973 is currently just over €2,000. So it was a no-go. But Tissot has more stylish options that are within the budget. The Tissot Heritage 1948 is another watch from the Heritage collection that perfectly captures the spirit of the past.
The Heritage 1948 is defined by its 39.5mm case with its characteristic lugs. It takes you back to the golden days of 1940s chronographs. Tissot has created a modern version of a classic silhouette with a lot of eye for detail. Despite the watch being a bit bigger in size, it does feature a domed acrylic crystal. The clean white dial features applied dot markers, a Roman numeral “XII,” and sunken sub-dials picked out by a concentric pattern. Inside the case, you’ll find the automatic ETA 2894-2 chronograph movement is visible through the display case back. For €1,435, the Tissot Heritage 1948 offers great vintage style executed with today’s standards in mind.
3. Hamilton Intra-Matic Chronograph H
This is one of the most stylish chronographs out there is. That’s without a doubt. The Hamilton Intra-Matic Chronograph is a Fratello team favorite, and one of the absolute best watches your money can buy for just under €2,000. But while the automatic version of the Intra-Matic Chronograph would have been on this list a year ago, its updated price makes it ineligible for this list. In the meantime, Hamilton released the Intra-Matic Chronograph H, the manual winding version of the same watch. But it’s not just a simple one-on-one translation of the automatic version.
Hamilton introduced the manual version — powered by the specially developed H51 caliber with a 60-hour power reserve — with a great panda dial and reversed panda dial that is slightly different from the automatic versions. Additionally, the date window has gone, taking care of Rob’s main issue with the automatic version. If there is one optimization we would like to see, it’s a slightly thinner watch. Having said that, it would make a list like this completely useless because it would take the grand prize immediately. The Intra-Matic Chronograph H is available on a leather strap for €1,895, and in the iconic mesh bracelet, it is €1,945. It’s my absolute favorite on this list.
4. Farer Bernina
Time for something a bit more modern and flamboyant. While the design of the Farer Bernina is definitely inspired by the great racing chronographs from the 1960s and 1970s, the execution makes this very much a modern watch. Additionally, its crisp white and red presence makes this a great summer watch. Put this on a blue rubber strap and let summer begin. The Bernina features a 41mm stainless steel case that is 12.9mm high and features a box-cased sapphire crystal. Underneath the crystal, you will find a matte off-white dial with three sub-dials with brilliant white embossed top twin sub-dials. Additionally, the watch features a white ceramic bezel, and together with the dial, it creates the perfect canvas for the contrasting red, blue and black markings.
You will see the manual winding Sellita SW510 BH Elaboré grade movement through the sapphire crystal case back if you turn the watch around. The movement has a 58-hour power reserve and features a customized main plate with Farer branding and an overall great finish. I love that Farer chose a manual winding movement and chose to keep the design of the dial and the bezel as clean as possible. In the same series, Farer also offers the Cresta, Moritz, and the recently added Carnegie. Tomas reviewed the Bernina and the Cresta, and, like him, I prefer the Bernina. As Tomas put it, “It is more charismatic, individualistic and I guess more time-resistant in terms of design.” For €1,985, it hardly gets more charismatic and well-executed than the Farer Bernina.
5. Certina DS Chronograph Automatic
Another great classically styled chronograph is the Certina DS Chronograph Automatic. But it definitely is different from the Tissot that we discussed earlier. The DS Chronograph Automatic features a bigger 42mm case that is 14mm thick and 50.5mm from lug to lug. As Balazs explained in his review, it makes it a rather substantial watch in size, but it’s not too big. The main reason for it is that the case is not too thick for an automatic chronograph, which makes it easy to wear. The domed white dial features a combination of numerals at 12 and 6 o’clock and torch indexes for the other hours. On the outside of the dial, you will find both a tachymeter and a telemeter scale. The tachymeter allows you to measure speed; the telemeter scale tells you the distance. Together with the bright blue hands, the scales bring a nice bit of color to an otherwise very clean dial.
The Certina DS Chronograph Automatic is powered by the Caliber A05.H31. Essentially it’s an ETA /Valjoux Caliber 7753. It has 27 jewels and features 60 hours of power reserve. The movement usually features a date, but Certina decided to leave that for the DS Chronograph Automatic — a great move, in my opinion, as it keeps the ultra-clean looks of the dial intact. If there is one thing to mention to keep in mind, it’s the 21mm lug width. Although not a huge issue, it’s a bit of an unusual size. But overall, the Certina DS Chronograph Automatic brings some awesome vintage appeal with a renowned movement for €1,940. If you’re in the market for a bigger-sized classically styled chronograph, this is your pick.
6. Sinn 144 St Sa
You know there had to be a Sinn on this list. The German brand produces several options for just under €2,000. While the Sinn 103 St and the Sinn 356 Flieger are definitely great options, I prefer the Sinn 144 St Sa as I love the ’70s styling of Sinn’s sports chronograph. I was reminded of the brilliance of the Sinn 144 with the recent release of the fully black 144 St S Anniversary II. The regular steel 144 St Sa comes with a restriction in terms of budget. The watch’s price on a leather strap or with a rubber strap is €1,980, so just within the set budget. With the stainless steel bracelet, the watch is slightly over budget at €2,180. But on a rubber or leather strap, the Sinn 144 St Sa looks great.
The Sinn 144 was added to Sinn’s catalog in 1974, and its ’70s style is still very cool. The watch features a 41mm cushion-shaped case that is bead blasted for its great looks. The black dial has a lot going on at first glance. It features the three sub-dials, a day and date indication, and an inner bezel with a tachymeter and pulsometer scale. The chronograph hands add a great splash of color, making sure that navigating the dial is easy. If you turn the watch around, you will see the automatic Concepto C99001 movement through the sapphire display case back that Sinn uses for their 103 and 356 models as well. It’s a relatively new movement that appears to be based on the Valjoux 7750 considering its layout and specs, operating at 28,800vph, and it has 25 jewels. If you are looking to add a chronograph to your collection that oozes ’70s cool, look no further.
7. Yema Speedgraf
The last pick for this list is the Speedgraf from French brand Yema. This neo-vintage chronograph, as the brand calls it, is another great example of creating a watch inspired by the rich past and executed with today’s standards in mind. As Tomas explained in his review, it’s a fitting term that we do not often hear because it has an uncomfortable ring to it. But in the end, it’s not about the words, but the actual watch. And Yema has created a very cool modern watch inspired by the brand’s classic Yema Daytona chronograph from the 1960s. The Speedgraf features a 39mm stainless steel case and a black dial with two large white subdials. What I love about the dial design is that the tachymeter scale keeps a nice balance. Too often, I find two large sub-dials overwhelming if they are not balanced out by other elements. But with the Speedgraf, it works very well.
Inside the stainless steel case, Yema has chosen to use the automatic Seiko NE86 chronograph movement. It operates at 28,800vph and has a 45-hour power reserve. Tomas explained why it made sense for Yema to choose Seiko movements as the brand was part of Seiko until 2004 when it ended back up in French ownership. By using the Seiko movements, Yema can keep the price of the Speedgraf at a very reasonable €1,499. The Yema Speedgraf is a great option if you are looking for a stylish racing chronograph with a story linked to the past. It has a great deal of 1960s charm, especially on the black vintage style perforated leather racing strap.
There you have, our seven picks for the best chronographs under €2,000. Obviously, there are a great number of other options for the money. So let us know what your favorites are in the comment section. What is the watch that we have missed and should be on this list? And which of the picks does it replace? We would love to find out on what watch you would spend your hard-earned cash on.