“Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder? You better run, you better take cover.” Or so said the Men At Work. Now, before you shake your head, thinking, “There goes Brandon again with the song references,” let’s take a moment to consider that statement. Whether or not you actually have to run and take cover all depends on the storm’s proximity, doesn’t it? Let’s be honest here; if it’s five kilometers away, you could probably just leisurely stroll and take cover. And sure, with these newfangled phones and radar apps, you could flick some screens and figure that out. But that’s no fun, now is it? For us watch lovers, what’s an even more satisfying way to determine the distance between you and tempest? Why, with a telemeter of course!

If you’d like a refresher on what a telemeter is and how to use this straightforward scale, head on over to our Definitive Guide to Chronograph Scales and give it a quick read!  As I did last week with my picks for the top five tachymeters, today, I’ll be sharing my favorite telemeters on the market. For the sake of consistency, I’ll keep these choices in the realm of modern, relatively affordable, and readily available timepieces. Since a chronograph scale is useless if you can’t even read it, legibility will also play a large part in my choices. Finally, to give this list some structure, I will order my choices by price, from the most affordable to the most expensive. Without further ado, let’s check out my first pick for the top five telemeters.

Nezumi Tonnerre Chronograph with blue dial

If you checked out my choices for my top five tachymeters, you may not be surprised to see Nezumi on this list as well. There’s a really good reason for that: Nezumi’s designs just work. In terms of telemeter legibility, this Tonnerre Chronograph in blue ticks all the boxes. The chronograph seconds hand both contrasts with the dial and extends all the way into the telemeter scale. The color contrast between the navy dial and the off-white telemeter provides great readability at a glance. This may just be a personal quirk, but segmentation like this helps me quickly locate the information I want to read. Though a telemeter scale with the same color as the dial is not automatically out of the question (there are some on this list), a color-coordinated delineation between the dial and scale can really save me some squinting.

The Tonnerre features a modest 38mm, all-brushed stainless case, which is just 45mm lug-to-lug and 12mm thick including the sapphire crystal. The Seiko mecha-quartz VK63 movement inside provides accurate timekeeping and a nifty chronograph mechanism that splits the difference between “soulful” and “soulless” horology perfectly for the price. As the owner of two 38mm mecha-quartz watches, I can say from experience that specs like these make for terrific grab-and-go choices. The smaller size doesn’t weigh me down while I’m riding my bicycle or tumbling around with my kids, and the mecha-quartz movement means I don’t need to worry if it’s running or not as I race out the door (which happens more often than I care to admit). Additionally, the fun and effective use of color on this model and its current €310 retail price make it an absolute no-brainer. Check out Rob’s review of the white-dial version here.

Junghans Meister Telemeter with black dial

You may be thinking, “Obvious choice! It has ‘Telemeter’ in the name!” Or perhaps those are just my insecurities talking. Either way, I’ve made my choice and I’m sticking to it! Two watches in, you may notice a pattern already: contrast. Just as on the Nezumi, the delineation between the telemeter scale and the rest of the dial on this Junghans makes all the difference. As a functional telemeter, the contrasting gray/silver scale with its red markers gives this black-dialed variant the edge over its silver-dialed brethren. The chronograph seconds hand also extends past the telemeter. This leaves less room for ambiguity when reading it than with hands that point to, but don’t quite reach the scale. Placing the telemeter on the inside of the tachymeter was an ingenious design choice, as it mitigates some of the legibility issues you may face with glare on the edge of the acrylic crystal.

Yes, the Junghans Meister Telemeter has a true acrylic crystal, not simply a domed sapphire one. While sapphire is both more durable and more luxurious, I really think acrylic crystals don’t get enough credit. The visual warmth that an acrylic crystal can give to a vintage-inspired dial simply cannot be matched. And so what if your crystal picks up a few scratches? That’s nothing a little PolyWatch can’t fix. Can I just mention how much I love the profile of this watch too? Despite its generously domed crystal and modular ETA 2892-based chronograph movement, its sloping UFO-like case measures just 12.6mm thick. Yes, my friends. It’s slim, it’s svelte, and it’s oh-so-sexy. And at just 40.8mm wide and 45mm lug-to-lug, it will simply melt onto the wrist.

Image credit: Watch1440.com

But it doesn’t stop there

What I really love is how the sub-dials complement the crystal in their shape. While the crystal is an exaggerated, convex dome, the sub-dials are concave. Like the most beautiful, symmetrical thumbprints you’ve ever seen, the sub-dials sink below the dial itself. This provides immense depth and contrast despite being the same color. Aside from a legible telemeter, this is the design cue that makes me fall more in love with this model every time I see one. Well, that and the silky multi-link style bracelet. Nine individual components with alternating brushed and polished finishes give it a sophisticated air that really suits the vintage styling. The only slight niggles I have are the 30m of water resistance and 21mm lug spacing. But hey, no watch is perfect, right? At €2,090 on a bracelet, the Junghans Meister Telemeter is a tempting choice. Read Balazs’s review of the silver-dial variant here.

RGM 455-R Classic Chronograph

The telemeters I have listed thus far are wonderful if you live in a country that uses the metric system. Centimeters, meters, kilometers. They’re a way of life! But what if you’re from Liberia? Or Myanmar? Maybe, since you invented the imperial system, you’re stuck in the middle, like the British? Or maybe, like me, you’re a red-white-and-blue-blooded, die-hard (sarcastic) ‘Murican?! Kilometers? What are those? Miles all the way, baby! We don’t neeeed noooo kilometers. *Daaaaa-dun, da-dun, da-dun, daaaaa-dun, da-dun, da-dun.* We don’t neeeed noooo more song references, Brandon!

But seriously, if you’re an American looking for a modern telemeter, unfortunately, that good ol’ American exceptionalism won’t get you very far. Short of contacting your chosen brand and asking if they’d make a custom scale calibrated for miles, you might be out of luck. That is, if not for RGM. The stalwart of American watchmaking, Roland G. Murphy, has indeed got your back with the 455 Classic Chronograph. Other than some offerings from Bremont, RGM’s watches are the only ones being made right now that feature a mile-friendly telemeter scale. It’s a relief that they exist because unlike a tachymeter, which is equally usable with metric or imperial units, a telemeter is a bit more specific. Thankfully, RGM has done a commendable job of making a legible one.

The off-white telemeter scale very subtly contrasts the white dial and is made even more legible thanks to a thin, blank sector between the two. The thermally blued chronograph hand extends into the scale, aiding readability as well. While the 455 is also available with a blue inner tachymeter (455-BL), the red scale’s contrast with the blued hands on the 455-R make using the tachymeter a more pleasant experience should you wish to.

Reliable, proven horology

Sure, the Valjoux 7750 movement inside may not be anything fantastically luxurious or out-of-the-ordinary. As such, you won’t see it through the case back. The 7750 is, however, an incredibly trustworthy caliber, which any watchmaker worth her salt could service with her eyes closed. Considering its retro styling, the 38.2mm diameter is very appropriate. With a reasonable height of 13.9mm, you could definitely do a lot worse for a 7750-based watch. The 20mm lug width means you’ll also have plenty of incredible strap options available to dress this timepiece up or down. Further, the sapphire crystal and 50m of water resistance give this piece just the right amount of daily-wear capability. The 455-R Classic Chronograph is available directly from RGM for $3,950 (or €3,335 by today’s conversion).

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 18 Telemeter

Long name, cool watch! This was a particularly interesting pick for me because I feel like this shouldn’t meet my exacting criteria. The telemeter is simply printed on the dial, with nothing but blank space to separate it from the hour indices. With no segmentation and no bold contrast other than black text on a silver backdrop, key elements suggest to me that, logically, this telemeter design shouldn’t work. Yet, it does, and brilliantly, at that. When I first saw this piece, it didn’t strike me as illegible at all. Rather, the simplicity of its design makes it quite easy to read indeed. The more I analyze it, the more I accredit it to the minuscule chapter ring.

As you can see, the black minute track is pushed to the utmost periphery of the dial, switching seats, as it were, with the telemeter scale. As I mentioned in my article on tachymeters, far too many are thrown on the perimeter of dials, in an illegibly small font, seemingly as an afterthought. This happens with many telemeters too. Not here, though! Of course, one could argue that a minute track is more useful day-to-day than a telemeter. I would argue, however, that we’re far more used to instantly gauging minutes based on hour markers alone. One could easily estimate current minutes or elapsed seconds to a greater degree of accuracy than one could estimate the indications on a telemeter. Therefore, in this specific case, I feel TAG Heuer made an appropriate design decision.

TAG Heuer Carrera Telemeter 3

Blending old with new

Honestly, who doesn’t sort of love it when TAG Heuer conveniently leaves “TAG” off the dial? As with most of the heritage pieces in the lineup, this Carrera gives a nostalgic nod back to the brand’s Heuer-only heyday. Though 3mm larger than its vintage counterparts, this model measures just 39mm in diameter, 13.5mm thick, and 47mm lug-to-lug. Talk about Goldilocks dimensions! I appreciate that while the dial gives off a panda vibe, the sub-dials themselves are not actually black, but gray. The namesake Calibre 18 inside is a Sellita SW300-1 with Dubois-Dépraz 2223 chronograph module. As it was for Mike back in 2015, this could be a point of contention for some, especially considering its original retail price. Though now discontinued, the Carrera Calibre 18 Telemeter does pop up on the used (and discounted) market enough to recommend it. At €4,250, this particular example might just “fit the bill.”

Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph, in steel OR bronze!

I’m not gonna lie; I love an underdog. Though it seems like Montblanc is finally starting to make some hard-fought headway in the world of horology, I feel its watches are overlooked all too often by an exclusively pen-privy public. The truth is, whether on paper or on the wrist, Montblanc makes some very fine instruments indeed. This 1858 Monopusher Chronograph with telemeter scale is no exception. Although, to be honest, I would have preferred a slightly wider telemeter, the design nevertheless gets the job done. The telemeter is segmented nicely from the dial thanks to the gilt minute track. With a highly legible white chronograph seconds hand that extends into the scale, it ticks my most important boxes for readability. The matte black dial with gilt printing reminds me of one design element of my Tudor Black Bay that I never tire of, even after six years of ownership.

What I like most about this watch, though, is how it gives you a nibble of the brand’s most premium offerings. The design is based on Montblanc’s significantly more expensive Minerva mono-pusher chronographs. And when I say “significantly,” I mean at least five times more expensive. Though the Sellita SW510 MP-based movement inside is neither exclusive nor as deserving of horological bragging rights as Minerva movements, it is a sturdy, reliable caliber in its own right. The movement itself is indeed the one tradeoff required when comparing this piece to Montblanc’s top tier. In terms of aesthetics, finishing, and construction, no other sacrifices need to be made. At 42mm wide, the smaller caliber makes it notably smaller than its 44mm Minerva counterparts of the same style. As a sucker for romantic complications, I also find the mono-pusher chronograph a lovely departure from the industry-standard dual-pusher variety.

Image credit: Watchlounge.com

Tasty options

The 1858 Monopusher Chronograph is available in steel on either a brown leather strap or beads-of-rice bracelet. Alternatively, an 1858-piece limited edition is available in bronze on a beige textile strap. Though I personally love limited editions, I tend to stay away from them for the purpose of these lists. This one, however, is still available for purchase from Montblanc’s website, so I feel comfortable recommending it for the time being. In steel, the watch retails for €4,800 on the leather strap and €5,100 on the steel bracelet. In bronze, the 1858 Monopusher Chronograph retails for €5,500 on the textile strap. Whether you choose steel or bronze, I find both of these telemeters equally legible. For my money, I’d take the bronze LE, no questions asked! Check out the Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronographer in greater written depth here and in video here!

And there we have it

Well, dear Fratelli, that seems like a good place to wrap up my list of the Top 5 Telemeters. What say you? Looking back, this list seems quite “heritage-heavy,” doesn’t it? Alas, that seems to be the current state of the telemeter market. If you have any recommendations for legible telemeters with a more modern aesthetic, for the sake of balance, please drop them in the comments below! I look forward to reading your thoughts and suggestions. Be sure to check back soon for another juicy list of the Top 5 Pulsometers! And in the meantime, just know that…

“I would walk about five miles, and ah-IIIII would walk about five more, just to be the man who walked about ten miles to get far from that storm. DA-DA-DAAAA!” BRANDON!!!