When it comes to cars and watches, a chronograph is the first type of watch that comes to mind. Long before the advent of electronic timing devices, race officials and teams used the chronograph function on a wristwatch or a pocket watch to time the duration of a race.
A chronograph is essentially a stopwatch: click a button, and the timer starts. Click another, and the timer stops. Of course, watchmakers wouldn’t be satisfied with a simple stopwatch function, so there are plenty of complicated chronographs out there, including monopusher, flyback, and split-seconds.
Brands also display the chronograph time in different ways, typically using a central chronograph hand and subdials (also called counters or totalizers when referring to stopwatches). Chronographs can count seconds, minutes, and even hours when timing a long event, like Le Mans.
While many people are familiar with chronographs with ultra-sporty timepieces closely associated with racing, such as Rolex and Tag Heuer, today we’re looking at the sporty yet elegant chronographs from Patek Philippe. This prestigious Swiss watch brand began to focus on in-house chronographs in the early 2000s and has since become an undisputed master of the complication. It recently released a slew of new chronographs highlighting its expertise and harmonious designs. And, being Patek Philippe, it’s not enough to release gorgeous chronograph watches. Many have complementary functions, including perpetual calendars.
If you still want a steel Nautilus with a blue dial, you can find it here. Ref. 5990/1A-011 features an automatic movement and three complications. It has a flyback chronograph, so you can stop, reset, and restart the chronograph with a single push, as well as a patented Travel Time function that displays two time zones, and a date at 12 o’clock. Globe trotters will love Ref. 5935A-001, which combines a worldtimer that displays the time in all 24 main time zones with a flyback chronograph. It’s also steel, but comes in an elegant round case with an eye-catching rose-gold dial.
Finally, there are two split-seconds chronographs with perpetual calendars. Split-seconds chronographs, also known as ratrappante, and perpetual calendars are both considered grand complications. They are exceedingly difficult to make, and combining them in one watch is a feat of engineering and ingenuity. These watches have two chronograph hands. When you begin the chronograph, both hands move together. Click the split-seconds button, and the hidden hand stops while the main chronograph hand keeps timing. Using this function, you can time two events that begin at the same time but end at different times.
The first, Ref. 5204G-001, has a gorgeous olive-green dial and matching strap. But it’s the Ref. 5373P-001 that steals the show. In addition to having a split-seconds chronograph and a perpetual calendar, it’s also a monopusher, and it’s made for left-handed people. The crown is at 9 o’clock instead of 3 o’clock, and the chronograph counters are swapped for easy readability on the right wrist. These watches also show the different aesthetics a chronograph can have. Ref. 5204G-001 is an elegant dress watch, while Ref. 5373P-001 is ultra sporty, even in a platinum case.