In 1816, watchmaker Louis Moinet invented the first chronograph—a mechanical stopwatch originally used for astronomical measurement at sea—unaware that one century later it would become a sought-after function within wristwatches (initially, thanks to Longines). This past week in Geneva, at the headline-making 2023 Watches and Wonders trade show, dozens of the novelties (an industry term to mean new watch releases) were chronographs—and some, for either technical or aesthetic reasons, represented a high-watermark for the complication (a term that encompasses any function beyond traditional time-telling). The following eight watches, which we saw at the prestigious event (and tried on), not only captured our attention but will continue to inspire as they’re released throughout the year.
A. Lange & Söhne ODYSSEUS Automatic Chronograph
A technical masterpiece with impeccably designed elegance, the ODYSSEUS Automatic Chronograph from A. Lange & Söhne features the German manufacture’s first self-winding chronograph movement, the L156.1 DATOMATIC calibre. The latest to premiere within the highly coveted brand’s ODYSSEUS range, which launched in 2019, the wristwatch sets a nuanced dial with various premium finishes inside a reasonably sized 42.5mm stainless steel case. Regarding functionality, a scale for fractions of a second rests on the outer circumference; a scale for minutes and seconds sits further inside. The chronograph hand is a vibrant red, increasing legibility. The exquisite piece will be limited in production to 100 pieces.
TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph “Glassbox”
An undeniable icon of the watch world, TAG Heuer’s Carrera celebrates its 60th anniversary this year with several eye-catching releases—including this 39mm steel TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph “Glassbox” with a new in-house calibre TH20-00 automatic movement. The chronograph feature tracks quarter-seconds, as well as 30-minute and 12-hour intervals. A domed sapphire crystal magnifies the Carrera’s magnificent reverse Tricompax dial design. An open caseback offers a glimpse at the horological wonder working within. Though we were drawn to the black and white version, there’s also one in TAG Heuer’s signature blue.
Parmigiani Fleurier TONDA PF Split Seconds Chronographe
Another outright masterpiece, premier Swiss watchmaker Parmigiani Fleurier’s TONDA PF Split Seconds Chronographe is more than a 42mm vision in 18K rose gold with a sandblasted platinum dial and skeletonized, delta-shaped hands. This is a technical wonder built around the luxury manufacture’s in-house, manual-winding movement, the PF361. This immaculately decorated and meticulously engineered mechanism is made up of 309 components. It acts as the engine for the timepiece as well as its split-seconds chronograph function, which features two superimposed hands. When one pusher is pressed down, one sweeping chronograph hand stops. A second push pauses the other hand. Only 30 will be produced.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Oceana
This is a striking new entry from Swiss watchmaker IWC’s official partnership with the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program, otherwise known (in real life) as Top Gun. With a nod to the navy colorway of pilot overalls, the new Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Oceana complements a 41.9mm colored ceramic case and rubber strap with the brand’s 69380 calibre automatic movement. The precise, legible chronograph covers seconds, minutes and hours.
Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Chronograph 0 Oxygen The 8000
Ideal for explorers and mountaineers, the 1858 Geosphere Chronograph 0 Oxygen The 8000 from Montblanc features a 44mm titanium case that is entirely devoid of oxygen. This technical attribute prevents oxidation and fogging and maintains precision under harsh conditions. It’s a noble complication for a limited edition timepiece designed as a tribute to the world’s 14 highest peaks (known as the 8000s) which happen to be laser-engraved on the caseback. The dial offers further aesthetic stimulation thanks to a unique Sfumato dark gray glacier pattern, with white luminescent black rhodium-coated Arabic numerals and indexes, and a white chronograph hand.
Hermès Chronograph H08
Aesthetically, the new Hermès Chronograph H08 pairs an elegantly outspoken orange rubber strap with a sleek and sporty 41 by 41mm cushion-shaped case crafted from a carbon fiber and graphene powder composite. An interplay of satin and polished finishing lends further visual texture. A monopusher chronograph, this iteration of the beloved Hermès H08 wristwatch (originally designed in 2021 by Philippe Delhotal) features the automatic movement H1837 from the Swiss watchmaking division of the French maison.
Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Tentagraph SLGC001
A function-oriented innovation set within sophisticated style, Grand Seiko’s Evolution 9 Tentagraph SLGC001 holds the record of the longest-running 10-beat chronograph on the market—as it maintains power for up to 72 hours. That’s thanks to the pioneering Japanese brand’s in-house calibre 9SC5 automatic chronograph movement, which resides within the chic wristwatch’s 43.2mm titanium case. Though the timepiece emphasizes legibility through its exacting design, the carefully decorated deep blue dial (and its pattern, inspired by the peak of Mount Iwate visible from Grand Seiko’s design studio) is simply beautiful to look at.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph
The latest from Jaeger-LeCoultre is a double-sided engineering achievement. On one side of the 49.4 by 29.9mm stainless steel Reverso Tribute Chronograph module, there’s an ornately designed open-worked dial that indicates hours and minutes, alongside a nuanced chronograph function that includes vibrant blue hands and an uncommon retrograde 30-minute counter; on the reverse, there’s a refined gray-blue sun-ray dial along with hours and minutes. As with all Reversos, a wearer can easily flip between the two depending on need or desire. The sophisticated timepiece is powered by their impressive in-house developed manufacture calibre 860 manual-winding movement.
Hero image courtesy of Hermès