Best Chronograph Watches In 2021 | Complete Buying Guide

 

 

Published on 11th August 2021

In the world of Horology, there exists a wide spectrum of timepieces, ranging from ones that are incredibly simple & basic, displaying just the hours and the minutes, all the way to grand complication pieces with an unbelievable number of functions packed into one small package. Today, let’s focus on a very specific complication. The chronograph.

It’s believed that apart from the date function, the chronograph is probably one of the most widely used complications in watches. The chronograph also happens to be one of the most desired and popular complications out there. Let’s find out why that is the case.

 

What is a chronograph watch?

A chronograph is in essence, a stopwatch feature. While a chronograph watch has normal hours, minutes, and seconds hands performing their respective functions, there will similarly exist another set of such hands that function independently to measure elapsed time. Such watches utilize sub-dials on the main dial to house the extra set of hands. There are other uses for the term, ‘chronograph’ too, like ballistic chronographs such as the Labradar chronograph and the Caldwell chronograph. As you can see, it is a pretty important instrument.

Chronograph watch movements may be either mechanical/automatic or quartz operated, with quartz being the obvious affordable option. While quartz chronographs run on a battery, there are solar-powered ones too, such as the Seiko solar chronograph. 

In chronograph watches, the price difference between mechanical/automatic and quartz can often be staggering. The reason for that is, in a quartz chronograph movement, the chronograph feature, as well as the timekeeping, are operated by a quartz movement that can be mass-produced cheaply, making fashion watches such as the Fossil Grant Chronograph, easily accessible. In a mechanical/automatic chronograph movement, several small parts have to be painstakingly assembled by hand, making it a specialized and time-consuming process.

Fun fact: The chronograph, even though quite popular is also one of the most complicated complications in a mechanical watch, only being surpassed by minute repeaters and Tourbillons. Chronographs also come in different types, such as a flyback chronograph (Instant resume of the stopwatch after reset), the Rattrapante, which has multiple chronograph hands for measuring time on 2 different occasions at the same time, etc. But there are also more easy-to-produce digital chronographs in watches as well. This also extends towards ballistic chronographs like the Labrardar chronograph and the Caldwell chronograph like we mentioned.

 

Why buy a chronograph watch?

The chronograph or the stopwatch function on your watch is a very convenient feature to have and can be used for a variety of purposes. But apart from its functional use, we must also recognize the fact that watches with a chronograph can be incredibly beautiful. What may have been a plain and uninteresting timepiece without it, will instantly get transformed into a fascinatingly attractive one with it.

They are versatile too. A dress chronograph is just what you want for formal occasions to add an extra bit of panache to your attire, without being loud or distasteful. That’s why fashion watches such as the Fossil Grant chronograph tend to be fairly popular. But in this article, we’ll focus more on the enthusiast’s choices.

There exist chronograph timepieces for other functions too. The pilot’s chronograph, for example, is an incredibly tasteful piece that can be worn for semi-formal and casual settings. Then, there are sports chronographs, dive chronographs, and digital chronographs.

Most quartz chronographs tend to be fairly affordable to buy and maintain. They will be of high quality, as long as you stick with established brands. Mechanical chronographs require more care and attention. They can be quite expensive to service, but that’s the price to pay for some proper enjoyment and ownership satisfaction.

How to use a chronograph watch?

  • The chronograph mechanism is actuated by a set of pushers, usually situated at 2 and 4 o’clock on the case. 
  • The pusher at 2 o’clock is used to start, pause and resume the chronograph function by sequential pushing. 
  • The pusher at 4 o’clock is used to reset the chronograph.

Mind you, this is the most common arrangement but certainly isn’t representative of all chronographs out there. Some may have the pushers on the left side at 10 and 8. Some may even be a mono-pusher mechanism where the pusher is pressed to start/stop the chronograph and is pressed and held to reset the mechanism.

The 10 Best Chronographs Of 2021

Now that we’ve had a brief discussion on the basics of chronograph watches, let’s take a look at 10 excellent examples of chronographs that you may be interested in.

Timex Weekender Chronograph 40mm Watch

Timex Three Subdials Chronograph
Timex Weekender Chronograph 40mm Watch (Image: Amazon)

When it comes to highly affordable chronographs, look no further than this. The Weekender line of watches has become iconic and a cult classic on its own, mostly because of the timelessly gorgeous design and reliable movements. And of course, Timex is a well-established and respected brand on its own. The Timex Weekender Chronograph is an excellent timepiece for someone looking to have a taste of a chronograph but doesn’t want to shell out too much on one.

Key Features:

  • Indiglo backlighting
  • Date, split-seconds, and 1/100th of a second indicator.
  • Black, blue, white & cream dial options.
  • Option of the standard plated brass case or bead-blasted PVD finish.
  • Choice of leather or nylon straps.

Timex Weekender Chronograph 40mm Watch : Specifications

Dimensions 40mm diameter, 9mm thickness, 20mm lug width.
Movement W92, Quartz.
Water-Resistance 30m.
Crystal Mineral
Materials Plated brass case, nylon strap

Pros
  • Gorgeous design.
  • Backlighting (Indiglo).

  • Affordable.

  • Excellent value.

  • High-quality straps.

Cons
  • Brass case & not stainless steel.

Rating: 4.7/5

 

Casio G-shock Carbon Core Guard Ga-2100-1ajf Mens Japan Import

Casio G-Shock Watch with Chronograph
Casio G-shock Carbon Core Guard Ga-2100-1ajf Mens Japan Import (Image: Amazon)

The GA-2100 G-Shock, also known fondly as the “Casioak” due to its octagonal case that resembles an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is a fantastic choice for someone who wants a more subtle and cleaner looking G-Shock, but with all the standard characteristics of durability, functionality (Including the chronograph), and value for money. While some may not be too taken by the resin case, there are metal case swaps available as well. Overall, it’s a great value for money choice.

Key Features:

  • 1/100th of a second stopwatch
  • World time
  • Countdown timer
  • 5 daily alarms
  • Backlighting

Casio G-shock Carbon Core Guard Ga-2100-1ajf Mens Japan Import : Specifications

Dimensions 45.4mm diameter, 11.8mm thickness.
Movement Casio Module 5611, Analog-Digital.
Water-Resistance 200m.
Crystal Mineral.
Materials Resin case with carbon core guard, Resin strap.

Pros
  • Extremely durable.
  • Very attractive for a G-Shock.

  • Swimming and diving is possible.

  • Variety of timing features.

  • Suitable for modding.

Cons
  • Low quality resin strap.

Rating: 4.5/5

SEIKO Men’s Pilot Watch Alarm Chronograph

SEIKO Men's Pilot Watch Alarm Chronograph
SEIKO Men’s Pilot Watch Alarm Chronograph (Image: Amazon)

The SNA411, also known as the Flightmaster is a fantastic choice for someone who wants a chronograph, but one with a sense of adventure to it. And what screams “adventure” more than a properly equipped pilot’s watch? It’s feature-packed and easy to use. But it is just powered by its battery and isn’t a Seiko solar chronograph. While the lack of backlighting and the unusual lug width are demerits, this Seiko chronograph’s positives outshine them easily.

Key Features:

  • Slide-rule bezel
  • Alarm
  • Screw-down crown and pushers
  • Dual-time
  • Flyback chronograph

SEIKO Men’s Pilot Watch Alarm Chronograph : Specifications

Dimensions 42mm diameter, 13mm thickness, 21mm lug width.
Movement Caliber 7T62, Quartz Seiko Chronograph.
Water-Resistance 200m.
Crystal Hardlex.
Materials Stainless steel case & bracelet.

Pros
  • Dimensions suit a lot of wrist sizes.
  • The Slide-rule bezel can be used for basic calculations.

  • Suitable for swimming and even diving.

  • Alarm feature.

  • Intricate design.

Cons
  • No backlighting.
  • Impractical lug width (21mm).

Rating: 4.7/5

Casio Men’s EQS500DB-1A1 Edifice Tough Solar Stainless Steel Multi-Function Watch with Link Bracelet

Casio Men's  EQS500DB-1A1 Edifice Tough Solar watch with Chronograph
Casio Men’s EQS500DB-1A1 Edifice Tough Solar Stainless Steel Multi-Function Watch with Link Bracelet (Image: Amazon)

The Casio Edifice line consists of wonderfully designed watches with extremely good functionality and quality. If these are the traits that matter to you, do go for it, provided the size is right for you.

Key Features:

  • 1/100th of a second stopwatch
  • World timer (29 time zones)
  • Solar-powered
  • Daily alarm
  • Atomic syncing

Casio Men’s EQS500DB-1A1 Solar Stainless Steel Multi-Function Watch : Specifications

Dimensions 45.8mm diameter, 12.3mm thickness, 22mm lug width.
Movement Casio Module 5123, Solar-powered quartz.
Water-Resistance 100m.
Crystal Mineral.
Materials Stainless steel case & bracelet.

Pros
  • Feature-packed.
  • Excellent value for money.

  • Suitable for swimming.

  • High-quality build.

  • Highly accurate movement.

Cons
  • Large size.

Rating: 4.6/5

GRAF Zeppelin Chronograph and Alarm Watch

GRAF Zeppelin Chronograph with White Pearl Dial
GRAF Zeppelin Chronograph and Alarm Watch (Image: Amazon)

This is a watch you buy with your heart more than your head. And a large portion of that decision happens due to the design that’s comparable to top Haute horology brands. It’s on the more expensive side, but it’s acceptable as the Graf Zeppelin chronograph is a German-made watch with a high-quality Swiss movement.

Key Features:

  • Timeless vintage design
  • High-quality Swiss quartz movement
  • Alarm
  • Choice of silver and black dial colors
  • Choice of leather and stainless steel mesh straps

GRAF Zeppelin Chronograph and Alarm Watch : Specifications

Dimensions 42mm diameter, 13mm thickness, 22mm lug width.
Movement Ronda 5130.D, Quartz.
Water-Resistance 50m.
Crystal Mineral.
Materials Stainless steel case, Leather strap.

Pros
  • Rare design; exceptionally attractive.
  • Historically significant brand.

  • Alarm feature

  • German made; high-quality construction

  • Tachymeter

Cons
  • Best suited mainly for formal occasions.
  • Large size

Rating: 4.6/5

 

Tissot men’s Seastar Ceramic Sport Watch Silver T1204171104101

Tissot Men's Seastar Sport Watch with Chronograph
Tissot mens Seastar Ceramic Sport Watch Silver T1204171104101 (Image: Amazon)

Even though this is the best Swiss diver at this price, objectively it’s still expensive and Japanese brands like Seiko do leave it behind. Nevertheless, it’s a very unique design and has the Tissot brand name, making it dependable and attractive to most.

Key Features:

  • Full-scale diver
  • Screw-down crown and pushers
  • 1/10th of a second chronograph
  • Choice of a metal bracelet or rubber strap

Tissot men’s Seastar Ceramic Sport Watch Silver T1204171104101 : Specifications

Dimensions 45.5mm diameter, 12.8mm thickness, 22mm lug width.
Movement ETA G10.212, Quartz.
Water-Resistance 300m.
Crystal Sapphire.
Materials Stainless steel case & bracelet.

Pros
  • Great for all types of water activities.
  • Heritage brand.

  • Best Swiss diver in its price range.

  • Swiss-made; high-quality construction.

Cons
  • Large case size.
  • More on the expensive side.

Rating: 4.5/5

Men’s Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Tsuno Chronograph Racer Watch AV0071-03A

Men's Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Tsuno Chronograph with style
Men’s Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Tsuno Chronograph Racer Watch AV0071-03A (Image: Amazon)

This is a very unique proposition. It’s a great choice for the enthusiast who likes their history, as this is a modern reinterpreted reissue of a similar vintage Citizen bullhead racer chronograph. Although it’s on the larger side and is expensive, watches like the Tsuno chronograph are getting rarer in general, making it a top pick.

Key Features:

  • Bullhead chronograph
  • Racing-inspired design
  • Solar-powered
  • Hand-assembled movement
  • Choice of panda, green and blue dials.

Men’s Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Tsuno Chronograph Racer Watch AV0071-03A

Dimensions 45mm diameter, 15mm thickness, 24mm lug width.
Movement Eco-drive E210, Solar-powered quartz
Water-Resistance 200m.
Crystal Sapphire.
Materials Stainless steel case & bracelet, Leather strap.

Pros
  • Very unique design.
  • Historical value.

  • Tachymeter, flyback and, alarm functions.

Cons
  • The bulky case isn’t versatile.
  • Expensive.

Rating: 4.8/5

 

Bulova Moonwatch – 96B258

Bulova Moonwatch with Chronograph
Bulova Moonwatch – 96B258 (Image: Amazon)

While everyone remembers the Omega Speedmaster when they hear the term, “Moonwatch”, The Bulova Lunar Pilot is equally commendable. It was worn on the moon on the 2nd of August, 1971 during the Apollo 15 mission. That’s the level of prominence we’re talking of. While it’s a very large watch, its history makes it worth the price.

Key Features:

  • Historically significant; It’s a moon watch
  • 262 kHz High-frequency quartz movement
  • Tachymeter
  • Choice of leather strap or metal bracelet
  • High energy lithium-ion battery

Bulova Moonwatch – 96B258 : Specifications

Dimensions 45mm diameter, 13.5mm, 20mm lug width.
Movement Bulova Caliber 8136 (NP20), 262 kHz quartz
Water-Resistance 50m.
Crystal Sapphire.
Materials Stainless steel case & bracelet.

Pros
  • Historical value.
  • Good battery life of 3 years even though it’s a high-frequency movement.

  • Anti-reflective sapphire crystal.

  • Versatile.

  • Extremely accurate.

Cons
  • Large dimensions.

Rating: 4.8/5

Victorinox Swiss Army Men’s Airboss Mechanical Mach 9 Chronograph Watch

Victorinox Swiss Chronograph Watch
Victorinox Swiss Army Men’s Airboss Mechanical Mach 9 Chronograph Watch (Image: Amazon)

Want a Swiss-made mechanical chronograph that’s also daring and sporty? Look no further. This timepiece is produced by the iconic Victorinox brand, known for its Swiss knives. The movement, being an extremely popular one is a robust and reliable unit with extensive support, making it a safe choice. While the watch can mostly be worn on casual occasions only, it’s still worth it for what it is.

Key Features:

  • 48-hour power reserve
  • Display case back
  • Choice of standard stainless steel or PVD coated case finishes
  • Pushers mounted on the opposite side
  • choice of a metal bracelet or leather strap

Victorinox Swiss Army Men’s Airboss Mechanical Mach 9 Chronograph Watch : Specifications

Dimensions 45mm diameter, 14.6mm, 22mm lug width.
Movement Valjoux 7750, Automatic
Water-Resistance 100m.
Crystal Sapphire.
Materials Stainless steel case & bracelet.

Pros
  • Display case back.
  • Well-proven and reliable automatic movement.

  • Can be used for swimming.

  • Robust, industrial, militaristic design.

Cons
  • Not a very versatile design.

Rating: 4.6/5

 

Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope Men’s Automatic Chronograph Watch – 40mm Analog Silver Face with Luminous Hands and Date – Stainless Steel Black Leather Band Luxury Watch Made in Germany 027/4600.00

Junghans Chronoscope Mens Automatic Chronograph with minimalistic design
Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope Mens Automatic Chronograph Watch (Image: Amazon)

This is a watch with a very specific purpose. That is, to be a dress watch in one of the classiest manifestations of that term ever. Designed by the renowned Swiss designer and architect, Max Bill, this watch is the very representation of the Bauhaus movement in the world of Horology. If you’re willing to take the expense and also take care of the gorgeous domed acrylic/plexiglass crystal, this watch is made for you!

Key Features:

  • Bauhaus design
  • Choice of leather strap or stainless steel mesh bracelet
  • Historical icon
  • Valjoux 7750 derived Junghans movement

Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope Men’s Automatic Chronograph Watch : Specifications

Dimensions 45mm diameter, 14.4mm, 20mm lug width.
Movement Caliber J880.2, Automatic.
Water-Resistance 30m.
Crystal Plexiglass.
Materials Stainless steel case & bracelet, Leather strap

Pros
  • Unbelievably subtle, yet iconic Bauhaus design.
  • Made in Germany; Very high quality.

  • Dimensions suit a wide range of wrist sizes.

  • Excellent as a dress watch.

Cons
  • Domed plexiglass crystal requires extra care.

Rating: 4.7/5

The Conclusion

Now that we’ve explored 10 amazing chronographs, it’s time to make your decision. While it’s important to purchase the watch that practically makes the most sense for your lifestyle, it’s also important to let your heart rule occasionally. After all, we gotta love the watch we own. What is a chronograph watch? It’s a special timepiece whose complication must stir the soul! So think with both your head and your heart before pulling the trigger. Enjoy your new timepiece! Check out our new article on the best automatic watches this year.

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