December 3, 2022

Rolex DaytonaIn this week’s Fratello Friday, I offer up my Top Seven Iconic Chronograph Watches. If you don’t count the date feature, the chronograph is probably the most popular complication for wristwatches, as well as one of the most useful: one can find many uses for a chrono during his or her everyday life, such as timing diner preparation or in other work- or sports-related activities.

What makes a timepiece iconic? In most cases, it has something to do with age and heritage, but more importantly, in my opinion, its design should be truly timeless. If you can easily identify a watch as having been around since the 1950s or 1960s and that watch can still be worn today without looking old — well, that’s the definition of timeless. Another important aspect of an icon is that it should be easily recognizable as a specific model and brand. Think of the Royal Oak by Audemars Piguet, the Santos by Cartier, or the Datejust by Rolex.

Most of these watches do not need introduction, but I’ll introduce them anyway. You’ll notice that I’ve selected the most up-to-date versions of these chronograph watches, i.e., the models you can buy today.

So, in ascending order:

7. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

The original Royal Oak goes back to 1972 and was designed by the legendary Gérald Genta. The Royal Oak Offshore collection was introduced 21 years later in 1993 and was meant to be a more rugged and up-to-date version of the regular Royal Oak to attract a younger and perhaps a new target customer. The themed models from the Royal Oak Offshore collection bear interesting names as ‘Safari’, ‘Navy’, ‘Vulcano’ and so on. Watch aficionados even nick named them to ‘Panda’ and ‘Elephant’.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

6. Zenith El Primero

From all the chronograph watches listed in this article, Zenith is perhaps the only one where the movement is even more famous than the watch itself. The El Primero chronograph movement has a long (1969) and interesting history that I will save for a later article. This Zenith El Primero 36,000 VPH has the looks of those very first models from 1969 but crafted and designed to meet all current standards. This 42mm model however, will always remind you of those early automatic chronograph models due to its case shape and dial.

Zenith El Primero chronograph

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