Innovative mechanical movements and boundary-pushing materials that advance the ticker on your wrist.
The Perpetual Calendar
This is a highly complicated dream machine designed to tell its owner the second, minute, hour, day, date, month, year and current phase of the moon until the end of the century, including leap years. When March 1, 2100, finally rolls around, you’ll have to take yours back to the shop because of a mathematical glitch. (Consider it the Y2K of the watch world.) After that, it should serve you faithfully for another hundred years. Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph by IWC.
Probably the most common—and least used—function on a chronograph is the tachymeter, a ring of numbers often inscribed on the bezel of a watch. Used in conjunction with the second hand of the chronograph, it relates elapsed time to distance travelled so that you can calculate your average speed (or, if you know your speed, indicate how far you’ve come). Good to know next time you find yourself travelling sans speedometer. BR-X1 RS17 by Bell & Ross.
One of the oldest alloys known to man, bronze is having a moment in the world of fine watchmaking, and it’s all thanks to oxidation. Its propensity to tarnish gives it a handsomely rugged matte patina. But even better, that tarnish protects the watch from further degradation over time. Divers and shipwrights have long deployed the metal for its resilience underwater. On land, it’s a smart choice for those looking to maintain an heirloom piece. Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition by Montblanc.
Of all the new materials to emerge in the past 35 years, zirconium oxide—a type of ceramic—has had the greatest impact in watchmaking circles. Harder than steel and resistant to scratching, it’s made utilising the same ceramic technology that allowed NASA space shuttles to withstand the extreme heat of re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. But the watch isn’t just brawny; it’s handsome, too: depending on how it’s engineered, ceramic can be created in vivid colours, like this deep navy blue. Master Chronometer Speedmaster Professional Blue Side of the Moon by Omega.
Richard Mille is watchmaking’s consummate showman, and each of his stratospherically priced timepieces strains the boundaries of science and art. His newest baby is made with graphene, a form of carbon that’s microscopically thin and wildly resilient. (It’s now being tested for use in McLaren race cars.) Only one sixth the weight of steel and 200 times as strong, it makes for a watch that weighs only 40G including the strap. RM50-03 McLaren F1 Ultralight by Richard Mille.
The El Primero
In the late ’60s, while Americans and Soviets were rocketing toward the moon, watchmakers were wrapped up in their own version of the space race. Zenith and TAG Heuer were competing to make the first automatic chronograph, something of a technical holy grail. Chronographs require more oomph in the mainsprings than automatics back then could provide. Zenith got there first. The El Primero was ahead of its time in 1969, and almost half a century later, horophiles still speak of it in hushed tones. Chronomaster El Primero by Zenith.
The Chronometer Allow us to brush up your vocab: a chronograph is any timepiece with a stopwatch function; a chronometer is a watch that meets extreme standards of accuracy, as defined by COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres). Each chronometer is tested for two weeks before earning the designation, at which point it’s engraved with a certification number. Think of it as a watch that comes with its own diploma.