Fratello Friday: Top 10 Chronograph Movements, Part 2


Omega Caliber 9300In last week’s Fratello Friday article, I revealed the first five choices in my personal list of top 10 chronograph movements. This week, I cover the remaining five. Once again, a reminder that these are my personal favorites, based on my own experiences and tastes as a watch collector of more than 15 years. Professional watchmakers and other experts may disagree with my choices, and I am by no means a professional watchmaker. And, as always, I am happy to hear others’ opinions on the subject.

6. Omega Caliber 9300

In 2011, a few years after the introduction of its in-house-developed-and-produced Caliber 8500-family of movements, Omega introduced the Caliber 9300 chronograph movement, which was also entirely developed and manufactured in-house. This impressively large caliber has the brand’s renowned co-axial escapement, a column-wheel mechanism, and a silicon balance spring. The movement has a 60-hour power reserve. So far, Omega has only used Caliber 9300 in its Seamaster Planet Ocean chronographs and Speedmaster Caliber 9300 watches, including the Speedmaster “Dark Side of the Moon.” Caliber 9300 has a two-register layout in which the subdial at 3 o’clock shows both the recorded hours and minutes. This subdial can also be used as a second-time-zone indicator if used cleverly. A review on the Omega Speedmaster 9300 can be found here.

Omega Caliber 9300

 

7. TAG Heuer Caliber 1969

Remember the uproar when it was revealed that TAG Heuer’s Caliber 1887 movement was based on a Seiko chronograph caliber? Even though TAG Heuer modified it, and is producing it in Switzerland, the word “Seiko” lit a fire under some diehard Swiss-watch fans. This year, TAG Heuer introduced another new chronograph movement, Caliber 1969.  The caliber number refers to the year that TAG introduced its first mechanical, automatic chronograph movement, Caliber 11. And it should be noted that this movement has nothing to do with the more controversial Caliber 1887. It is a tricompax chronograph (subdials at 9, 6 and 3 o’clock) and has a power reserve of 70 hours. There are no watches available with this movement yet, as TAG Heuer just recently announced it and officially opened the production facility. I can only hope it will do a perfect re-edition of some of the classic, vintage Heuer watches that used the Caliber 11 movement in the past.

TAG Heuer Caliber 1969

 

8. Patek Philippe CHR 29-535 PS Q

Remember the Lemania chronograph movement used by Patek Philippe that I covered in my top five? This movement, Caliber CHR 29-535 PS Q was developed in-house by Patek Philippe. It is hand-wound and was used for the first time in Patek’s Reference 5402P (I wrote about that watch here). The movement consists of 496 parts and features not only a chronograph with split-seconds function, but also a perpetual calendar, placing it firmly in Patek Philippe’s Grand Complications collection. It is a relatively small movement compared to the others here (30 mm diameter) but quite thick. The finishing on all the parts is magnificent. Patek Philippe has filed for a patent on its new split-seconds lever construction. An amazing movement that is unfortunately —  like the A. Lange & Söhne chronograph movement that came in at #5 — available only for a fortunate few.

Patek Philippe CHR 29-535 PS Q

9. Seiko Ananta Spring Drive Movement (Caliber 5R86)

I recall that, at one point, Seiko’s Spring Drive movement got so much publicity that people who inquired about my watch hobby were under the assumption that all watches wound by the motion of the wrist were called “Spring Drive” watches. Seiko did an excellent marketing job on that. The Ananta Chronograph was a Seiko watch that really caught my eye, with its Caliber 5R86 movement. Instead of a traditional escapement, the Spring Drive system uses a combination of a balance wheel, electro-magnetic energy, and a quartz oscillator for optimum accuracy; it uses a rotor to wind the mainspring. As you can see, the finishing is superb. If you can live without the traditional tick-tock of a purely mechanical movement, give a watch with this Seiko movement a chance.

Seiko Ananta Spring Drive Movement (Caliber 5R86)

10. Breitling B01

Following in the footsteps of Omega and TAG Heuer, Breitling also felt the urge to design and develop a chronograph movement in its own facilities. Breitling introduced its B01 chronograph movement in 2009. Before that, Breitling, like many other watch brands, used mainly ETA/Valjoux chronograph movements, along with an occasional Lemania. (In some models, Breitling still uses these.) The Breitling B01 movement is fully developed and manufactured in-house and has a column-wheel chronograph system. It has a 70-hour power reserve and a traditional tricompax layout. It was first introduced in the Chronomat, but since then Breitling has also installed versions of it in a number of its other watches, including the Navitimer 01, Montbrillant 01 and Chronomat 44.

Breitling Chronomat Caliber B01

What are your favorite chronograph movements (not watches)? Please share them with us by leaving a comment.

15 Responses to “Fratello Friday: Top 10 Chronograph Movements, Part 2”

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  1. Gilbert

    Hi! Did you also consider the VC Chrono and Zenith El Primero Movement? The VC has the Lemania based movement. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hello Gilbert,

      Certainly, the El Primero was on no.1 in the first part of this article (here). I am not sure which VC Chrono movement you are refering to, but in part 1 of this article you can also read about two Lemania chronograph movements I selected. The caliber 2310 that was also used by (a.o.) Patek Philippe.

      Best,
      RJ

      Reply
  2. Really enjoyed your 2 instalments on your 10 favourite chrono movements. Share most of your picks but surprised that you did not count the FP 1185 as one of them. But I guess the gulliotine must fall somewhere. Cheers.

    Reply
    • Thanks!

      Yes, correct. The F. Piguet was on my list but didn’t make it to the short list of 10 chronograph movements. This particular movement was also in one of my personal watches (AP RO Chronograph 26300) and it had a very nice finish and worked flawlessly. It was also used in a number of other watches (like Blancpain) and was used as a base for some other similar calibers.

      Reply
  3. william clark

    i love the longevity of the 7733 valjoux movement…….my Bulova chronograph got me through two tours in Viet nam and 25 years of volunteer firefighting and has outlasted every other watch i ever received. one of the timer pusher just broke off but the watch still works everyday.

    Reply
    • Nice! The Valjoux 775x family – while very common – are workhorses. While most of them are solid working chronographs without much flair, some of the watch manufacturers – like IWC – did give them an extra finish that made them shine in watches like the Portuguese Chronograph and DaVinci watches.

      Reply
  4. Alistair Ferguson

    Great list of your top 10 movements!

    What about Orient, Orient Star and Royal Orient movements? My Orient Mako holds to 3 seconds fast over 20 days, c.f. my Breitling Chronomat calibar 13, based on ETA Valjoux 7750, which lost 14 seconds over the same 20 days.

    Great site!

    Reply
    • Hi Alistair,

      I am afraid you are just unlucky with your Breitling and should have it regulated. A valjoux 7750 based movement should be able to perform much better than that. I’d suggest you consult a watchmaker who is able to do the job or have the watch serviced at a Breitling service center.

      RJ

      Reply
  5. I just got myself a Grand Seiko spring drive chronograph and it is a fantastic timekeeper. Smooth sweep of the dial by the seconds hand, that I have never seen before in a Swiss watch. Superb finish on movement and levels of accuracy that the Swiss are sure to be envious of, but may not admit.

    Reply
    • Nice! The sweep of a Spring Drive is indeed very very smooth due to the use of a quartz crystal and IC. The lower the beats per hour (36000, 28800, 21600, 18000) of a mechanical watch, the more ‘ticks’ you will notice in the sweep of the second hand. That’s why the Zenith El Primero is such a joy to look at.

      RJ

      Reply
  6. The 9300 is also in the Omega De Ville co-axial chronograph – I have one! Somewhat confusingly it calls itself a chronometer on the dial, as does the standard non-chronograph De Ville. Anyway, the chronograph version is very nice albeit rather chunky…

    (Please moderator, delete the first two messages about this! Thanks!)

    Reply
    • Hi Bob,

      You get me confused. The caliber 9300 is a chronograph chronometer, so why not put ‘chronometer’ on the dial? Says something about its accuracy I guess. The caliber 8500 (the non-chronograph) is also a chronometer.

      With chunky I think you mean thick. That’s true. I am wearing a caliber 9300 Speedmaster myself as I am writing this, and it rather has a thick case. I don’t mind much as it suits my posture :), but I can imagine the watch will get a bit too ‘chunky’ for some people with small wrists.

      RJ

      Reply
      • Hi RJ,

        You’re right, of course. Both the Omega De Ville 9300 and the De Ville 8500 (and 8600) are chronometers but only the 9300 is a chronograph. Anyway, I was just trying to make the point that the 9300 is not only in the Seamaster and Speedmaster ranges but also in the (rather less popular) De Ville range… Apologies for the confusion….

        Cheers

        Reply
  7. sorry – that should be De Ville co-axial ‘chronograph’ – please correct!

    Reply
  8. The 9300 is also in the Omega De Ville co-axial chronometer – I have one! A very nice watch if a little chunky…

    Reply
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