2020, The Watch Year in Review: 10 Captivating Chronographs

It goes without saying: 2020 was far from an ideal year for most of us. Looking back, however, it was also a year that brought many noteworthy watch launches despite the huge obstacles posed by the pandemic and its effects on the world economy. As we look ahead hopefully to 2021, it’s time for our annual look back at some of those timepieces, in various popular categories. Today, we spotlight 10 standout chronographs launched in 2020.

Audemars Piguet, which has been expanding its color palette in recent years, introduced three new versions of its Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph in brushed black ceramic cases, whose dials feature a subtle variation from previous versions: Arabic hour numerals in place of the traditional baton indexes. The hallmark octagonal bezels are in smoked green (pictured), smoked blue, or 18k rose gold, with color-coordinated crown and pushers. The dials, with their waffle-textured “Mega Tapisserie” pattern, feature prominent, applied gold Arabic numerals at eight of the hour positions; rhodium-toned subdials; a round date window at 3 o’clock; and luminous hands in the classical Royal Oak style. Audemars Piguet’s manufacture Caliber 3126/3840 beats inside, providing a 50-hour power reserve. Each of the models comes comes on color-coordinated, textured rubber strap. Click here to see other variations.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph

In 1965’s Thunderball, James Bond uses a Breitling Top Time model equipped with a Geiger counter to track down a cadre of stolen nuclear missiles hidden underwater. This past summer, Breitling released a modern re-edition of that watch (sans Geiger counter), called the Top Time Limited Edition. Fans of the original will appreciate the unusual “Zorro” dial layout, with two parallel white subdials framed by a black domino-mask-like motif. Details in red, such as the hour, minute and central chronograph seconds hand and the red sector of the 3 o’clock subdial. add a splash of color to the predominantly black-and-white dial. The steel case measures 41 mm in diameter, with a non-screwed, single-gasket crown, and plunger-style chronograph pushers. The watch, a limited edition of 1,200 pieces, contains Breitling Caliber 23, an automatic, COSC-certified movement based on the ETA 7753 and storing a power reserve around 48 hours. More on the watch and its history can be found here.

Breitling Top Time Limited Edition - angle
Breitling Top Time Limited Edition – angle

Bulova added to its historically inspired Heritage Series with the Chronograph A “Surfboard,” based on a watch produced from 1970-71 and nicknamed for the quirky, blue surfboard-shaped oval encompassing the two subdial counters at 3 and 9 o’clock. Its tonneau-shaped, 38-mm stainless steel case has a fluted crown, mushroom-shaped pushers, and a bicolor red-and-blue bezel. The beige dial hosts a tachymeter scale on its outer edge, orange-tipped hour and minute hands, an thin triangular orange seconds hand, and of course, the dark blue “surfboard” oval in the center, with running seconds and elapsed chronograph minutes at either end.

Bulova Chronograph A “Surfboard”

Carl F. Bucherer’s latest iteration of its Manero Flyback sports a dial in bright blue — “the color of the horizon,” in the maker’s words, and thus suited to the spirit of the cosmopolitan travelers to whom it’s aimed. Both the model on a blue textile strap (pictured) and the one on a steel bracelet have a 43-mm steel case and a blue dial, bordered by a tachymeter scale in contrasting white, whose symmetrical layout includes two recessed subdials at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock (for chronograph minutes and running seconds, respectively), and a rectangular date window at 6 o’clock. Carl F. Bucherer’s automatic Caliber CFB 1970 (based on the ETA 7750, with a module from La Joux-Perret), drives the array of timekeeping operations, including the namesake flyback chronograph function, operated by mushroom-shaped pushers. Click here for more details and pricing,

Carl F. Bucherer Manero Flyback

Chopard’s sport-luxury Alpine Eagle collection, which traces its origins to the St. Moritz watch of the late 1970s, expanded this year to include an “extra-large” 44-mm flyback chronograph model, the Alpine Eagle XL Chrono. The three variations, all with integrated bracelets, include two in Chopard’s in-house-developed A223 Lucent steel, one with an Aletsch blue dial (pictured), the other with a dial in Pitch Black, and a third in a bi-material blend of Lucent steel with Chopard’s “ethical” rose gold. The 44-mm cases feature right-side-mounted chronograph pushers elegantly integrated on either side of the crown guards. The dials have a textured motif evoking an eagle’s iris and a chronograph seconds hand whose counterweight is shaped like an eagle feather. Inside all three new timepieces is the chronometer-certified, self-winding Chopard Caliber 03.05-C, which is made in-house, boasts four patents, and holds a power reserve of 60 hours. Click here for additional info and to check out other models.

Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono

The latest addition to IWC’s Portugieser Yacht Club series springs from a collaboration with British “resort swimwear” brand Orlebar Brown. It’s a marine-blue-dialed timepiece with a special co-branded strap, designed to coordinate with a new lifestyle collection suited for the watch’s intended milieu of yacht decks and beach clubs. The Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph Edition Orlebar Brown has a 44.6-mm steel case housing the IWC automatic Caliber 89361, which amasses a 68-hour power reserve and drives a built-in chronograph function with a flyback. The blue dial with red highlights visually recalls Orlebar Brown’s signature colors and features a single-totalizer display for the stopwatch hours and minutes at 12 o’clock. The blue rubber strap with textile inlay fastens to the wrist with the same type of side-fastener buckle used in Orlebar Brown swim shorts. Click here for more details, plus insights from Orlebar Brown founder Adam Brown.

IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph Edition Orlebar Brown

Taking its name from the high-speed trains of the 1920s and ’30s remembered for their rounded, aerodynamic curves, the H. Moser & Cie. Streamliner ushered in a new era for the Schaffhausen-based brand with its ergonomically shaped case, fluidly integrated bracelet, and innovative minimalist dial, with stopwatch readouts displayed on the main dial rather than on subdials. The steel cushion-shaped case measures 42.3 mm in diameter, with an off-center, engraved crown at 4 o’clock and chronograph pushers at 10 and 2 o’clock, evoking the “bull’s head” designs of vintage stopwatches. Bordering the dial are two white-and-red minute tracks, the outer one for elapsed minutes, the inner for elapsed seconds; the prominent numeral “60” at 12 o’clock echoes the look of stopwatches from the 1960s and ’70s. The Streamliner, which won a 2020 GPHG prize, debuted with a Funky Blue dial (pictured) this fall. Click here to learn more about the watch and its innovative movement, Caliber HMC 902.

Moser Streamliner Flyback Chronograph Automatic Funky Blue
Moser Streamliner Flyback Chronograph Automatic Funky Blue

One of the year’s most buzz-worthy releases, the Omega Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” 50th Anniversary Edition, launched in celebration of the 1970 Award — named for Charles Schulz’s cartoon beagle, an official NASA mascot — bestowed upon Omega by the space organization for its contributions its “Moonwatch” had made to its missions. The watch has all the elements of a classic Speedmaster, with some extra-special details added, like the image of Snoopy on the 9 o’clock subdial; the use of blue ceramic for the tachymeter bezel, and most notably, the “animated” design of the caseback, upon which an astronaut Snoopy in a command module travels around a photo-realistic moon in tune with the motion of the chronograph while a spinning Earth disk rotates once per minute in accord with the seconds hand. Behind this cosmic tableau ticks Omega’s manually wound Caliber 3861. More details and images can be found here.

Omega Speedmaster Silver Snoopy

Jack Heuer — great-grandson of TAG Heuer’s founder, its former CEO, and current Honorary Chairman — turned 88 this year, and the watch company that still bears his surname celebrated with a very special timepiece in rose gold, Jack’s favorite material, based on his favorite vintage watch, the Heuer Carrera Ref. 1158CHN. The Carrera Chronograph Jack Heuer 88th Birthday Gold Limited Edition hails from the recently introduced Carrera Chronograph family, a dressier iteration of the motorsport-inspired original Carrera, which Jack Heuer famously created in 1963. The 42-mm case frames a silver opaline dial that is noteworthy for the horizontal applied “8” symbols in its center, representing both Jack Heuer’s 88th birthday as well as a double infinity loop, a sly visual reference to Jack’s motto, “Time never stops, why should we?” Like its siblings in the Carrera Chronograph collection, distinguished from the mainline Carrera models by the lack of a tachymeter scale on the bezel, the watch contains the automatic, Swiss-made Caliber Heuer 02. Click here for more details.

TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Jack Heuer 88th Birthday

Zenith’s latest vintage-look El Primero homage piece, the Chronomaster Revival Manufacture Edition, is based upon a never-before-seen prototype dial discovered in a secret attic of the company’s historical manufacture in Le Locle, Switzerland — the selfsame attic where foresighted Zenith employee Charles Vermot stashed all the company’s El Primero documents and materials to preserve them through the 1970s Quartz Crisis. The watch’s 38-mm stainless steel case, with pump-style chronograph pushers, replicates the original case of the Ref. A386 from 1969; the white-lacquered dial with three differently shaded blue subdials (small seconds at 9 o’clock, 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock, 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock) is based on the historical one, which was never used on a commercial model. Beating at a lightning-quick 36,600 vph inside the case is the automatic El Primero 400 caliber — the most up-to-date version of its famous ancestor. Click here to find out more.

Zenith Chronomaster Revival Manufacture Edition
Zenith Chronomaster Revival Manufacture Edition
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