Rattrapante chronographs, also referred to as split-seconds chronographs, are a type of chronograph with two seconds hands that allow for the ability to time multiple simultaneous events, such as runners during a race. It can also time a series of events, such as the laps a single person makes on a track. One of the hands, the so-called “rattrapante” hand, sits either directly on top of or underneath the main chronograph hand. The rattrapante hand is started and returns to zero simultaneously with the main chronograph hand. A special push-piece and an additional mechanism make it possible for the rattrapante hand to be repeatedly stopped (so that split times can be read) and then instantly brought in to renewed synchrony with the main chronograph hand by flying back to catch up with it. (“Rattrapanter” is French for “to catch again” or “to take again.”) All this occurs without affecting the motion of the main chronograph hand. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the split-second chronograph trending upward as more and more brands of all sizes add the complication to their arsenal. Here’s a selection of our favorite rattrapante chronographs on the market today.
F.P. Journe Chronograph Monopoussoir Rattrapante
At SIHH 2018, F.P. Journe debuted the Chronograph Monopoussoir Rattrapante. You may remember F.P. Journe’s contribution to the Only Watch auction back in November 2017, which was constructed from titanium and sold for CHF 1.15 million (an auction record for an F.P. Journe timepiece). That was the inspiration for this release, with the biggest difference coming from the addition of a big date complication. The watch introduced manual-winding Caliber 1518, a monopusher split-second chronograph movement with a hearty 80-hour power reserve and direct gearing with a rocking pinion to avoid the jumping of the hand when starting the chronograph function. The watches differ from each other thanks to their colorful dials and case materials. Price: CHF 58,000 in titanium; CHF 78,000 in platinum.
IWC Portugieser Rattrapante Chronograph
In 2017, IWC released a series of limited-edition Portugieser Rattrapante Chronographs to be sold exclusively at a selection of its boutique locations around the world. These locations included Geneva, Munich, Paris, Milan and Toronto/Vancouver, with each watch featuring a specific aesthetic to appeal to its targeted audience. Our favorite of these models during their initial release was the “Boutique Genève” edition (Ref. IW371221) that was limited to 50 total pieces and included an engraving of the title of Geneva’s 1602 anthem, Cé qu’è lainô, on its caseback. IWC introduced its first rattrapante chronograph to the Portugieser collection in 1995 when Richard Habring developed a split-seconds module for the iconic Valjoux 7750 movement. It uses a push-button at 10 o’clock to control the movement of the upper hand, while the lower hand is managed by the pusher at 2 o’clock. More recently, IWC released the Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Ceratanium in the lead-up to SIHH 2019.
Breitling Navitimer B03 Rattrapante Chronograph
Breitling introduced its Navitimer 1 B03 Rattrapante 45, outfitted with the brand’s first in-house split-seconds chronograph movement, in 2017. At last fall’s Breitling Summit in London, the brand unveiled a new limited version with a “Stratos Gray” dial, available for sale exclusively at the brand’s 70 boutiques worldwide. The timepiece’s boldly proportioned, 45-mm case is made of stainless steel and is outfitted with a convex, double-nonreflective-coated sapphire crystal over the dial. The three dark gray-toned subdials (30-minute chronograph counter at 3 o’clock, 12-hour chronograph counter at 6 o’clock, and small seconds at 9 o’clock) pop against the sleek background of the main dial. The split-seconds pusher is embedded in the 3 o’clock crown. Caliber B03’s modular architecture is built upon the base Caliber B01, Breitling’s first manufacture movement, which is equipped with automatic winding, date indication, an integrated 1/4- second chronograph function, and a 70-hour power reserve. The split-seconds module added to this high-performance horological engine is comprised of only 28 parts, and is fitted between the mainplate and calendar mechanism. Limited to just 250 pieces, the Navitimer 1 B03 Rattrapante 45 Boutique Edition in Stratos Gray is priced at $12,000.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5372P Grand Complication
The Patek Philippe Ref. 5372P Grand Complication in platinum was an evolutive release for the legendary independent watchmaking firm when it was announced in 2017. It represented the next phase of the brand’s iconic range of split-seconds chronographs, last updated in 2012 with the contemporary classic Ref. 5204. The 5372P maintains the complementary perpetual calendar functionality, while heightening the complexity of the rattrapante mechanism by making it into a monopusher. The layout of the dial is transformed as well with the chronograph counters at 3 and 9 o’clock flanked by apertures showing the month and day of week, respectively. The date wheel is placed in a subdial at 6 o’clock while the moon-phase has been relocated to 12 o’clock. Small windows on both sides of the date wheel indicate leap year and day/night. The diameter shrinks slightly as well, now coming in at 38.2 mm compared to 40.2 mm for the Ref. 5204. The dial comes in either blue sunburst with gold applied numerals or in vertically satin-finished rose gold. Price upon request.
A. Lange & Söhne Triple Split
As it often does, A. Lange & Söhne delivered one of last year’s most-discussed novelties with the release of the Triple Split, the world’s first mechanical split-seconds chronograph that can perform multi-hour comparative time measurements. The watch’s ability to measure both additive and comparative times up to an astounding 12 hours is achieved by additional rattrapante hands on both the minutes and hours-totalizing subdials. In its switched-off mode, the chronograph’s hand pairs – sweep seconds, minute- and hour-counter hands – are superposed. When the chronograph is activated via its pusher, all these hands start running simultaneously until the rattrapante pusher (on the opposite side of the case) is pressed to freeze intermediate time measurements. Limited to 100 pieces and housed in an 18k white-gold case, the Triple Split is also equipped with a flyback function, one that uses all three hand pairs. Price: approximately $147,000.