A Tribute to Speed: Great chronographs by Porsche Design, Roger Dubuis, and Omega
With August here at last, motors begin to roar here on the Monterey Peninsula as we near the week of Concours, a veritable mecca for those obsessed with fine automobilia. During this time it seems only right to pay tribute to the chronograph; with bold subdials, extra buttons and their instrumental aesthetic, this complication above all is most closely associated with cars, time measurement, and speed itself. Here are a few of my current favorites:
There’s something about the pure sports style of the Porsche Design chronographs that I really admire. Standing in sharp contrast to some of the more high-polish, obviously high luxury chronographs on the market (which are admittedly very fine) the fundamental “function over form” aesthetic of the P6000 series chronographs celebrates the chronograph as a sleek instrument of speed. All are eye-catching, but my preferred variation is the P6612 PAC. In a titanium case which is given a black coating, the PAC looks all business, and very, very cool. It’s dial, with generous applications of luminous material stands out in bold contrast, ensuring ample legibility at night as well as during the day. An easily read tachymeter on the dial rehaut allows quick calculation of average speed, as suits a watch with such tool appeal. Although it’s available on a matching black bracelet, I prefer the rubber strap, whose underside is embossed with a well-known racing tread pattern-giving a very subtle connection to the world of high performance cars that only you, the wearer, need know about. The automotive cues imbued by the designers extend through to the reliable ETA-based movement, with it’s pierced and skeletonized rotor, calling to mind the the architecture of the rims on a race car.
Of a very different appearance and sensibility, the Roger Dubuis Easy Diver Chronograph is a world reference point for a high luxury sport chronograph. The Easy Diver Chrono combines an elite manufacture movement, case work of the most immaculate quality, and complex yet absolutely harmonious sports detailing that is both refined and visually enticing. Boasting a massive case in either steel or 18K rose gold with screw-in crown and pushpieces, the EasyDiver is water resistant to 300 meters, definitely a plus on a watch intended for sporting use. Accents of the finest carbon-fibre adorn the case lugs, and case horns, along with complex contrasting metal finishes. The dial too, is offered in a carbon-fibre rendition, which suits this boldly beautiful watch perfectly. To a movement nut like myself, Caliber RD56 is pure delight. Produced by Roger Dubuis in their own factory, this traditional column wheel operated chronograph movement is decorated in the finest Genevois tradition, and bears it’s Geneva Seal hallmark proudly. Pusher action is exceptionally fine, and you can literally spend minutes on end staring into the painstakingly honed maze of parts seen through the exhibition back. Relative to a movement of this exclusivity, cased in a watch whose detail is so exceptional, the asking price for this watch is very reasonable, particularly in steel. Similarly refined chronographs from other haute de gamme Genevan manufacturers sell for well over ten thousand more.
While on the topic of price to value ratio, when considering technological savvy and exclusive construction, I have to mention another fantastic chronograph, the DeVille Rattrapante from Omega. It’s pretty awesome when you consider that Omega has succeeded in introducing an entirely new automatic winding chronograph movement of their own design (inspired by, but notably different in many technical aspects from the Frederic Piguet 1185) which relies on two column wheels for the operation of it’s split second chronograph mechanism, (the most prestigious, complex type of chronograph which allows the timing of two separate events)-and-combines this with the revolutionary co-axial escapement, which provides for theoretically increased timekeeping performance as well as reduced service intervals to critical movement assemblies. What’s even more remarkable is how the team at Omega managed to package this marvel in the extremely attractive DeVille format, combining classically styled casework with a dial that deftly bridges the gap between the contemporary and the traditional, and doing all this at an asking price of less than twelve thousand dollars. Impressive!