Counter Culture

  • Photo by Ted Morrison
    The Patek Philippe Ref. 5270R and the limited-edition Harmony Chronograph (right, $69,000). Photo by Ted Morrison
  • Photo by Sully Balmassière
    Patek Philippe's CH 29-535 PS movement Photo by Sully Balmassière
  • Vacheron Constantin’s new Calibre 3300
  • Limited to  60 timepieces, the Louis Moinet Memoris ($55,000) is an openwork chronograph encased in 18-karat  rose gold.
    Limited to 60 timepieces, the Louis Moinet Memoris ($55,000) is an openwork chronograph encased in 18-karat rose gold.
  • Limited to 60 timepieces, the Louis Moinet Memoris ($55,000) is an openwork chronograph encased in 18-karat rose gold.
  • Photo by Studio Diode SA - Denis Hayoun
    With two seconds hands, Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher ($229,500) can time successive laps around a racetrack. Photo by Studio Diode SA - Denis Hayoun
  • Photo by Studio Diode SA - Denis Hayoun
    With two seconds hands, Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher ($229,500) can time successive laps around a racetrack. Photo by Studio Diode SA - Denis Hayoun
  • With two seconds hands, Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher ($229,500) can time successive laps around a racetrack.
  • Photo by Ted Morrison
  • Photo by Sully Balmassière
  • Limited to  60 timepieces, the Louis Moinet Memoris ($55,000) is an openwork chronograph encased in 18-karat  rose gold.
  • Photo by Studio Diode SA - Denis Hayoun
  • Photo by Studio Diode SA - Denis Hayoun
<< Back to Robb Report, July 2015

Traditional chronographs are once again a key measure of watchmaking prowess.

Most people seem to think that a tourbillon is harder to put together than a chronograph, which is much more commonly found,” says Jean-Marie Schaller, CEO of the boutique watch company Louis Moinet. “In fact, it is actually the reverse that is true.” Indeed, Louis Moinet’s new Memoris, which features an innovative openwork chronograph mechanism, is by far the most challenging project the company has ever undertaken. Yet for many of Louis Moinet’s much larger rivals, including some of the most venerated brands in the industry, the stakes are even higher. Shifting tastes in the marketplace have increased consumer demand, obliging Switzerland’s manufactures to furnish a spate of newly designed chronographs—an effort that has cast a vivid light on these companies’ comparative capabilities with respect to classic watchmaking. 

One of the factors contributing to these developments is the ubiquity of traditional, manual lateral-clutch chronographs in high-end watches. During the last several decades, breakthroughs in chronograph design have yielded self-winding rotors; heart-piece-limiter systems (as seen in ETA’s 7750 Calibre) that make the mechanism more durable and affordable; and, most recently, the vertical-clutch system, which improves the chronograph’s performance by delivering steadier hands and a more consistent amplitude. Despite these advancements, however, the sheer beauty of older movements and the desirability of the timepieces containing them continue to draw watch enthusiasts to classic models. The top watch companies, most of which strive to make as many parts as they can in-house—a particularly time-consuming and expensive endeavor—have scrambled to create new chronographs that appeal to collectors’ evolving sensibilities.

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