Jack Heuer was notable for his first chronograph and oscillating pinion still used by major watchmakers of mechanical chronographs today. Heuer’s wristwatches were popular among racecar drivers, closely working as a technical partner of the Williams F1 team, McLaren, as well being Formula One’s official timer at one point.
The Carrera line was originally designed by Heuer as a tribute to the legendary Carrera Panamericana race in Mexico. Its three sub-dials for running seconds, chrono minutes, and hours may be positioned on the bottom of the face, though Carreras are more typically recognized by the left-aligned versions.
This Calibre 1887 is named after the year the oscillating pinion was patented and features the characteristic black face, red-tipped needles and pushers. Behind, a sapphire crystal caseback reveals the movement’s complexity while still boasting of water resistance to 100 meters.
As opposed to the other marquees that are closely associated with automobile racing, Breitling, by contrast, has a long history with aeronautics. It’s well known for its support of aeronautical endeavors, like the first circumnavigation of the globe by balloon (Breitling Orbiter) and the fixed-wing jet pack flights of Yves Rossy. Breitling sponsors aerobatics teams including the Breitling Jet Team and Breitling Wingwalkers.
Many may be familiar with Breitling’s Navitimer line, but the Chronomat 44 GMT is a Breitling in ever sense of the word, employing an in-house caliber B04 movement.
Distinguishing features are the four square keystones on the bezel, a red dual time hand, and a dome-shaped crown.
In spite of the complexity, the Chronomat is remarkably easy to use. Simply pull out the crown and turn it either backwards or forwards to move between time zones without losing any precision in the minutes display. Rotating its bezel provides for a third 24-hour time zone reading.
The Audemars Piguet (AP) Royal Oak is easily a favorite when it comes to sport watches. Its distinctive design is frequently copied or alluded to by other brands, no doubt, a testament to the timeless style of its designer Gérald Genta, who also penned the Patek Philippe Nautilus. The Royal Oak is named after the lumber used by the British Royal Navy for their ships. Its face emulates the porthole of a ship with an octagon frame secured by screws for a more rugged look.
AP is known for its attention to detail, particularly in its “mega tapisserie” signature textured dial. It also has a magnifying date cyclops below the sapphire crystal to see the date display through the chronograph module that is mounted on top.
Chunky pushpiece guards prevent unintentional activation. This particular model features round pushers, in contrast to the typical rectangular kind.
Hand-stitched hornback crocodile straps with a stainless steel AP folding clasp complete the look.
Serving as the epitome of Zenith SA’s reputation for high-precision watches is the El Primero, which translates as “The First” from Esperanto. The El Primero debuted in 1969 with an integrated column-wheel chronograph automatic movement. It’s known for being one of the world’s most precise high-frequency series-made caliber with a frequency of 36,000 alternations per hour (5 Hz) as opposed to the typical 28,800 alternations per hour (4 Hz). This allows for a resolution of 1⁄10 of a second.
The Chronomaster 1969 stands out from typical chronographs with an opening in the face that allows the wearer to admire the high-frequency movement powering it. Sub-dials overlap each other while tachymeter numbering occupies the space between the chapter ring and the bezel. There’s clever detail in the ribbed hands and second hand with a star counterweight.
Designed to meet the demands of professional racing drivers, the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona has been manufactured since 1963, with only three series changes in its lifetime.
Actor Paul Newman was the most visible fan of the watch, wearing his Daytona (a gift from his wife) every day from 1972 until his death in 2008.
Daytonas are characterized by their bezels with a tachymetric scale (used for measuring average speeds up to 400 kilometers or miles per hour), sub-dials arranged in a triangle formation at the bottom half of the face, with frames of a contrasting color from the face.
Early Daytonas were relatively inexpensive but have vastly appreciated today. Some of the most sought after are “Paul Newman” editions, named after the actor’s favorite design. They featured clean faces with barely any inscriptions or markers, solid colored sub-dials, and a tachymetric scale beginning at the three o’clock position.
While some chronographs seem to be the default choice of racers and pilots, the Omega Speedmaster has the unique distinction of being the choice of Astronauts. The Speedmaster earned its “Moonwatch” nickname during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 on the wrist of Buzz Aldrin. It continued to be a choice timepiece of astronauts to this day, on the wrists of those manning the International Space Station program.
The chronograph has changed little since 1957, moving from the caliber 321 to the 861 (now, called 1861) with the high-grade rhodium-plated finish on mechanical movements.
The face retains the black dial, luminous hands, tachometer scale, water-resistant case, screw-in back, domed crystal, and an additional inner cover to protect the movement. Minute and hour chronograph counters are complemented by a third sub-dial for the small seconds. On the other side of the case are the words: “The first and only watch worn on the moon,” along the sapphire crystal case back that shows off the movement.
This story originally appeared on Vault Magazine Issue 15 No 3 2014.
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