Gift Guide: Top Chronograph Watches


There are a good number of practical complications out there these days, but few are rivaled by the chronograph. Sure, we all have timers built into our phones, but whether you’re timing your commute to the office, the roast in the oven, or how long you’ve been waiting for that tardy friend of yours, there’s something satisfying about relying on a mechanical timer over a smartphone. Chronographs are also a good staple to have in any watch collection, so if you’re shopping for someone who’s gotten into watches recently, any of these seven selections would, no doubt, put a smile on their face.

IWC Pilot “Le Petite Prince” Double Chronograph Limited Edition

IWC has long been known for its iconic Pilot chronographs, all of which deliver great value on the secondary market. This is especially the case when looking at this Le Petit Prince Double Chronograph Limited Edition. Rattrapante chronographs (also known as split-seconds chronographs) are always a bit pricey, but this particular example is one of few that can be had for less than $10k.

Rolex Daytona 116500L

It was obvious from the get-go that the Rolex Daytona had to be on this list, and why not choose the model that remains IMPOSSIBLE to acquire from an authorized dealer or for anywhere near its suggested retail price. Of course, the 116500LN is the black dial variant of the first Daytona to be fitted with a ceramic bezel, and powered by Rolex’s 4130 in-house manufactured automatic movement. The Daytona has long been the “you’ve made it” piece when it comes to Rolex watches, and its cult following is rivaled only by that of the Patek Philippe Nautilus.

Breguet Type XX Aeronavale

In many respects, I count the Type XX as one of the most underappreciated chronographs on the market these days. Not only does the piece reference a very impressive piece of history (designed from the Type 20 and Type 21 watch specifications that Breguet built to for the French Army in the 1950s), but it’s also extremely well finished, practical, legible, and comes in a modest and very daily-wear friendly case size. If I had to pick a modern Breguet to add to my personal collection, this would absolutely be the one.

TAG Heuer Monaco “Steve McQueen” Chronograph

Going down the list of icons in the chronograph category, the TAG Heuer Monaco is also very deserving of this position. Brought to mainstream fame by none other than Steve McQueen, the Jack Heuer era chronograph was one of many pieces that have become highly sought after as the decades have passed. There have been several reissues of the model in recent years, but this particular model is one of few that are more true-to-original.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Deep Sea Master Compressor Chronograph

It seems a handful of our selections have a bit of a vintage feel to them, especially this Deep Sea Master Compressor from JLC. The diver-style chronograph is fitted with a 12h bezel, and has faux-aged luminous material applied to its bezel, hands, and indices. Unlike several other large Master Compressor models, this piece measures a more modest 40mm across, and is rated to 100m of water resistance.

Breitling Montbrillant 1461 Jours

And now for something completely different. While it comes in a bit more affordable than several of our other selections, it also has a bit of a bonus up its sleeve. Part of its name–1461 Jours–is a bit of a hint; its calendar will run for that many days without needing compensation. Before you start doing math, a leap year occurs every 1461 days (4 years), so effectively this Breitling is a near perpetual calendar without leap year compensation.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph

Of course we had to go out with a bang–and what better watch to tick that box than the Royal Oak. This slick piece is classic in its design, but the combination of its blue dial, silver subdial rings, and orange accents give it a uniquely casual feel. This color combo is more aligned with what we would typically see on the larger Royal Oak Offshore models, yet this piece comes in at a compact 39mm across.

Tag Heuer Audemars Piguet Breguet Breitling Chronograph IWC Jaeger-LeCoultre Rolex