The re-introduced Chronoswiss Delphis collection has, in my opinion, the most beautiful new watches that debuted in 2023. Chronoswiss began by introducing the latest generation Delphis in 18k red gold as the pricey limited-edition Chronoswiss Delphis Oracle earlier in 2023. The Swiss watchmaker has now followed up with two more affordable limited-edition steel models, the mostly black-face Delphis Venture and the mostly green-face Delphis Paraiba. Using a classic Chronoswiss style case (which is a traditional aviator style), the Delphis uses a retrograde minute and jumping hour automatic movement combined with dazzling guilloche-style decoration on the face. Each of the three current limited-edition models not only has different colors, but also distinctive guilloche engraving patterns. I can’t pretend that the Chronoswiss Delphis watches are for everyone, but they do combine a rare blend of sportiness, high legibility, mechanical interest, and art in one cohesive wearing experience.
The case wears very boldly given the long lugs, big crown, and 14.5mm thick case. The Delphis is however 42mm wide with a handsome coined-edge case side paired with a polished bezel (vintage Chronoswiss Delphis watches were about 38mm wide). The case is water resistant to 100 meters with a sapphire crystal exhibition window on the caseback. Over the dial is a domed sapphire crystal which gives the Delphis a nice high-end feel but does result in glare when it comes to photographing the dial. This is a shame because the dials of the Delphis watches are where they really win and they should be as clear as possible to view at all times. The Delphis dial design begins with a neo-classic watch dial architecture that incorporates depth created by multiple dial layers and bridges. The main dial textures help keep the overall timepiece concept interesting, and the artwork for the second subdial and top half of the Delphis face add considerable welcome beauty. Similar to classic decorative techniques where a dial is first machine engraved and then painted with translucent enamel, Chronoswiss adopts a similar but more economical technique for the steel models. The gold Delphis model’s blue dial is applied using traditional hand-painted and flamed enamel. For the Delphis Venture and Paraiba watches, the base dial is engraved and then coated using an industrial CVD coating application. The result is very beautiful and will probably be emulated in the future. It is also an effective technique for adding a dash of color to engraved watches that are typically only in metal colors. This increases the market variety and thus consumer options — which is a good thing.
Chronoswiss calls the Delphis Paraiba that name in honor of the uncommon Brazilian stone of the same, slightly shifting, greenish-blue color. Models like this allow you to imagine some of the creative opportunities given to the designers at Chronoswiss when it comes to using this technique in future watches. The steel-cased Delphis Venture is a bit more classic with a mostly black dial that has a fun zig-zag-style pattern in the guilloche. We find color in this model only in the deep blue seconds subdial. The 18k red gold Delphis Oracle is easily the most lavish of the models given the warm hues and the high retail cost, which is more than double that of the steel models. The Delphis Oracle is, however, gorgeous with its black and gold accents around the midnight blue sections on the dial.
Legibility is provided thanks to the uncluttered dials and readable face information. The hours are easily read digitally via the jumping hours window located below the 12 o’clock position on the dial. The top half of the watch face is used as a retrograde minutes indicator, which uses a nice, long minutes hand and legible minutes time scale around the periphery of the dial. As you can see, the Delphis collection is more or less another playful interpretation of the retrograde dial layout that Chronoswiss has made a hallmark of its brand. Rather than having a subsidiary dial for the hour at that dial position, they opted for a jumping hour complication. It isn’t immediately clear why the movement only uses the top half of the dial for the minutes when the dial could have looked just as nice if the entire circumference of the dial had been used for the minute indicator. The original Chronoswiss Delphis watches used this same layout. Those watches, though, had flatter dials and opted to save space by not having the minute hand overlap the subsidiary seconds dial, and thus needed to use a retrograde dial for the minutes. Modern Chronoswiss watches value dial depth, and so it was conceivable that the new Delphis (which uses a different automatic mechanical movement from the original pieces) could have used the entire dial for the indication of the minutes.
The movement inside the Chronoswiss Delphis is the caliber C.6004 automatic and operates at 4Hz with 55 hours of power reserve. With its deep gray ruthenium coating and graceful architectural lines, the movement is large and lovely in its design. Attached to the case is a sportier strap made from textured black rubber and closing with a comfortably foldover deployant clasp. An otherwise nice but larger watch like this could have easily been ruined if paired with an uncomfortable strap or pinchy deployant experience. The good news is that Chronoswiss seemed to make sure these bold timepieces are also very wearable on the wrist.
Chronoswiss decided to produce only 50 pieces of each of these limited edition Delphis watches. If they are successful, I imagine that Chronoswiss will gladly continue this current generation Delphis platform in the near future. The Chronoswiss Delphis Venture reference CH-1423.1-BKBL and the Delphis Paraiba reference CH-1423.1-BKTU watches in steel have a retail price of 15,800 Swiss Francs each. The 18k red gold Delphis Oracle CH-1421.1E-BLBK has a retail price of 38,000 Swiss Francs. See more on the Chronoswiss watches website.