For the last editors’ list, I asked the aBlogtoWatch editors and staff to pick their top dress watch under $1,000. There were a lot of great choices and some that riled up our dear readers about what constitutes a “dress watch.” Personally, I have a pretty liberal definition of the category, but this editors’ list will be a little more clear-cut. The theme here is our top chronograph watch for 2018 under $8,000 that isn’t the Omega Speedmaster. I knew that the list would inevitably be dominated by talk of the Speedy, and at this point, it’s already baked into the cake by virtue of the category alone.
This price range cancels out options like the Rolex Daytona, and my theory is that the “legends” get enough credit as it is, and I realize as I type this that it’s the exact reason why my choice isn’t the TAG Heuer Monaco. Anyone who knows me (or read my recent review of the Monaco Gulf) is aware of my adoration of the square chronograph which at $5,900 lands squarely in the parameters of this list. But, the Monaco is an institution and I wanted to challenge myself and give the readers something a little more fresh.
ARIEL ADAMS: GRAND SEIKO SPRING DRIVE CHRONOGRAPH SBGB003
From a value perspective, Grand Seiko’s in-house made Spring Drive movement is a lot of mechanics for the money. In addition to the extremely accurate yet mechanically authentic core Spring Drive system, the precision action of the chronograph pushers and ergonomic layout of the subdials makes it hard to go back to other “standard” chronograph movements. Seiko doesn’t just offer something both original and well-made, but it also offers a real performance upgrade as compared to most other mechanical chronographs at this and even much higher prices. What also comes with any Grand Seiko timepiece is incredible finishing and a focus on real practicality and wearability.Editor’s note: This specific GS is discontinued but pretty easy to find. As for the current offerings from Grand Seiko, the Spring Drive GMT models like the SBGC201G retail at $8,200, which would be close enough for this list.
BILAL KHAN: OAK & OSCAR JACKSON FLYBACK CHRONOGRAPH
The chronograph is the one common complication that has always given me the most…well, complications. Servicing can be a pain and the tradeoff of case thickness and utility is rarely worth it for me. However, the Oak & Oscar Jackson Flyback Chronograph is a watch that I always have found to transcend its category. A masterfully designed, manual wind flyback chronograph for a price under $3,000 is a pretty tremendous value.
Oak & Oscar always nail the big things as well as small details, and the limited run Jackson embodies the ethos. My favorite version with the blue dial is sold out, but the grey dial model and PVD coated model are still available. Though I can’t specifically say how many are left, these came in a limited edition run of 150 pieces and 100 pieces, respectively. You can check them out on the Oak & Oscar website.
Honorable mention: The Tudor Heritage Chrono Blue is probably the only modern watch from the brand that has ever grabbed my attention, and it’s one of my favorite chronographs out there. Again, it comes down to design as well as functionality.
ZACH PIÑA: TAG HEUER CARRERA CALIBRE 16 CHRONOGRAPH
I’ll be the first to admit that TAG Heuer hasn’t always gotten it right with the Carrera – arguably the brand’s most iconic, but also most exploited collection. Having endured the last ten years of boring standard Carreras, wildly over-the-top high complication versions, and even a red-headed digital stepchild, the Carrera Cal. 16 60th Anniversary is the collection’s long-awaited (and oft-overlooked) slam dunk. Part wristwatch, part dashboard instrument cluster, it marries TAG’s ultra-modern Cal. 16 chronograph movement and perfectly conservative 41mm case proportions with the very best design elements from the Cal. 12 ‘Viceroy’ era Heuers – a classic era when these wristwatches were as integral to the sport of motor racing as they were to smoking.
Quite literally actually – these highly sought-after vintage editions were only available to purchase through a promotion with Viceroy cigarettes. Don’t worry though – there’s no smoking required to enjoy the fresh and fully modern 60th Anniversary, which thankfully maintains just enough vintage inspiration to keep it from being too derivative. Hell, I’d even argue it’s what the Tudor Heritage Chronograph should have been, but more importantly, it’s exactly what the TAG Heuer Carrera has needed to be for far too long.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 Chronograph is priced at $4,350 for the strap version and $4,500 on the bracelet.
ZEN LOVE: IWC PORTUGIESER ‘150 YEARS’ IW371602
Well, thinking about it as if someone just offered me any (non-Speedmaster) chronograph for under $8,000, I just had to get as close to that limit as possible. And the IWC Portugieser is one of the most well-known, handsome, and all around solid options within these parameters – if perhaps not the most exciting. A version of the IWC Portugieser like the “150 Years” edition is an ideal 41mm wide with a lovely in-house IWC 69000 family automatic movement that would be a highly satisfying daily-wear chronograph for me. Too bad the Breitling Chronomat B01 Chronograph 44 and Navitimer 1 B01 Chronograph 43 are just over the $8k line.
TRAVIS CANNATA: MAURICE LACROIX AIKON AUTOMATIC CHRONOGRAPH
This year has seen a slew of proper chronographs in the more “affordable” realm, but none-so-caught my attention like the Maurice Lacroix Aikon Automatic Chronograph. I know I sound like a broken record, but this watch offers a fantastic value proposition for its build quality. At $2,990 the watch features some next-level finishing that doesn’t feel thrown together (I mean, how can you say no to that blue panda dial?), a Valjoux-based automatic movement, one of the most comfortable bracelets I’ve ever worn, and a reputable company behind it. At 44mm, I was afraid it would be a little larger than I like, but because of compact construction, it would make for a great daily beater for even my slightly smaller wrist size. In a saturated-but-somehow-still-limited steel sports watch market, the Aikon Automatic Chronograph became one of my favorite 2018 releases and punched well above its weight class both in price and caliber.
MICHAEL PEÑATE: SINN 910 SPLIT SECONDS
I’m not much of a chronograph guy and aside from a couple of the industry icons, it can be hard to catch my attention. So, with $8,000 in my pocket, I’d seek to squeeze out as much value as possible without turning to the usual suspects. Ever since the watch was released in 2016, the Sinn 910 Anniversary Limited Edition Split Second Chronograph has kept me intrigued – and I can hardly believe they still have a few in stock at WatchBuys, Sinn’s official North American retailer.
There are many watchmakers out there who would tell you that the split-second chronograph is one of the most difficult complications to produce. Whether that’s true or not remains irrelevant, to me at least. What fascinates me is the fact that you can get a brand new, limited edition split-second chronograph from a reputable German watchmaking house for less than $6k. The design is minimal, functional, sporty and intriguing. And honestly, it’s the kind of watch that you buy for your own personal satisfaction, as a Sinn chronograph is likely to get little to no civilian recognition out in the wild. Limited to just 300 pieces, I find it to be immensely interesting compared to most of the other options out there, and it’s priced at $5,980.
DAVID BREDAN: CHOPARD MILLE MIGLIA ‘RACING COLORS’ LIMITED EDITION
Once you get over the in-house craze and all you want is a well-made and fun watch, your list of options expands greatly. Well, maybe not once you add the “fun” part; luxury watches that don’t take themselves that seriously are still few and far between. I personally am a fan of colorful watches, so much so that I know I’d find it tough picking just one over the other among this Chopard Mille Miglia ‘Racing Colors’ line of limited edition watches. Having reviewed a larger, in-house equipped version in 2016, I know I love the aesthetic on the wrist – my only major niggle back then used to be the 46mm form factor. Well, apparently Chopard listened to (someone’s) cries and this new series is just 42mm in diameter. The lugs still appear a tad too long though.
Legible, well-made and, I think, charming and cool in the “fast colors” of red or yellow, this is the sort of chronograph that I’d want to wear if I were buying one for the complication’s more or less strong links with motorsports. The Chopard Mille Miglia ‘Racing Colors’ Limited Edition is priced at $6,080, though there’s a new limited edition with a perlage dial that’s also pretty cool, going for $5,620 on Chopard’s website.
KENNY YEO: ZENITH EL PRIMERO CHRONOMASTER 38MM
For well under $8,000 ($6,700 to be exact), what you are getting with the Zenith El Primero Chronomaster 38mm is a handsome watch with one of the most legendary movements in all of horology. The story of the El Primero has been told to death but for those new to watches, it’s worth mentioning that it was one of the first self-winding chronograph movements to be invented – hence the name. Movement aside, what’s most charming about this watch for me is that Zenith decided to release it in 38mm. Not only is this the same size as the very original El Primero A386 from 1969, but I also find it to be more practical for everyday wear. I challenge anyone to find a chronograph with more or equal historical significance under $8,000 that isn’t a Speedmaster.