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20 Years of Watchmaking - Twelve Landmark Chronographs: Part 3

20 Years of Watchmaking Twelve Landmark Chronographs: Part 3

The chronograph is worthy of an entire book in its own right: it’s probably the most widespread complication after the date, as well as one of the most complex and fast-changing. This overview looks at the most significant developments over the past 20 years – and offers a list of 12 landmark models*

Breguet «Type XXII 10 hz flyback chronograph»

Unveiled by Breguet in 2010, this spectacular chronograph is a reinterpretation of the Type XX delivered to the French Fleet Air Arm 50 years earlier. The frequency was increased to 10 Hz (72,000 vibrations per hour), and the seconds hand completes a full rotation every 30 seconds. The model was made possible through the use of silicon, lightening the moving parts of the escapement and avoiding the lubrication issues that arise at these high frequencies. This aviator’s timepiece ushered Breguet into the sphere of 21st century timekeeping.

Breitling «Calibre B01»

In 2002, Breitling inaugurated a manufacture in La Chaux-de Fonds dedicated to the production of certified chronometer movements – an ultra-modern building sporting an 80-metre façade, built in barely eight months. The first manufacture calibre produced there bore a discreet name: the B01. The Calibre Breitling 01 thus became the cornerstone of what had been one of the last remaining large brands to not have its own manufacture. The movement’s innovative architecture is distinctive, featuring a column wheel, a vertical clutch, and a power reserve of over 70 hours. The calibre is equipped with a self-centering system for the reset hammers. Its modular architecture recalls that of the renowned Calibre 11 on the brand’s Chrono-Matics of 40 years earlier – and took it to the next level. Maintenance and after-sales service were made simpler by separating the gear train from the chronograph section and the automatic winding mechanism. The COSC-certified B01 opened up the way for the development of a large number of variants, including the B02 (GMT), B03 (split-second chronograph), and B04 (GMT chronograph). The sturdiness and quality of its design were such that from 2012 onwards, the brand was able to offer its clients an extended five-year warranty for all chronographs fitted with the calibre. The movement’s quality was such that Breitling supplied a variant of the movement to Tudor, in a partnership allowing the brand to benefit from an automatic calibre.

Les 12 Chronos Phares : Partie 2

Calibre B01 © Breitling

Omega 9300 CALIBRE

Omega unveiled its Calibre 9300 at Baselworld in 2011 – an automatic-winding chronograph movement with combined minutes counters. Like the Calibre 8500 (a newgeneration automatic caliber presented four years prior), it was specifically developed to exploit the full potential of the Co-Axial escapement that has now become inextricably linked with the Biel-based brand – and of a silicon hairspring, which at that time was not yet a standard component. The movement uses a conventional column wheel, is powered by two barrels providing a 60-hour power reserve, and includes a date display. Omega was keen to get the positioning right: less than CHF 8,000 when it was launched. From a technical point of view, the Calibre 9300 allows the time setting function to be decoupled, leaving the seconds mechanism unaffected. Unusually, the column wheel comprises three levels, due to an innovative caliber protection system.

Les 12 Chronos Phares : Partie 2

Metamorphosis © Omega

Jager LeCoultre «Duomètre Chronographe »

In 2007, Jaeger-LeCoultre demonstrated for the first time its Duomètre principle in a chronograph watch. The piece is based on the Dual-Wing concept, comprising one gear train dedicated to the time function (hours, minutes, and seconds) and another devoted to the chronograph, with a lightning seconds hand marking out sixths of a second. This required development of an entirely new clutch system to control the timing stop/ start functions. Both mechanisms are powered by their own barrels, providing a 50-hour power reserve for the time, and 50 hours for the chronograph.

Les 12 Chronos Phares : Partie 2

© Jaeger LeCoultre

Montblanc Metamorphosis

Unveiled in 2010, the Metamorphosis is a chronograph in a class of its own. This mind-bending chronograph comprises two dials, one on top of the other. The top dial displays the time in regulator fashion, with the hours at 12 o’clock and the (retrograde) minutes and seconds using central hands. By activating an actuator located at 10 o’clock, the first dial opens up and moves out of the way, revealing the second dial beneath it. Once all the shutters are open, in place of the hours at 12 o’clock and the date at 6 o’clock, a dial rises up at 6 o’clock as if on an elevator, with the date hand disappearing into an aperture to make room for the new display. Only a very few of these exceptional timepieces were produced – for the most discerning collectors.

Les 12 Chronos Phares : Partie 2

Metamorphosis © Montblanc

Richard Mille « RM 50-03 »

In 2017, Richard Mille unveiled a chronograph featuring hours, minutes, split seconds, and a totaliser. There’s nothing very exceptional about that per se: there are several dozen similar pieces in existence. However, the RM 50-03 weighs in at just 38 grams, strap included. Co-created with McLaren F1, the piece is made mostly of Graph TPT, a graphene composite six times lighter than steel – and two hundred times stronger. This is inserted into a Carbon TPT structure consisting of 600 layers of carbon. The entire calibre weighs a mere 7 grams.

Les 12 Chronos Phares : Partie 2

RM 50-03 © Richard Mille

*On the occasion of GMT Magazine and WorldTempus' 20th anniversary, we have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the last 20 years in watchmaking in The Millennium Watch Book, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book is available on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and English, with a 10% discount if you use the following code: WT2021.

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