Here at aBlogtoWatch, we have covered our fair share of chronograph watches, and oftentimes they can be bunched into the “sportier” side of life. This isn’t to say that there aren’t chronographs out there that can be seen as dressy; in fact, with so many brands evolving their lines to include new materials and classier touches, the range of options have grown vastly to broaden the role that a chronograph can serve.
Whether it be a cleaner, uncluttered dial or a gold case, a chronograph can be just as much at home in a suit as it can with jeans and a t-shirt. Foregoing any loud color choices, styling, and general “sportiness,” these dressy chronographs are subtle without coming off stuffy or too formal – classy with something of an edge, you could say. The goal when looking for one is to find what works best for you, and we have compiled a list that should serve as a great “starting point” to your personal collection. With these things in mind, let’s take a look at just a few of your options.
Bulgari Octo Velocissimo Ultranero Chronograph
With its octagonal case, dressed up to shine thanks to a total of over 100 facets, polished and applied indices and a deep black dial, this Bulgari Octo Velocissimo strikes a rare balance between masculine, sporty design, and powerful restraint. Bulgari offers several variants in the Octo collection, so you can go from this all steel version all the way to the even more serious-looking version with a combination of a black DLC case and an 18k gold bezel, hands and indices.
It is not easy to successfully mix timeless, elegant design with unique treats. Thanks to this powerful mixture of curves and hard angles, shining bright and brushed surfaces, and a relatively small 41mm wide case, the Bulgari Octo Velocissimo does manage to tick a lot of boxes. The movement is a Zenith El Primero-based BVL328 that is stunning to view through the sapphire crystal back. Pricing starts $9,900 for the steel cased version on the black leather strap.
A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Chronograph
It would be hard to make a list like this without including the A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Chronograph. One of Germany’s finest watchmakers, Lange has never really been about large watches – and we have all forgotten about that experimental Lange 31 that was 46mm wide, right? The 1815, with its sleek white gold case, thin lugs and discreet, rectangular pushers is as classic in its look as they get. Chronographs of today do tend to be too bulky for the sake of being bulky, but at 39.5mm, this watch is ideally sized to suit its reserved wrist-presence.
Powered by the exquisite Caliber L951.5, the 1815 has a healthy power reserve of 60 hours. This particular A Lange & Söhne 1815 Chronograph Boutique Edition is professional-looking even with the added pulsometer on the flange ring and, with a dark-blue leather strap, should have no trouble to be matched to whatever you put on for your suit-up day. It won’t be on every other wrist either with a price of 49,000 Euros.
Cartier Rotonde Chronograph
Dressy elegance and Cartier are a match made in heaven. With this Rotonde de Cartier Chronograph (Reference CRWSRO0002), Cartier succeeded in designing a timepiece that truly embodies the exquisite finishing and classic styling the brand is known for. Some could argue that the dial is a bit busy, and though it might be, the large hands and trademark Cartier Roman numerals all make for above-average-legibility.
The stainless steel case is pictured here, but Cartier also offers the Rotonde in 18k white or pink gold – and even with the steel you, of course, also get the added touch of the blue spinel cabochon. . Consider this piece is powered by the in-house caliber 1904-CH MC and you have not only a beautiful watch, but also the added bragging rights of a proprietary movement. Priced at $9,050, the Rotonde de Cartier Chronograph is a true classic – albeit arguably not one with the most competitive price.
Vacheron Constantin Historique Cornes De Vache 1955 Chronograph
The Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes De Vache 1955 revives vintage chronograph vibes like hardly anything else released in recent years. At 38.5mm, this platinum reinterpretation of Vacheron’s Reference 6087 wears a little smaller than your average chronograph, and the famed “cow-horn” lugs add to the vintage-inspired touch. Its white dial is elegant and straight-forward and its thin baton hands are just the right length.
The in-house Calibre 1142 is the epitome of classic mechanical chronograph movement design, and the case’s sapphire crystal back permits an excellent view. The modest size of the Cornes De Vache, again a plus here, allows it to fit nicely under shirt cuffs and the dark alligator strap is smart and safe choice. Price, even with the platinum case and the remarkable movement, is up there at $75,000.
Patek Philippe 5170R-010
The Patek Philippe 5170R-010 has a rather similar dial layout to the Cartier and the Lange we have looked at above – and yet, the 5170R ends up being an incomparably different watch. Its dauphine hands, applied Breguet numerals and (relatively speaking) generously sized, 39.4 millimeter-wide rose gold case all make for a more powerful, and yet more classical look.
Patek Philippe does offer the 5170 in a few different versions, but it really is the rose gold (with either a white or black dial) that combines traditional with contemporary. Run by Patek’s hand-wound CH 29-535 PS, this is yet another look at the highest levels of traditional chronograph movement architecture. All this magnificence and the Patek name do come with a matching price: the Patek Philippe 5170R-010 is priced at $81,000.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph
Given the nature of this list, I would be remiss if I left out the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph. This watch makes the list for several reasons, first of which is its ability to blend in or stand out depending on your attire. The trademark AP “grande tapisserie” dial is available in a number of colors and is paired with either stainless steel or 18k gold case variants. The famous avant-garde styling of the Royal Oak lends itself well to a dressier nature and the stunning link band makes for a perfect combination.
You can change the vibe of the Royal Oak Chronograph easily by simply matching it to either a rubber strap, black or brown alligator options, or AP’s amazing bracelets – which are, of course, available in gold or steel. The movement cannot measure up to those offered by AP and VC, but the solid 2385 automatic caliber has sure been around long enough to be tried and proven by now. In gold, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph is priced at $38,500.
Longines Master Collection L2.6188.8.131.52
The Longines Master Collection is replete with graceful, timeless designs and their chronograph is no exception. With a 40mm stainless steel case, this piece is decked out with deep, royal blue hands and save for the date window at 6 o’clock, the dial is pristine and trim. The lugs are a bit narrower and keep it from seeming oversized. The Caliber L651 gives a 42-hour power-reserve. Not too big and not too small, the rich, brown alligator strap makes this a solid choice for a daily office-wearer, and it’s priced at a relatively accessible $2,775.
Breguet Classique 5287 5287BB/92/9ZU
Breguet really wowed with this update based on their Reference 5247. Enlarging the case to 42.5mm from 39mm, this piece offers a little more wrist presence but the white gold case and brilliant guilloche make for a beautiful experience. You can opt for an 18k rose gold version, but I find the white gold to be more reserved and understated. This is definitely a unique take on a chronograph, and the tachymeter scale is much more discreet than those on sportier watches. It’s got a splash of edge with the red accents, but is unmistakably Breguet and makes a quiet but substantial statement for those who can afford the price of $50,200.
Omega Speedmaster “First Omega In Space” Sedna Gold
The Omega ref. 3184.108.40.206.01.001 is a special edition of the “First Omega In Space” encased in the brand’s Sedna gold. There are plenty of Speedmaster models out there to accommodate almost any wardrobe, but the retro looks in Sedna gold are an unbeatable combination. At 39.7mm this Speedmaster wears small and is well-suited for long-sleeves. The panda dial is amazing, and the arrow-style hands are a nice break from the usual batons we are used to seeing. This watch oozes classic Speedmaster aesthetics while offering a modern take that includes a domed sapphire crystal and brown alligator leather strap. Powered by Omega’s 1861 hand-wound movement, this is a classic chronograph with a fascinating history and an enduring design. Pricing is US$18,000.
Zenith El Primero Chronograph 03.2110.400/22.C493
The Zenith El Primero Chronograph 03.2110.400/22.C493 is a black beauty with a lot to say. This chronograph is able to rely on Zenith’s sporty legacy while dipping into the more refined side of life. Zenith does offer this piece in several variants, and here we have the stainless steel version. This column-wheel actuated automatic chronograph features sleek push buttons and, at 42mm, wears a little large. The hands are rhodium-plated and faceted, and sit atop a deep black sunray-patterned dial. By using indexes instead of numerical hour markers, Zenith manages to increase the elegance of this chronograph. The movement is Zenith’s El Primero 400 B Automatic that offers a generous 50-hour power reserve. The rich, black alligator leather strap completes the package with this solid workhorse. Pricing starts at US$5,700.
Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope 027/4500.44
The Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope is by far the most minimalistic piece covered here, and that says something. When you are looking for a dressy chronograph you begin to search for something in the dial: space. This Chronoscope is a reminder that chronographs don’t have to cram everything onto the dial to maintain functionality. With a 40mm stainless steel case, the thin bezel seems to disappear off the edges, and the legibility is amazing. The Milanese bracelet really dresses up the watch and in this instance is a far better choice than a simple leather strap. The self-winding J880.2 powers the Max Bill Chronoscope, and to top it off you get an excellent Milanese steel bracelet for a price of US$2,238.
Blancpain Chronograph Flyback Grande Date 2885F-1130-53B
It would have been easy to include a Fifty Fathoms of some type on this list, but it’s nice to see the other side of Blancpain and their line of chronographs. The Blancpain Chronograph Flyback Grande Date 2885F-1130-53B is a bold choice with, as the name implies, a large date window at 6 o’clock. The Grande Date is also offered in a red gold variant, but we have selected the stainless steel for our purposes here. At 40mm, the case isn’t too big or flashy, and the rich black dial is nicely paired with the larger luminescent hands. This style of chronograph can pass for dressy given the leather strap and smooth bezel. Anything else, and it may have come off a little too sporty. The self-winding Caliber 69F8 runs the show and offers a 40-hour power reserve. Pricing is US$11,200.
While by no means an “end-all” list for your chronograph selection, this guide should give you an idea of the kinds of attributes that can help make this type of watch the perfect companion to your cocktail parties. Everything from size to strap material can alter the appearance of a chronograph, and it is important to keep in mind all of the different options you have to choose from. Hopefully, this list has sparked your interest in a style of watch that many write off as “too bulky” or “too busy” to be considered dressy. The slightest variation in dial marking or sub dial placement can make an enormous difference. With these things in mind, get started on your search and most of all, enjoy the journey. Feel free help expand the list with your suggestions in the comments below.