The world of horology can be confusing at the best of times and downright exclusionary at the worst. Some of this is deliberate, of course, as brands want to convey a sense of mystery and exclusivity, to justify the pricing. Otherwise, it is just down to poor communication, usually in the form of terrible advertising and empty slogans such as “the art of difference” and “you never forget the first time”. (I made up those slogans but I bet that, for a split second, you were trying to think which brands would be unimaginative enough to go there.) Another thing that doesn’t bring more people into the tent is the vocabulary, which is vast and varied, some of it in English, most of it in French, with phrases from the 18th century sitting side by side with today’s buzzwords and industry jargon.
One of the words that often confuses newbies is chronometer, which, unsurprisingly, people mix up with chronograph. Simply put, a chronometer watch is one that has, usually but not always, been certified to be highly accurate in keeping time irrespective of things such as motion, temperature and humidity. A chronograph on the other hand and again simply, is a timepiece with a stopwatch function. A watch can be either a chronometer or a chronograph, or both.
Rolex has pretty much built its business on making robust chronometer watches, all of which are certified by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC), but lots of brands produce them and they come in all shapes, sizes and colours. One of my favourite brands, FP Journe, is famed for its design but also creates incredibly robust chronometers. The Chronométre Optimum, for instance, has been around for a few years but is still in a class of its own. The secret sauce of its accuracy is the EBHP direct impulse escapement, which is yet more of that jargon I am now guilty of dropping here. For the sake of space, this is a pretty nifty whizzbang feature that reduces friction in the movement to help with accuracy. The watch comes in either 40mm or 42mm (in gold or platinum) and despite the whacky steampunk layout is pretty simple features-wise, with only a small seconds dial and power-reserve indicator. Prices range from HK$662,000 to HK$708,000, depending on the case size and material.
Breitling is another brand known for chronometers, which is no surprise, as aviation watches, its core speciality, have to be accurate despite all the motion and G-forces. The Navitimer is the daddy of aviation chronometers and the new Navitimer Héritage is a nod to the original 1952 version. A COSC-certified watch, you could take this thing up, down and sideways and it will still keep great time, thanks to the in-house Breitling 13 movement. The 42mm case comes in steel and the watch features all the iconic Breitling things, such as circular slide rule worked via the rotating bezel and a chronograph. The watch is priced at HK$47,610 for the rubber-strap version (top) and HK$48,120 for the leather-strap version.
Lastly, we have the Zenith Heritage 146. This is a beautiful watch, a tribute to Zenith pieces from the 1960s in styling but featuring a modern and incredibly reliable El Primero 4069 COSC-certified chronometer movement and a wonderfully on-trend chocolate dial. This is a true mix of great design with great timekeeping. The steel case is sized at 38mm and the watch also features a chronograph. Released this month, the Heritage 146 is yet to be priced for Hong Kong.