As far as watch complications go, the chronograph is one of the most useful and most stylish. It’s why you’ll see a chronograph function on all types of watches, from racing and sports styles to less-obvious divers. Whether you use a chronograph function often or not, it still adds a bit of visual interest to a watch.
When it comes to getting a good-value chronograph from a luxury brand, it’s hard to go wrong. You really don’t need to spend a lot of money for a relatively simple complication. Here, we’ve rounded up a list of chronograph watches that are reliable, stylish, and easy on your wallet.
As the preferred manufacturer of professional pilot watches, Breitling is always a good bet. At their most complicated, Breitling watches can essentially function as a flight computer. However, you don’t need one of their top of the line models if you’re simply looking for a decent chronograph. Breitling’s robust Avenger line comes in at a modern 43mm or more. The Avenger shares the iconic rider tab bezel of the Chronomat and builds on that distinct pilot style with various dial arrangements. Though a limited edition model like the 2017 Hurricane Military might run you upwards of $8,000, you can get a pre-owned in the $3,000 range. Overall, the Avenger in all of its iterations is thoroughly modern and a great value option for a chronograph.
Hans Wilsdorf initially created Tudor in 1946 as a less expensive version of Rolex. That’s great news if you’re looking for a watch that’s both high quality and won’t break the bank. If you’re in the market for a modern-looking chronograph, the Tudor Fastrider is a fantastic option. It comes in a variety of color options, which it make it versatile enough to fit any style. You’ll find the most basic version of the Tudor Fastrider around $2,000. On the other hand, the Fastrider Blackshield tends to be in the $4,000 range. Either way, you get great value for a watch that has Rolex quality without the Rolex price.
Bremont is one of the younger brands on the list. However, don’t let that fool you. Bremont has made a name for itself in vintage-inspired pilot watches. The ALT1 line is the brand’s main chronograph offering, and it’s worth taking a closer look. With several designs in the collection (including a world timer and a dual-register chrono), the ALT1-P is a great pick. It has a classic chronograph layout inspired by pilot watches of old and has a time-tested ETA movement inside. Like the Avenger, a newer model, like the 2017 ALT1-P Chronographs might run you close to $5,000. However, older and pre-owned models in Bremont’s ALT1 family come in at around $4,000.
IWC Pilot Chronograph
Pilot watches are arguably IWC’s bread and butter. The models draw inspiration from military watches of the mid-20th century. The brand’s Flieger-style pilot watches have slick styling and come in a variety of complications. Some of the more complex models, like the Double Chronograph Top Gun Ceratanium or the Perpetual Calendar Chronograph, can be quite pricey. Luckily, the chronograph version of the IWC Pilot is a great value for the watch. It’s a fairly basic model, but it doesn’t lack in pedigree or functionality. You’ll find it priced around $3,000.
Vintage or modern, limited edition or a straightforward moonwatch, you really can’t go wrong with a Speedmaster. It’s a classic chronograph, rich in history and design. That’s precisely what makes the OMEGA Speedmaster such a great value. Common design elements include the tachymeter bezel, black dial, luminous markers and hands, and of course, the three-register chronograph. However, what makes the Speedmaster a good value is the sheer amount of versions on the market. Depending on age, size, and rarity, you’ll find a nice chronograph around $3,000 to $4,000. Of course, special variations like the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition will run quite a bit higher. However, a classic Speedmaster at a great value is easy to find.
Bell & Ross Aviation Chronograph
It’s no surprise that the champions of the square watch also make one in a chronograph version. The popular Bell & Ross Aviation is bold, and the chronograph function is a subtle addition to a statement-making model. The watch comes with various case finish options in one big, 42mm size. The Aviation Chronograph also features a dual-register dial layout and pushers that aren’t as prominent as some other chrono options. It may not be the obvious choice for a good-value chronograph. However, the Bell & Ross Aviation comes in just south of $3,000, which should put it into consideration.
TAG Heuer Carrera
The Carrera is a go-to starter watch for a reason. For one, the model has a really interesting history. Over the years, it has a transformed into a very modern, sporty chronograph. You can easily attribute the Carrera’s popularity to its casual, wear-anywhere style, but its price tag doesn’t hurt either. Like some of the other models we’ve discussed here, certain variations of the Carrera, like the latest Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph, can come with a hefty price tag. However, you can also find a Carrera on the market for around $3,000, and the Grand Carrera clocks in the mid-$3,000 range.
If Money Isn’t an Object: Rolex Daytona
The Daytona may have a notably higher price tag than the other models featured. However, we’d be remiss not to include this chronograph offering from Rolex. Though a Daytona will run you five figures, we still consider it a valuable chronograph for the investment. The Daytona is a comparable model to the Speedmaster. Yet, it garners a higher price tag for its unparalleled design from the inside out. Rolex offers the Daytona in a wide range of styles, from stainless steel to platinum and everything in between. Still, the most remarkable element of the Daytona is Rolex’s in-house caliber, which boasts incredible accuracy.
No matter your hobbies or your style, you’ll find a chronograph that works for you. The best part? None of these will break the bank (too much).
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on February 23, 2016. We updated in May of 2019 to include updated info.