As far as watch complications go, the chronograph is one of the simplest and most stylish. It’s why you’ll see a chronograph function on all different kinds of watches, from racing and sports styles to less-obvious divers. And whether you end up using it often or not, it still adds a bit of visual interest to an otherwise time-only watch.
Sold? When it comes to getting a good-value chronograph from a luxury brand, you really don’t need to pay a ton of money for a relatively simple complication. If you’re buying pre-owned, you take advantage of the immediate depreciation in value and still get a very nice watch. So we’ve rounded up a list of chronograph watches that are reliable, stylish, and not so hard on your wallet. Truly, you’re spoiled for choice on the secondhand market.
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. But you don’t need to go that fancy if you’re looking for a decent chronograph.
Breitling’s robust Avenger line comes in at 43mm or more, if you want something bigger. That size should be hefty enough. The Avenger shares the iconic rider tab bezel of the Chronomat, but builds on that distinct pilot style with various dial arrangements. The Avenger (and all of its iterations) is thoroughly modern, and falls in the $3,000 range, making it a great value option.
Tudor has been around for a while and has always been seen as the less expensive version of Rolex. That’s great for you if you’re looking for a high-quality, good-value watch.
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 makes it pretty versatile to any style. You’ll find the most basic version of the Tudor Fastrider around $2,000 to $2,500, while the Fastrider Blackshield tends to be in the $4,000 range. Either way, you get great value for a watch that is Rolex-approved quality at a not-so-Rolex price.
One of the younger brands to be found on this list, Bremont has made a name for itself in vintage-inspired pilot watches. The ALT1 line is Bremont’s main chronograph offering, which is worth taking a closer look at.
With several designs in the collection (including a world timer and a dual-register chrono), the ALT1-P would be our pick. It has a classic chronograph layout, is inspired by pilot watches of old, and has a time-tested ETA movement inside. And, it’s the lowest-priced option in the entire ALT1 family at $3,300.
IWC Pilot Chronograph
Pilot watches are arguably IWC’s bread and butter. Taking inspiration from military watches of the mid-20th century, IWC’s Flieger-style pilot watches have slick styling, and come in a variety of complications.
Luckily enough, 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 $2,800.
Vintage or modern, limited edition or a straight-up moonwatch, you really can’t go wrong in a Speedmaster. It’s the classic chronograph, rich in history and design, which is 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. But what makes the Speedmaster a good value is the sheer amount of versions to be found on the market. Everybody loves a Speedy, which keeps their prices reasonable. Depending on age, size, and rarity, you’ll find a nice chronograph around $2,500 to $3,800. Of course, limited editions will run quite a bit higher, but a classic Speedmaster at a great value is easy to find.
Bell & Ross Aviation Chronograph
It’s no surprise that the champions of the super-square watch also make one in a chronograph version. The popular Bell & Ross Aviation is bold for sure, and the Aviation Chronograph is a rather subtle addition to a statement-making watch.
With various case finish options in one big (42mm) size, the Aviation chronograph features a dual-register dial layout and pushers that don’t stick out as much as some other chrono options. While not the immediately obvious choice for a good-value chronograph, the Bell & Ross Aviation comes in just south of $3,000, which should put it into consideration.
TAG Heuer Carrera
It’s everyone’s go-to starter watch for a reason. For one, the TAG Heuer Carrera has a really interesting history. And 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. You’ll find Carreras on the market for around $3,000 (depending on what other complications it has), and the Grand Carrera clocks in the mid-$3,000 range.
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 have updated it to include better watches.