In the grand scheme of things, the rate at which a mechanical watch ticks probably doesn’t weigh too much on the mind of watch buyers, compared to more pertinent aspects, like complications, case size and dial design. But there are benefits to having a “high-beat” watch with a fast-ticking movement — most notably higher precision (especially in chronographs) where the watch can read out in smaller fractions of a second. Less technically, higher-beat watches have a smoother second hand. That’s sweet, sweet eye candy for watch obsessives.
Many high-end watches today already beat at a relatively quick frequency of 28,800 beats per hour (about 8 ticks a second), while other common frequencies in more affordable watches are 21,600 bhp (six beats per second) and 18,000 bhp (five beats per second). But it takes 36,000 bhp (10 beats per second) to have the “smooth action” of a high-beat watch. Because watches running at this frequency are most subject to strain on their internal workings, they require more durable parts and better lubricants to deal with the added friction.
As such, high-beat movements are not very common these days. New ones today cost well into four- and five-figure territory; there was much more experimentation with 36,000 bhp watches in the ‘60s and ‘70s, so many vintage examples can be found below $1,000. In either case, you get a unique piece, one with irrefutably mesmerizing seconds hand and rarity to boot. If that sounds appealing to you, look for one of these seven vintage and new high-beat watches.
High-Beats at Low Prices
Zodiac SST 36000
Zodiac made a number of watches using its 36,000 bph movement in the 1970s in a variety of case designs both restrained and avant-garde. See Listings
Seiko Lord Marvel
Before Seiko started making “Hi-Beat” watches under the Grand Seiko moniker, its very first 36,000 bph was the hand-wound Lord Marvel from the 1960s. See Listings
Using Longines’s Cal 431, the Ultra-Chron was claimed by the manufacturer to be the most accurate watch in the world at the time. See Listings
The Latest and Greatest
Grand Seiko SBGH001
Seiko’s modern-day offering continues the brand’s long history of using 36,000 movements in its high-end timepieces. $5,500
Zenith El Primero
Released in 1969, the El Primero is to this day one of the most advanced chronographs in the world. Learn More
Blancpain Bathyscaphe Chronograph Flyback
A modern interpretation of Blancpain’s iconic diver featuring the company’s relatively new F385 high-beat chronograph movement. Learn More
Chopard L.U.C 8HF Power Control
A limited-run watch ticking at an incredible 57,600 bph (16 ticks a second) with a 60-hour power reserve. $20,820