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These Chronographs Recall Classic, Midcentury Watches

A new crop of reissued chronographs makes the case for leaving your dive watch at the door.

Henry Phillips

A version of this story first appeared in Gear Patrol Magazine. Subscribe today for more stories like this one, plus receive a $15 gift card to the Gear Patrol Store.

Classic chronographs are rich with character and history. However, the stopwatch feature that defines them is complex and expensive to produce. As a result, manufacturers are quicker to prioritize reissues of time-only pieces — like dive and field watches — but a new wave of chronographs suggests the tides may be turning. What's more, a trend to shrink the chronograh's case size has made the category more wearable than ever.

Yema Speedgraf

You won’t find many automatic chronographs at this price point, much less any that look as good as Yema’s. Based on racing chronographs the French brand produced in the 1960s, the Speedgraf features vintage-inspired elements that feel genuine, from its raised sapphire crystal to its contrasting subdials and red-tipped seconds hand.

Diameter: 39mm

Movement: Seiko NE86 automatic

Price: $1,499


Nivada Chronomaster Aviation Sea Dive

When Nivada re-emerged decades after disappearing, its new watches looked just like those that have since made the brand a favorite of vintage collectors. The Chronomaster of the 1960s was captivating — and it is again, offering surprising value considering Swiss movements and thoughtful detail

Diameter: 38.3mm

Movement: Sellita SW510 manual or automatic

Price: $1,776+


Hanhart 417 SE

First built for the German military in the 1950s and later popularized by actor Steve McQueen, the Hanhart SE is an OG pilot’s chronograph. At 42mm, it's 3mm larger than the original, and it packs famous German construction and an iconic "Bund" strap for a reasonable price.

Diameter: 42mm

Movement: Sellita SW 510 manual

Price: $1,970


Breitling Avi 765 1953 Re-Edition

Breitling is a watchmaker steeped in aviation that largely specializes in chronographs. In recreating a pilot’s watch from 1953, the brand upgraded the AVI 756 with modern features like an excellent in-house movement but also included throwback elements, such as manual winding and a Hesalite crystal to give it an extra kick of authenticity.

Diameter: 41mm

Movement: Breitling B09 manual

Price: $8,600


IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Tribute to 3705”

Before ceramic watches were popular, IWC created the all-black 3705 chronograph. It bombed upon release but later became a grail among collectors. This modern re-creation updates the case to a 41mm version in Ceratanium, the brand's proprietary ceramic-and-titanium material, and includes an in-house, automatic movement in place of the original Valjoux 7750.

Diameter: 41mm

Movement: IWC 69380 automatic

Price: $11,900


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