Three Awesome, Under-the-Radar Chronograph Watches Available Now

These three vintage watches might not have strong brand recognition, but they’re packed with utility, history and great design.

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If you want more functionality from your watch than the simple indication of the time and date, the chronograph complication (stopwatch) is easily the first thing many watchmakers and consumers will think of. Why is that? A chronograph can be useful, sure, but that doesn’t quite explain its celebrated status and immense popularity.

Associated with exciting stories from motor-racing to going to the moon, the chronograph captures the imagination. Amazingly, they’re popular despite that despite the fact that the complication’s significant mechanical complexity can often nearly double the price of comparable models without the chronograph functionality. Cost be damned — chronographs are cool! They look purposeful, technical, and even “busy” (though often in a good way) with various scales, subdials, and pushers, together resulting in a sporty but serious feel.

For the modern buyer, the chronograph’s attraction largely relies on its history and looks — along with it being fun to actually interact with, pushing its buttons to start, stop, and reset it. In past decades, however, this was undoubtedly a handy instrument to have on one’s wrist, and it found use in everything from military applications to daily life. The three vintage watches below display that functional intent which underpins the attraction of the chronograph today.

Helbros Chronograph

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What We Like: Dating to the 1950s, this Helbros chrono would have been on the large side for its time at 36.5mm wide and 12.75mm thick, but this will only make it more attractive for modern wrists in need of a classic chronograph with restrained sizing. Like the other watches featured here, it has a dual-register layout, in this case featuring a 3 o’clock totalizer counting the chronograph’s minutes (up to 30) and a 9 o’clock totalizer for the main time’s seconds function. Powered by a Landeron 148 manually wound movement, the watch features both tachymeter (outer) and telemeter (inner) scales around the dial’s periphery for a captivating retro look.

From the Seller: Movement has just been meticulously dismantled and serviced. Timekeeping and chronograph functions are all operating perfectly.

Buy Now: $1,395

Helbi Chrono

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What We Like: Like the almost similar-sounding Helbros chronograph above, this is a somewhat obscure brand name but boasts a Swiss movement and construction. It’s also a similar size at 37mm wide, but this example takes on a much sportier presence with its dive-style bezel, bold dial elements, and screw-down crown. Hailing from the 1960s, it uses a manually wound movement popular at the time, the Valjoux 7733. A diver chronograph like this with vintage sizing and “reverse panda” (white subdials on black main dial) design will tick a lot of boxes for many people.

From the Seller: A few superficial scratches on the bezel and a scratch near 40 indicates that the watch was probably used gently. The case, while there are scratches all around, is unpolished and in great shape.

Buy Now: $2,100

J. Auricoste Type 20 Flyback

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What We Like: The Type 20 watches made for the French air force are some of the coolest and under-appreciated vintage military watches out there. This one by J. Auricoste is comparatively lesser known than its siblings by the likes of Breguet and Dodane. The variations among them are even more interesting, some having fluted bezels, like this one, and others with notched, 12-hour bezels. Part of what defines the Type 20 is its flyback chronograph feature, which in this 38mm Auricoste example is powered by a Lemania Calibre 2040 manually wound movement.

From the Seller: The case is in good condition overall showing signs of polish and normal wear consistent with age and use. Luminous matte dial is in good condition throughout, showing age and patinated Arabic indices.

Buy Now: $5,950

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