What establishes a bicompax chronograph from a “normal” one? Principally, a bicompax chronograph (as the name suggests) has not three, but rather only two subdial counters. Along with this year’s trend for green dial watches, the horology world is also seeing a resurgence of bicompax chronographs, which have been on the scene since the 20th century. Furthermore, thanks to their often old-school and pleasingly symmetrical designs, there are numerous fantastic options available from some of the top Swiss watch brands out there. We put together a selection of our five personal favourites – all for well under 10,000 euros.
Hamilton Intra-Matic Chronograph H
As a Swiss watch brand with a starkly American DNA, Hamilton almost sits in a category of its own. With its watches featuring in numerous movies, from Interstellar to Casino Royale, it’s no wonder that the brand has a variety of fast-paced watches. One such example is the bicompax chrono Hamilton Intra-Matic Chronograph H, from the brand’s American Classic collection. This watch evokes the cool and classic look of the 1960s, making you want to strap it onto your wrist before heading out on a road trip in a dusty Ford Mustang.
Available with either a black dial and white subdials, or white dial and black subdials, the chrono is highly legible. Key features include oversized pushers, a box-shaped sapphire crystal with double anti-reflective coating, and a printed tachymeter scale. Exuding a retro feel, the distinctive watch uses vintage-style luminescent on the hour and minute hands as well as the hour markers.
As the printed words “MECHANICAL” in the place of a third subdial counter spell out, the watch is powered by a manual winding movement, calibre H-51. This new in-house movement has a 60-hour power reserve and beats a frequency of 4 Hz. Finally, the Hamilton Intra-Matic Chronograph H is housed in a 40 mm stainless-steel case with water-resistance to 100 m. It comes with either a mesh bracelet or black leather strap.
Price starts at 1,895 euros
Tudor Black Bay Chrono
At this years’ Watches and Wonders, TUDOR’s release of its updated, slimmer Black Bay Chrono watches caused quite a stir. Available with either a black or opaline dial and a matching 316L steel bezel with either a matt black or white anodised aluminium disc, the new models also offer a sportier case than their predecessors.
In other words, the duo are definitely suitable for wearers who will actually use the chronograph function on their watch. From the subdial counters in opposing colours to the dial, to the large “Snowflake” hand and central seconds’ red-tipped hand, these watches are highly legible and truly ready to race. A 45-minute counter lies at 3 o’clock, while the small seconds are displayed at 9 o’clock.
Powering the new Black Bay Chrono is the COSC-certified manufacture calibre MT5813. This self-winding calibre provides an excellent 70-hour power reserve and beats at a frequency of 4 Hz. Interestingly, the column-wheel chronograph with a vertical clutch was designed alongside fellow Swiss watch brand Breitling.
Both models, which feature screw-down pushers and provide water-resistance to 200 m, are available with a variety of strap options. This includes a black leather strap, steel bracelet, or black fabric strap.
Price starts at 4,550 euros
Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Full Lum
Following on from its successful BR 03-92 Diver Full Lum model released last summer, Bell & Ross’ Full Lum bicompax chronograph must also have its competitors kicking themselves for not thinking of this innovative idea before. It’s essentially an inverted luminous watch, meaning the entire dial lights up at night. As a limited edition of only 250 pieces, it’s a highly coveted and impressive piece by the French-Swiss watchmakers from La Chaux-de-Fonds.
The watch is housed in a 41 mm satin-finished and polished steel case, which is water-resistant to 100 m. Its fixed bezel with an anodised black aluminium ring displays the watch’s 60-minute scale. Meanwhile, the dial of the V2-94 Full Lum combines two Super-LumiNova colours. The “daytime” dial is pale green, while the snailed subcounters are pale yellow. At night, the dial glows bright green, although the 30-minute counter, which is unusually placed at 9 o’clock, glows blue. The only element on the dial without Super-LumiNova is the date window, lying between 4 and 5 o’clock. Protecting the dial is an ultra-domed sapphire with anti-reflective coating.
Powering the bicompax chrono is the calibre BR-CAL.301. This in-house automatic movement has a 42-hour power reserve and beats at a frequency of 4 Hz. Furthermore, the movement is visible via the sapphire crystal caseback. Last but not least, the model’s tapered lugs attach to a sporty black rubber strap. The BR V2-94 Full Lum is available from May onwards.
Price: 4,700 euros
Breitling Premier Heritage B09 Chronograph
Breitling has a certain talent when it comes to creating incredible bicompax chronographs, e.g. its Top Time limited editions released in 2020 and 2021. The star of the show this year, however, has to be this Breitling Premier Heritage B09 Chronograph. The brand’s Heritage collection pays homage to its founders’ achievements, and the new Heritage chronos caused quite a stir at this year’s Watches & Wonders.
The Breitling family’s contributions to the world of chronographs include Léon’s tachymeter, which could measure any speed between 15 and 150 km/h, Gaston’s wristwatch chronograph with an independent pusher at 2 o’clock, and Willy’s invention of a second independent chronograph pusher at 4 o’clock.
This timeless 40 mm stainless-steel timepiece looks more like a dress watch than a sports watch. Unlike Breitling’s distinctive Zorro-dial Top Time editions, you might initially overlook that this B09 model is a chronograph at all. It features flat, rectangular pushers, a stylish pistachio dial, plus subdials in the exact same tone. The watch very subtly highlights the subdials using a snailed finishing.
Equipped with a central chronograph seconds hand, the subdials display a 30-minute counter (3 o’clock) and small seconds (9 o’clock). Meanwhile, both the tachymeter and minute scales are printed in black. One thing perfectionists may take issue with is the cut-off Arabic numerals at 2, 4 , 8, and 10 o’clock. Finally, the watch’s vintage-inspired syringe hour and minute hands use luminescent material, meaning the time, if not the chrono functions, is accessible 24/7.
Powering the Premier Heritage B09 Chronograph is the manual winding, COSC-certified Breitling manufacture B09 calibre. It has a 70 hour power reserve, alongside a frequency of 4 Hz. For an additional element of enjoyment on this luxurious-looking bicompax chrono, the movement is visible via the sapphire crystal caseback. The watch comes with a gold-brown leather alligator strap with a folding clasp, and is water-resistant to 100 m.
Price: 7,400 euros
Panerai Luminor Chrono
Any Panerai Luminor is going to be unmistakable on your wrist, but the bicompax Panerai Luminor Chrono is that bit more unusual. Available in black (PAM01109), white (PAM01218), or a deep sunbrushed blue (PAM01110), the models’ dials use Panerai’s typical sandwich construction. All three models come in a 44 mm brushed stainless-steel case, contrasting with the polished steel bezel.
During the day, attractive light blue accents improve legibility on the central chronograph seconds hand, as well as on the hollowed 30-minute subdial counter. At night, the Luminor Chrono undergoes a transformation, with the hour markers and hands glowing a bright, luminous green. Furthermore, the hands and markers of the small seconds (9 o’clock) and 30-minute subdial counters are also filled with luminescent for round-the-clock readability.
Powering all three versions is the automatic in-house calibre P.9200. With a power reserve of 42 hours and a frequency of 4 Hz, the watch also integrates an Incabloc anti-shock device. Finally, the black and white models come with a classic black leather alligator strap, while the deep blue edition is accompanied by a stainless-steel bracelet. The Luminor Chrono is water-resistant to 100 m.