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Throwback Sundays: Six Chronograph Alternatives to the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, from Our Archives

Life's a box of chocolates.
by Robin Lim on September 1, 2019

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is one of the most sought-after chronograph, if not watch, today. There is an incredibly long waiting list for this timepiece – which is said to stretch over a few years.

It is not difficult to see the appeal of the Cosmograph Daytona. Introduced in 1963, the chronograph is an icon that had adorned the wrists of many celebrities and luminaries. To top it off, the design is timeless, and it is certainly a very well-made timepiece.

However, the elephant in the room remains. It is not remotely possible to purchase a Cosmograph Daytona anytime soon (unless you are a top-tier customer), unless you are willing to pay a large premium for the opportunity to own one. Granted, it is a highly desirable watch – but we reckon that there are many compelling alternatives out there as well.

So, what are some of the other options that are available out there? Let’s find out below!

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Apollo 11

The Omega Speedmaster Professional is one of the most iconic watches in the world. But how do we make such a legendary watch a little more special?

This year, Omega launched two limited edition timepieces to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. The first one being the full gold version, and the latter a stainless steel variant with some gold touches. The stainless steel version, which we have selected for today’s column, features some nice touches that sets it apart from a typical Moonwatch. This includes the use of gold for the bezel and indices, as well as the classic-style bracelet for this model.

Powered by the new Master Co-Axial Calibre 3861, the manual-winding movement now boasts the similar co-axial escapement and anti-magnetic characteristics that is now synonymous with Omega watches. The watch is priced at S$13,350, and it is limited to 6,969 pieces.

Zenith El Primero Classic Car

The El Primero is a chronograph that is significant in the world of horology. Not only is it one of the few watches that beats at 36,000 vph, but it is also the renown for being the first integrated column-wheel chronograph that is fitted with a self-winding mechanism.

Dipping into the large El Primero collection, the Classic Car is one model that caught our attention. The watch features the traditional DNA of the El Primero watches, but with some slight tweaks that makes it more contemporary. We particularly like how Zenith had integrated the tri-colour overlapping sub-dials, a signature of the El Primero, and paired it with the “Brushed Engine” anthracite dial. The contrast works well, and it certainly makes it stand out against the more classic designs in its line-up.

Besides its aesthetics, the movement is also another marvel to behold. The in-house produced Calibre 400B is a top-notch movement, with a decent power reserve of around 50 hours. The finishing is decent, but it is the technicalities that sets it apart from the rest. It is priced at US$6,700 (approximately S$9,296), and we think that it is a highly overlooked timepiece that offers a brilliant value proposition.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Chronograph

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control collection had launched two rather interesting pieces in 2017. Inspired by the classic pieces of the yesteryear, the watches feature a rather alluring two-tone sector dial that adds a nice touch to the watch.

The bi-compax 40mm Master Control Chronograph is a well-designed piece. Not only it is sized appropriately, but the symmetrical layout makes it pretty pleasing to the eyes. The inclusion of the light blue accents, notably for tachymeter and the numerals in the sub-dial, provides a nice contrast to the dial. It is not too cluttered as well, which makes it legible to read.

Priced at US$8,000 (approximately S$11,100), the Master Control Chronograph offers a rather tantalising prospect from a value perspective. The in-house self-winding Calibre 751G is a solid movement, and the finishing is great as well. It is surely a sensible piece to have in any decent watch collection.

Breguet Type XX Aeronavale

Created originally as a commissioned piece for the French Naval Air Army, the Breguet Type XX Aeronavale is an incredibly functional timepiece that survived the test of time.

Similar to most of its other watches, this Breguet is one that remains true to its roots – with an appropriately sized case (39mm, an increment of a mere 1mm from the original piece), fly-back chronograph function, and a classic dial layout with the “Breguet” logo in cursive font. It is stunning to say the least.

The Type XX is fitted with the Calibre 582, a self-winding Lemania-based movement that has a power reserve of around 48 hours. It features an additional piggy-back fly-back chronograph module (on top of the Lemania 1350 movement), and it is decorated as per Breguet’s superlative standards. The watch retails at S$15,200, and we think that it is a darn good timepiece for someone who wants a timepiece that is a little different from the usual.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Black Ceramic Edition

The Grand Seiko namesake is something that many should be familiar by now. Despite its rich history, the brand had only attain significant recognition only in the last few years. But as the saying goes, it’s better late than never.

Within the brand itself, the Chronograph series is perhaps the most underrated collection from the Japanese watch manufacturer. What we particularly like, besides the watches’ immaculate finishing, is the use of the proprietary Spring Drive movement that combines modern technology without diluting the art of traditional watchmaking. This allows the movement – as seen in the seconds hand – to operate smoothly and ensure that timing is electronically regulated.

The Black Ceramic version is priced at ¥1,400,000 (approximately S$18,275), which is a little higher than what people would expect from a Japanese watchmaker. However, we feel that the Grand Seiko is on par with some of the top brands, and the price that they are charging are well-justified. Perhaps, it might just require a little leap of faith for people to realise how special these watches are to own and wear.  

Habring² Doppel 3 Split Seconds Chronograph

Finally, we round up the article with a watch from an independent brand: Doppel 3 from Habring².

Richard Habring, the brains behind the brand, is perhaps most known for his split-second module that he invented in 1991 for IWC. The patent expired in 2011. By then Richard had left IWC and founded Habring², and he went on to produce the Doppel 2 which won the 2012 GPHG Sports Watch of the Year award. Subsequently, the chronograph was enhanced with split seconds and introduced as the Doppel 3. The new watch features a classic dial design, as well as the use of only two actuators for the chronograph mechanism (one to start-stop-reset, and the other to activate the split-second function). The base remains the Valjoux 7760, and the timepiece features a modular system, which allows additional modules (such as a full calendar or a center minutes’ counter) to be included.

The Doppel 3 is priced at S$10,500. It is rather reasonable, as one of the least expensive routes for a split seconds chronograph, especially when considering that this is by an independent watchmaker. If you are looking to buy your first watch from an independent watchmaker, we highly recommend Habring² as one of the options.

Concluding Thoughts

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is a nice watch, and there is no doubt about that. We have always reiterated about its robust construction, as well as its evergreen design. However, as most of us know, it is near impossible to get your hands on one. This is why we think that it might be better to target another good chronograph, instead of being fixated on one particular watch alone.

In today’s article, we have highlight six rather excellent chronographs which are certainly worth a look. Many of them are icons in their own rights, and some offers tremendous value as well. Habring² is one good example, as an independent watchmaker with the brilliant split second chronograph function. The Zenith El Primero and Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Chronograph are excellent choices as well, from well-established high-end manufacturers.

What are your thoughts on the selection? Are the watches attractive enough, or will you still be keen on the Daytona regardless? Let us know in the comments section below!

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