Tags: Audemars Piguet, DB29 MaxiChrono, De Bethune, Duomètre à Chronograph, Flyback, High-end complication, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Louis Nardin, Mikrogirder, Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher, Special functions, Split-seconds, Super chronographs, TAG Heuer
Some chronographs broke the rules by bringing innovation and novelty to the chronograph at the same time. We selected five of the most relevant examples to focus on.
The first one is no longer for sale even if it is a recent introduction and a highly innovative one. Developed by Guy Sémon, current managing director and also head of research and development at TAG Heuer, the Mikrogirder put super high speed into a chronograph for much higher precision. Usually, the frequency of a chronograph is 21,600 or 28,800 beats per hour, also measured as 3 or 4 Hertz. These frequencies correspond to a precision of one-third or one-fourth of a second. The frequency of the Mikrogirder is 1/2000th of a second, or in other words 7,200,000 beats per hour (1000 Hertz). It remains today the fastest chronograph on the market – if you can still find one.
The second example is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher chronograph. Launched in the spring of 2015, this new chronograph is a smart, innovative, and simultaneously traditional machine. It has two second hands positioned one on top of the other, which aid in displaying various lap times.
But what is really cool with the Laptimer is that it can be used in various situations, even the simplest ones. It is first and foremost a regular chronograph with a start, stop, and reset function. Then this chronograph also works as a regular flyback chronograph. But it can provide more information than that.
The laptimer function has its own pusher at 9 o’clock, which allows one to play with the two second hands to record lap times in various ways. Measuring a lap starts as usual by pressing the start pusher and the two hands move together. By pressing the laptimer pusher, the first hand stops and the second one automatically flies back to 12 o’clock and starts a new measure. By pressing again, the second hand stops and the first one comes back and starts running. And this can be repeated again and again.
But the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher also allows one to restart the moving hand by pressing the reset pusher. You may want to do this if you want to save the previous measure and not take the current one into account. At the end of the measure, the stop button gathers the two hands and the reset them to 12 o’clock. The engineering team of Audemars Piguet Renaud et Papi, who conceived the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher’s Caliber 2923, introduced three column wheels and a new kind of oscillating pinion to the movement.
The next chronograph we focus on comes from the famous Vallée de Joux. In 2007, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced its Dual Wing concept within the Duomètre à Chronograph. The Dual Wing system comprises a new kind of movement architecture. To improve chronometry, the watch’s additional functions have their own source of energy, spring barrel, and gear train. They only share the regulating system with the main movement. This also architecture opens new ways of displaying the functions, and the Duomètre à Chronographe is a good example. Indeed, the function (chronograph) is located on the right side of the movement, clearly distinct from the main movement thanks to a different color used for the hands. This helps the legibility of the chronograph function, which is controlled by a single pusher.
Finally, De Bethune also introduced an interesting chronograph in 2014: the DB29 MaxiChrono. Its main feature is that all the hands are coaxially mounted in the middle of the dial. To achieve this, the brand developed a system in which each of the chronograph functions has its own dedicated clutch to minimize wear and maximize reliability. One of these clutches is particularly interesting because it looks like a vertical or column wheel clutch, but works like a horizontal or lever clutch.