Guide: From Hanhart to Journe, a Look at 12 Great Monopusher Chronographs

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For chronograph fans, there are all sorts of interesting little sub-niches under the larger umbrella of stopwatch inspired timekeepers. There are flyback chronos, which enable the user to rapidly reset elapsed time, helpful if timing multiple heats of a race. Similarly, split-second chronographs allow for an additional timing behind the initial seconds tracking, which is incredibly useful if keeping track of, let’s say, multiple laps in a race. And of course you have chronos in all different types of styles, from dressy to casual, with scales designed to measure to everything from average speed, to a human pulse.

Monopusher chronographs, which we’ll be looking at today, occupy their own strange corner of Chrono world. Unlike a two button chronograph where starting, stopping, and resetting requires interacting with multiple pushers, a monopusher, naturally, only has one. The mechanical benefit here is clear: whereas on a traditional 2 button system the chronograph works could potentially be damaged by resetting before stopping, the more robust monopusher design eliminates this as a possibility. It’s simply impossible to actuate the chronograph commands out of order. 

The business end of the Patek Philippe 5372P.
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With only one pusher, a monopusher chronograph is also going to have a distinctly different look than a similar watch with a two button layout. The lack of symmetry or feeling of busyness that many dislike about chronographs is less of a concern with some of the models in this guide. If discretion is something you’re after in a chronograph, your ideal model might be here.

Along with just about every other complication, the monopusher has been democratized to an extent by the upswing in popularity of watches in general over the last several years. Once a highly specialized and pricey option, there are now interesting monopushers at every price range. Here’s a selection of a few of our favorites.

Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Chronograph

The Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Chronograph is a sporty two-register monopusher with a single button at 2:00 to control the chronograph. Alpina is a brand that is known to punch well above its weight when it comes to value for money, and this chrono is no exception. At less than $3,000 you’ll get an incredibly satisfying panda style dial configuration (there are three colorways available) and case finishing that is truly remarkable for the price. The 60s style cushion case is a great canvas for dramatic transitions between brushed and polished surfaces.

$2,795 – Check it out here

Vertex MP45

Vertex is an historic brand that has been revived in recent years. Perhaps most famous as one of the twelve manufactures who produced the famed “Dirty Dozen” watches for the British military during World War II, Vertex has been relaunched to produce watches in much the same military style. The MP45 is a robust, aviation inspired chronograph, with a single pusher at the 2:00 position. The movement is a Sellita SW510MP, which is actually a relatively new caliber in the Sellita catalog. With a modern movement and sizing (the MP45 measures 40mm in diameter, but the asymetric case results in it wearing larger than its dimensions would indicate) this handwound monopusher is a throwback watch that can withstand the modern daily grind.

~ $3,600 – Check it out here

Longines Monopusher Chronograph Ref. L2.800.4.53.0

Longines gets an immense amount of well deserved credit for the way in which they’ve expertly raided their own archives through their Heritage Collection. Year after year, they return to their back catalog and repurpose a great old design in a new package, and have become one of the faces of the “new-vintage” movement as a result. The L2.800.4.53.0, a dressy monopusher with the chronograph actuator fitted to the 3:00 crown, was an early standout in the brand’s push to revive their classics. Released in 2015, the Longines L2.800.4.53.0 is a column wheel chronograph with two registers, a date at 6:00, and automatic winding. Like other chronographs in this guide, it takes styling cues from classic chronos of the 1940s, when this complication was far more common. The movement here is a modified Valjoux 7750, one of the most reliable chronograph movements in existence, and a frequent target of being rearranged to suit the needs of intrepid designers who want to squeeze just a bit more utility out of it.

$3,150 – Check it out here

Montblanc 1858 Monopusher

We live in the generation of the big luxury group having a near stranglehold on the high end watch industry, and the impact of giant corporations swallowing up formerly independent brands can’t be understated. This phenomenon impacts everything from watch design to the retail experience, and the corporate meshing of luxury brands has created some strange bedfellows over the years.

One of the strangest, but also one of the best, is the relationship between Montblanc, longtime maker of fine writing instruments, and Minerva, one of the great movement makers, with a specialty in chronographs. While these two brands have no real shared history at all before Richemont’s acquisition of Minerva in 2006 and subsequent forced marriage of sorts a year later, they’ve become an important piece of the Richemont watchmaking portfolio, with both brands being bolstered through the partnership. The 1858 Monopusher, limited to just 100 pieces and featuring a love it or hate it green dial, is a classically styled chronograph, resembling watches that Minerva would have produced under its own name in the 1940s. The movement, caliber MB M13.21 is the obvious star of the show, and represents a type of old world craftsmanship that is rarely seen on modern watches.

$30,000 – Check it out here

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Habring Chrono-Felix

Founded by former IWC watchmaker Richard Habring and his wife Maria, Habring is a small Austrian independent known for their complicated watches at affordable price points.  The Chrono-Felix is no exception, built on their impressive in-house A11 movement platform. The monopusher movement in the Chrono-Felix is mated to a dial and case design that bridges the gap between a stoic German inspired classicism and modern minimalism. Slate gray is the dominant color and the finishing has a tightly brushed precision to it, with just a pop of color here and there. While the movement in the Chrono-Felix shares a lot with something like the Longines referenced above, the Habring is made in far more limited quantities and in tangible ways really has the personal touch of its creators all over it. This is a great example of how even though two watches might start with the same movement, they wind up in very different places once individual watchmakers, design teams, and brands get involved.

~ $6,900 – Check it out here

Christopher Ward ME 109

The Christopher Ward ME 109 made its debut in 2017 in a limited edition of 100 pieces. The watch’s design is inspired by a Junghans cockpit clock, and the whole thing has a very instrument-like feel to it as a result. The handwound caliber designed by Christopher Ward and given the designation JJ02 is based on the venerable Unitas 6497. This a striking movement to view through the ME 109’s transparent caseback, with large plates and an enormous oscillating balance wheel. If you’re the type of watch lover who is annoyed by seeing watch movements that don’t span the entire diameter of a case, this might monopusher might be up your alley.

$3,370 – Check it out here

Bremont Arrow

The Bremont Arrow is part of the British brand’s Armed Forces Collection, and the watch has a fitting military inspired aesthetic. In terms of this monopusher’s configuration, we have a single chronograph actuator located at at 2:00, dual subdials at 9:00 and 3:00 for running seconds and elapsed minutes, and a date display at 6:00. The Arrow shares a lot stylistically with the previously mentioned Vertex MP45, and shares the same base movement (the inclusion of a date is the only functional difference between the two). The Arrow’s retail price is $4,745, which is roughly $1,000 more than the very similar Vertex, which begs interesting questions about what we’re willing to pay for design and how much we value watchmaking heritage (both real and imagined).

$4,745 – Check it out here

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F.P. Journe Monopusher Split-Seconds Chronograph (Only Watch 2017)

We haven’t factored price into whether or not a watch is to be included in this guide, but even so, the F.P. Journe seen here exists on another of unobtainium entirely. The Monopusher Split-Seconds Chronograph is a unique piece created for the 2017 edition of the Only Watch auction, so even if you’ve got cash to throw around, there’s still just one of these in the world, and there’s no indication it’s for sale. While F.P. Journe would go on to release a regular production monopusher/rattrapante chronograph in platinum, red gold, and titanium, at the time of Only Watch 2017 the Monopusher Split-Seconds Chronograph was a completely new movement unlike anything we’d seen from Journe to date, and its tantalum case has yet to be reproduced. It’s a truly special watch, not only for its novel design and rarity, but it also raised over 1 million CHF for charity at auction.   

Check it out here

IWC Hand-wound Portofino Monopusher Chronograph

IWC is a brand that is known largely on the strength of their tool watches, particularly those tied to aviation. But the far more formal Portofino line is home to some of the brand’s highest end, most traditional movements. This two register monopusher is powered by IWC’s 59360 caliber, and features subdials at 12:00 and 6:00, which I think is a particularly refined look on a dress chronograph. Available in red and white gold, the Portofino Monopusher Chronograph is styled like a traditional dress watch, but it’s not sized like one: at 45mm, it makes quite a statement.

$24,900 – Check it out here

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Hanhart Pioneer Monocontrol

Hanhart is a German brand whose history goes back over 100 years. This monopusher has an exaggerated instrument-like feel (it literally has a big red button to start and stop the chronograph) that is, quite simply, a lot of fun. The dial layout and general aesthetic is reminiscent of the much more expensive Montblanc mentioned above, but the Hanhart is a different sort of thing entirely. The knurled bezel and oversized crown are the dominant design features (along with that big red button), and one gets the very clear impression after not too long a time examining the Monocontrol that this really belongs on the wrist of someone who knows how to safely eject himself from a crashing World War II era fighter jet.

$2,490 – Check it out here

Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Off-Centered Chronograph

Jaquet Droz is known for their Grande Seconde series, which, as the name implies, features a seconds register on the dial that’s larger than the corresponding  minutes or hours register. The effect is sometimes whimsical, but almost always skews formal, and the Grande Seconde Off-Centered Chronograph is one of the more unique chronograph executions you’re likely to come across. The asymmetry of the dial is obviously not to everyone’s taste (that’s the whimsy), but if wearing something that nobody else is likely to have, or to have even seen, is at all appealing, you start to get a sense of why this watch exists.

$11,500 – Check it out here

Patek Philippe 5372P

This list would not be complete without a Patek Philippe. Their chronographs are legendary, and the 5372P is something of a connoisseur’s choice. The 5372P is not only a split seconds chronograph, but a perpetual calendar as well. Coming in at just a hair over 38mm, it’s not a micron larger than it needs to be. With a perpetual calendar and moonphase in addition to the chronograph, there’s a ton of information packed into the dial, but the layout somehow remains totally intuitive and legible in spite of the clutter.

Price on request – check it out here

Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.
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