As many of us continue to work from home, with not even the daily commute as ersatz exercise, the urge to unglue ourselves from Zoom and get outdoors to enjoy some sport is strong. Whether watchmakers have caught on to this, or whether the predominance of sport-luxe models in the past months’ new releases is purely coincidental, you can decide. Either way, where vintage once ruled, the trend now is for sport watches and, foremost among them, mechanical chronographs with an integrated bracelet that are sufficiently stylish to transition from a 20k run to a socially distanced dinner with friends. Better still, brands are proving adept at giving their products an “extra something” that will have them stand out in what is already becoming a crowded segment. First out of the starting blocks this year are LVMH’s trio of watchmakers, which presented their latest releases at end January.
Romain Marietta is head of products for Zenith. He describes the luxury sport watch segment as one of the most competitive. “Many of the big names are having success with this type of watch. We have to be there with a solid offering of watches you’ll want to wear every day. Our legendary El Primero movement means we can legitimately position Zenith as a major player in chronographs.” Accordingly, Zenith’s big reveal this year is the 41mm Chronomaster Sport in steel which nods to past Chronomasters, particularly the A386 from 1969 and the De Luca from 1988. The dial features a tricolour, tricompax layout with chronograph registers, operated by pump-style pushers, totalising 60 minutes at 6 o’clock and 60 seconds at 3 o’clock, plus running seconds at 9 o’clock. A central hand makes one lap of the dial in ten seconds, measuring tenths of a second on a scale which, for easy read-off, is etched directly on the black ceramic bezel: a first for a Zenith watch in regular production.
This precision timing comes courtesy of the new high-frequency El Primero 3600 beating at 5 Hz. “The original configuration of the El Primero 400 with lateral clutch and column wheel is unchanged,” notes Romain Marietta, “but we’ve optimised its functioning, for example by recentring the column wheel, which is blued, and through adjustments to the gear train which has enabled us to extend the power reserve to 60 hours with the chronograph running. It represents three years of work and feedback so far tells us it was well worth it.”
Bulgari, meanwhile, is getting full mileage out of its Octo Finissimo. The holder of six world’s thinnest records, it has “disrupted the luxury sport watch segment.” This year the brand is extending its S (for steel) line with the introduction of the Octo Finissimo S Chronograph GMT on an integrated brushed steel bracelet. The 43mm case houses the BVL 318 movement with peripheral rotor that Bulgari debuted in 2019. Its 3.30mm height has yet to be equalled. A screw-down crown ensures 100 metres of water resistance. Bulgari has opted to display the second time zone in a subdial at 3 o’clock on the sunburst blue dial. This, and the two chronograph registers, are in silver for a stronger “sport chic” personality. As befits this king of slim, case height is 8.75mm.
This time last year, Hublot was in Dubai taking the wraps off its Big Bang Integral in steel on an integrated bracelet; the first of its kind in the Big Bang’s fifteen-year history. The follow-up, a couple of months later, was an All Black version in ceramic. Kicking off 2021, Hublot builds further on the collection with three new iterations in white, navy blue or grey ceramic. To quote the brand, “a signature material at Hublot, ceramic represents the perfect fusion of hardness and lightness, being two to three times harder than steel and 30% lighter. A high-tech material that is difficult to machine, it is used here to create a case, bezel, caseback and bracelet.” Heavy lifting is by a new incarnation of Hublot’s own Unico chronograph movement. This HUB 1280 version is slimmer, has no escapement platform and benefits from four patented technical innovations. On your marks, set…