Graham Watch Chronofighter Vintage UK Limited Edition Review
Friday - 17 June 2016
by Angus Davies, www.escapementmagazine.com
Fifteen years of hitting the target
George Graham (1673-1751) was born near Carlisle but, after the death of his father in 1688, he travelled to London and became an apprentice to the clockmaker, Henry Aske. In 1695, Graham successfully completed his apprenticeship and was made a Freeman of the Clockmakers Company. The following year, Thomas Tompion, the famous watch and clockmaker, invited Graham to join him at his Fleet Street premises. The meeting of the two men, both prolific innovators, led to the invention of several horological devices. Moreover, when Tompion died in 1713, the creative prowess of Graham continued to flourish.
In 1995, the name Graham was revived by a Swiss national, Eric Loth, a self-confessed Anglophile. Indeed, I have met Loth numerous times and recall an occasion when he admitted to watching the film "The Battle of Britain" over 30 times. It was this obsession with the RAF during World War II, fused with his love of English horology, that led to the creation of the Graham Chronofighter in 2001.
The original Chronofighter took inspiration from the timepieces used by RAF flying officers during the 1940s. These men used large pocket watches, worn over the sleeves of their bomber jackets. The timepieces proved highly legible and were effectively an extension of the cockpit instruments. The aviators' watches proffered precision and reliability, two virtues which remain vitally important today.
Loth, an engineer and physicist by trade, noted that pilots used thumb-actuated triggers for deploying their bombs. He spoke to medical professionals and established that the fastest acting finger is the thumb. Moreover, the thumb acts alone, unlike the other fingers. These facts provided inspiration for the Chronofighter's iconic trigger, a device which allows the chronograph to be actuated with great alacrity. A push-piece, located above the trigger, resets the chronograph after use.
Since the inaugural versions of the Chronofighter were released in 2001, Graham has produced several different variants, including GMT models, oversized watches and some featuring carbon fibre and PVD details. This year, the Swiss company is celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Chronofighter, releasing a new array of vintage styled models. However, Loth and his team have not forgotten its clientele in Blighty, unveiling a UK-bound chronograph, the Chronofighter Vintage UK Limited Edition, sporting an RAF-style roundel on its dial and limited to a mere 15 examples.
The black grained canvas exhibits a muted, stealthy character, providing a wonderful foil for the other dial elements presented.
The white 'modern' hour and minute hands evince a traditional aesthetic. Conversely, each hour is denoted with contemporary, white elongated batons or small circlets, save for 12 o'clock. At noon, large Arabic numerals are presented in a contemporary font. Despite the seemingly disparate character of the hands and hour markings, they fuse wonderfully and deliver superb legibility. Furthermore, white Super-LumiNova ® augments visibility in restricted light.
At 3 o'clock is a small, snailed subdial, positioned slightly lower than the main dial epidermis, displaying the running seconds.
In the southerly area of the dial, a large 30-minute chronograph snailed register resides. At the centre of this subdial, an RAF roundel doffs its hat to the men of Bomber Command. Encircling this motif, black Arabic numerals and markings collaborate with a vivid red hand to display elapsed minutes. The roundel does not inhibit ease of read-off and imbues the dial with a sense of patriotic chutzpah and ebullience.
Located adjacent 9 o'clock are two apertures, displaying the date and the day. These indications employ crisp, white text presented on two black discs, proving eminently simple to read.
The white central chronograph seconds hand features a red tip and its lithe profile interfaces with a white chapter ring, enunciating elapsed seconds, or parts thereof, with succinct and clear tone.
The 44mm stainless steel case has been subject to a subtle makeover for 2016. The bezel incorporates a new, more complex profile, creating attractive pockets of brilliance and shade. All surfaces of the case are highly polished, save for some areas on the trigger and case back.
A further update to the case for this year is the chronograph trigger which is now neater, sitting closer to the case band. With the watch attached to my left arm and proffering my right thumb to the curved section of the trigger, I found operating it incredibly intuitive to use.
The camel coloured leather strap is hand-sewn, featuring contrasting black stitching, paired with a steel pin buckle.
The self-winding Calibre G1747 is visible via the exhibition case back. The sapphire crystal gracing the case back includes a stylised '15th anniversary Chronofighter logo', however the Swiss movement remains readily visible.
The oscillating mass is adorned with Côtes de Genève motif and the balance has a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz). The movement features 25 jewels and is equipped with an Incabloc shock absorber. It has a power reserve of 48 hours.
In 1725, George Graham constructed an observatory timer for John Desaguliers FRS. The clock was capable of measuring 1/16th of a second. Its capacity to measure an elapsed period of time is something shared with modern-day chronographs and, therefore, it seems very fitting that the eponymously named watch company has expended much effort crafting wristwatches equipped with a stopwatch function.
The palpable passion of Loth for all things British led to him founding Graham SA back in 1995. Moreover, his admiration of the RAF, especially the bravery shown by flying officers during the 1940s, led to the creation of the iconic Chronofighter.
The Chronofighter Vintage UK Limited Edition shares the same reliability and precision of those timepieces used in the foreboding cockpits of World War II planes. The dial is an exemplar of lucid dialogue, the roundel provides a charming dash of patriotism and the trigger bestows a sublime tactile interface between the owner and his watch.
Once again, Graham has hit the target with its new Chronofighter Vintage UK Limited Edition. Indeed, the roundel and trigger provide a fitting metaphor for the accurate fulfilment of wearer's needs. However, with only 15 examples available, budding aviators should not hesitate and act promptly to avoid disappointment.
Case: Stainless steel; diameter 44 mm; water resistant to 10 bar (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; date; day; chronograph.
Movement: Calibre G1747, self-winding movement; Frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 25 jewels; power reserve 48 hours.
Strap: Hand-sewn camel coloured leather strap, featuring contrasting black stitching and presented on a steel pin buckle.