At Baselworld 2016, Graham celebrated the 15th anniversary of its Chronofighter model with the release of four ‘vintage’ models. On my return to the UK I was offered the opportunity to ‘get hands-on’ with a version of my choosing. I immediately gravitated to a model featuring a captivating blue dial, with coordinating leather strap, and very soon the timepiece was temporarily mine. Graham Chronofighter Vintage replica
This ‘Vintage’ timepiece was inspired by the stopwatches once used by RAF flying officers during World War II. These watches, effectively pocket watches strapped to the sleeve of a bomber jacket, were vital when carrying out flying sorties, especially at night. Graham Chronofighter Vintage review
While operating at high altitudes, in non-pressurised cockpits, the pilots and their timepieces were exposed to freezing temperatures and their watches had to be tough to survive this hostile working environment. Therefore, both precision and reliability are two prerequisites for aviators’ watches. Graham Chronofighter Vintage review
As well as wearing the now iconic leather Irvin flying jackets, lined with sheepskin, the flying officers also wore thick gloves, keen to stave off biting temperatures. However, in the confines of the cockpit, the gloves inhibited free movement of fingers, hence a thumb operated trigger proved the optimal ergonomic solution.
Eric Loth, the founder of Graham, an engineer and physicist by trade, spoke to medical professionals and learned that the thumb is the fastest acting finger. Moreover, the thumb can move independently of other fingers. With this in mind and inspired by military aviation of yesteryear, he conceived the unusual trigger device which adorns the left hand flank of the Chronofighter’s case.
In order to accurately measure elapsed time, it is critical that the time taken from observing an event to the moment the chronograph is actuated is kept to an absolute minimum. Equally, the same applies when the elapsed interval has passed and the wearer needs to stop the chronograph. The trigger design of the Graham Chronofighter Vintage mitigates this ‘human factor’, proving intuitive to use, courtesy of its ergonomic interface with the right thumb.
Surprisingly, despite this watch being referred to as ‘Vintage’, the blue hue of its dial is very en vogue and I adore it. Blue is an incredibly versatile colour, matching a myriad of clothes and augmenting the appearance of many sartorial ensembles. The dial is adorned with a tasteful sunray motif, emanating from the fulcrum of the dial that sparkles exquisitely in light.
The ‘modern’ hour and minute hands are framed with polished metal and lined with white luminescent fill. White, slender indexes, together with the Arabic numerals at noon, evince a contemporary character. Both the hands and hour markers bestow a green emission in dim light.
A small seconds display is presented on a snailed subdial at 3 o’clock. A 30-minute chronograph register, featuring snailed detail, is located at 6 o’clock and assumes greater significance courtesy of its larger diameter. Graham has wonderfully played with depths, recessing the subdials and, as a result, heightening the aesthetic appeal of the dial.
Two apertures, located at 9 o’clock, present the date and day on two separate discs. The typeface is white, neoteric in nature and highly legible. The date disc sits slightly lower than the day disc but does not mar readability.
The white central chronograph hand features a supremely slender red tip which collaborates with the crisp white markings gracing the perimeter of the dial.
As a shortsighted forty-something, I sometimes struggle to read the dials of some watches without the aid of spectacles. However, the Graham Chronofighter Vintage proved simple to read even without my bifocals.
Some of the dial elements of the Graham Chronofighter Vintage are quite contemporary. Indeed, the blue hue of the dial, the style of the baton-like indexes, the Arabic numerals at noon and the font used for the day-date display all brim with modernity. However, despite the seemingly disparate nature of these details, the design language is harmonious and all elements coalesce wonderfully.
The highly polished steel case measures 44mm in diameter but, somehow, it appears much smaller when worn. Graham has made subtle changes to the case of the Chronofighter and, as a result, improved its appearance.
The sapphire crystal is mildly domed and forms a flush union with the bezel. The bezel is concave, creating interesting shadows and delightfully toying with light. Interestingly, the case band is convex, according an agreeable contradistinction with the bezel above. The lugs sharply taper downwards and draw the strap close to the case, reinforcing the perception of neatness.
The brand’s decision to equip the Graham Chronofighter Vintage with its unique trigger system is likely to polarise opinion. Indeed, I accept that to some eyes the trigger may appear cumbersome. However, the Swiss watch company has modified the styling of this device for 2016, locating it closer to the case band and thereby conferring a tidier aspect. Personally, I found my thumb instinctively connected with the trigger system and I applaud its functionality. Furthermore, by locating the trigger on the left hand flank of the case, it does not impose its presence on the arm, allowing free motion of the wrist.
Positioned above the trigger, at 10 o’clock, is a push-piece which resets the chronograph registers.
The sumptuous blue leather strap encircled my wrist perfectly and accorded a sublime level of wearer comfort.
The Calibre G1747 self-winding movement is visible through the exhibition caseback. The oscillating mass is decorated with Côtes de Genève motif. Beneath the rotor some of the bridges are, once again, adorned with Geneva Waves while others feature perlage.
The balance has a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz) and includes an Incabloc shock absorber. The Swiss movement contains 25 jewels and has a power reserve of 48 hours.
Graham has not plagiarised the designs of other horological marques but conceived its own very distinctive and, in my opinion, handsome timepiece.
The dial lucidly converses with the wearer and the trigger is user-friendly, bestowing a superb tactile interface with the watch. Moreover, the trigger mitigates the time the wearer spends thinking about actuating the chronograph, or conversely, halting the stopwatch function.
The high quality construction of the Graham Chronofighter Vintage means its asking price of £3450 (RRP as at 22.6.2016) represents superb value for money.
The timepiece proved to be a stylish horological companion during its time in my possession. Its prepossessing blue colour-scheme proved ideal for pairing with jeans and casual shirts. Moreover, the watch evoked optimistic thoughts of blue skies on a summer’s day, a fitting notion for a pilot’s watch. The trigger, Graham’s ingenious idea, shows a notable dose of blue-sky thinking. Indeed, perhaps we should rename Eric Loth, ‘Mr Blue Sky’.