My personal Top 7 contains in-house manufactured movements as well as mass-produced movements from manufacturers such as Lemania. You will also note that I’ve included types with both column-wheel and lever mechanisms. Other considerations include aesthetics and other attributes, all based on my experience in Omega replica watches collecting over the last 15 years.
1. Zenith El Primero
The El Primero was introduced in 1969 and the first two versions were Caliber 3019PHC (with chronograph and date) and Caliber 3019PHF (with triple date, moon-phase, and chronograph). This first automatic chronograph movement ever is a ‘fast ticker,’ with a frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour (vph). Most chronographs at the time of its introduction were ticking at 18,000 vph or 21,600 vph. The 36,000 vph makes it possible to time intervals to 1/10th of a second. The El Primero movement as we know it today is an evolution of the very first Caliber 3019 movements. Over time, we’ve seen several brands other than Zenith Replica Watches using El Primero chronograph movements, including Movado, TAG Heuer, Ebel, and even some Rolex Daytonas (though Rolex made some adjustments to it). If you are really into chronographs, you need at least one Zenith replica watches UK with this movement inside it.
2. Rolex 4130
Before 2000, Rolex used hand-wound Valjoux Caliber 72 chronograph movements, and modified Zenith El Primero movements, for its Cosmograph Daytona watches. In 2000, Rolex introduced the successor to its Caliber 4030 movement (based on the El Primero), Rolex Caliber 4130. Fully developed and manufactured in-house, this automatic chronograph chronometer movement is solid as a rock and cleverly engineered. Rolex was able to reduce the number of components with a new, patented solution for the chronograph mechanism. The extra space has been used to house a larger mainspring, which increased the power-reserve capacity from 50 to 72 hours. A fake Rolex watchmaker from a local Rolex service center has also told me that the Daytona is quite easy for them to service thanks to this movement’s construction.
3. A. Lange & Söhne L951.6
Let’s go a bit high-end here, to end Part 1 of this list. The hand-wound Caliber L951.6 by A. Lange & Söhne powers the brand’s Datograph Auf/Ab timepiece and, as you can see from the photo, has an incredibly high level of finishing and craftsmanship. The balance bridge has that traditional Glashütte finish (hand-engraving) and all the movement parts are meticulously finished as well. All the parts — even the balance spring — are manufactured in-house. This particular movement consists of 451 parts, which means assembly is surely a painstaking job for A. Lange & Söhne’s replica watchmakers in Germany. Although I have much respect and admiration for all Lange movements, the one in the Datograph Auf/Ab (Up/Down) movement is definitely one of my favorites.
4. Omega Caliber 9300
In 2011, a few years after the introduction of its in-house-developed-and-produced Caliber 8500-family of movements, Omega introduced the Caliber 9300 chronograph movement, which was also entirely developed and manufactured in-house. This impressively large caliber has the brand’s renowned co-axial escapement, a column-wheel mechanism, and a silicon balance spring. The movement has a 60-hour power reserve. So far, Omega has only used Caliber 9300 in its Seamaster Planet Ocean chronographs and Omega replica Speedmaster Caliber 9300 watches, including the Speedmaster “Dark Side of the Moon.” Caliber 9300 has a two-register layout in which the subdial at 3 o’clock shows both the recorded hours and minutes. This subdial can also be used as a second-time-zone indicator if used cleverly.
5. TAG Heuer Caliber 1969
Remember the uproar when it was revealed that TAG Heuer’s Caliber 1887 movement was based on a Seiko chronograph caliber? Even though TAG Heuer modified it, and is producing it in Switzerland, the word “Seiko” lit a fire under some diehard Swiss-watch fans. This year, TAG Heuer introduced another new chronograph movement, Caliber 1969. The caliber number refers to the year that TAG introduced its first mechanical, automatic chronograph movement, Caliber 11. And it should be noted that this movement has nothing to do with the more controversial Caliber 1887. It is a tricompax chronograph (subdials at 9, 6 and 3 o’clock) and has a power reserve of 70 hours. There are no watches available with this movement yet, as TAG Heuer just recently announced it and officially opened the production facility. I can only hope it will do a perfect re-edition of some of the classic, vintage TAG Heuer replica watches that used the Caliber 11 movement in the past.
6. Patek Philippe CHR 29-535 PS Q
Remember the Lemania chronograph movement used by Patek Philippe that I covered in my top five? This movement, Caliber CHR 29-535 PS Q was developed in-house by Patek Philippe replica watches. It is hand-wound and was used for the first time in Patek’s Reference 5402P . The movement consists of 496 parts and features not only a chronograph with split-seconds function, but also a perpetual calendar, placing it firmly in Patek Philippe’s Grand Complications collection. It is a relatively small movement compared to the others here (30 mm diameter) but quite thick. The finishing on all the parts is magnificent. Patek Philippe has filed for a patent on its new split-seconds lever construction. An amazing movement that is unfortunately — like the A. Lange & Söhne chronograph movement that came in at #5 — available only for a fortunate few.
7. Breitling B01
Following in the footsteps of Omega and TAG Heuer, Breitling also felt the urge to design and develop a chronograph movement in its own facilities. Breitling introduced its B01 chronograph movement in 2009. Before that, Breitling, like many other watch brands, used mainly ETA/Valjoux chronograph movements, along with an occasional Lemania. (In some models, Breitling still uses these.) The Breitling B01 movement is fully developed and manufactured in-house and has a column-wheel chronograph system. It has a 70-hour power reserve and a traditional tricompax layout. It was first introduced in the Chronomat, but since then Breitling has also installed versions of it in a number of its other cheap Breitling replica watches, including the Navitimer 01, Montbrillant 01 and Chronomat 44.