Telemetry can be defined as using specialized equipment to send, receive, and measure data over a long distance. The equipment for the purposes of this article is the wristwatch. We will be reviewing 15 of the best telemeter chronograph watches.
Before we jump into the background of telemeter watches, watch complications are often focused on aesthetic design rather than function. As a result of modern technology, such as smartphones and smartwatches, wristwatches have become obsolete.
For example, scuba divers typically use dive computers rather than dive watches for timing purposes. However, this is not to say wristwatches with interesting complications should no longer be produced. So let’s begin the journey of highlighting telemeter scale watches.
About Telemeter Watches
The telemeter scale is based on the speed of sound in relation to distance, an example being calculating the distance from when the event first becomes visible to when it becomes audible. You may use a telemeter scale with a chronograph watch to determine your distance in various situations. Thus, telemeter scales tend to go hand in hand with chronographs due to the multiple timing capabilities.
Telemeter Watches Purpose
Soldiers used telemeter watches during World War II as it allowed them to determine their distance from their target. For example, a soldier would fire missiles and start the chronograph timer. Once the soldier heard the target being hit by the missile, they would stop the timer.
They would then read the telemeter scale of the wristwatch, and the reading would allow the soldier to know the distance they are from the target that was hit. Another instance where the telemeter scale may be used is to measure a lightning storm.
For example, one would start the chronograph once the flash of lighting can be seen and then stop once the sound is heard. The chronograph hand lines up with the telemeter scale, and one would then read the scale and know how far away the storm is.
The Best Telemeter Watches
Now let’s look at the specific telemeter watches.
Omega Speedmaster Chronoscope (ref. 322.214.171.124.03.001)
With all the recent commotion of the Omega MoonSwatch, the Speedmaster Chronoscope is a breath of fresh air because this is a Speedmaster without the hype. This timepiece combines the Speedmaster Moonwatch with Omega Chronographs of the 1940s. Our focus here will be the steel version of the Chronoscope.
The Chronoscope comes in at 43mm in diameter, 13.22mm thick, 48mm lug-to-lug length, and a lug width of 21mm. It wears excellently given the larger dimensions; the lug-to-lug length allows it to be maintainable on the wrist for medium to smaller-sized wrists.
Also, the watch comes in three dial variants in the stainless steel models, a blue dial with silver sub-dials, a silver dial, and a panda configuration (silver dial with black sub-dial layout). The Chronoscope uses a two-register sub-dial layout with a snail dial design in the center.
The movement housed in this timepiece is the Co-Axial Master Chronometer Caliber 9908. It is accurate to between 0 and +5 seconds per day variance, making this the most accurate watch movement on the list.
The only negative is the odd 21mm lug width, as 21mm straps are more difficult to source. Either way, this watch looks best on the stainless steel bracelet that Omega created.
Overall, I feel that Omega has produced a fine timepiece that strays slightly off the path from your standard Speedy watch. The Omega Chronoscope is priced at $8,600 (leather strap) or $9,000 (steel bracelet)
Patek Philippe 175th Anniversary Chronograph (ref. 5975R-001)
Patek Philippe is part of the “Holy Trinity” of watchmaking and arguably the best watchmaker in the world. They are also renowned for their complications, including annual calendars, moon phases, and chronographs.
The particular model we will review is the 175th Anniversary Chronograph in rose gold. Patek produced only 400 models in the rose gold version, making it an extremely sought watch, and even now, it rarely appears on the secondary market.
In terms of case sizing, the Patek is compact for a chronograph with a diameter of 40mm and 10.25mm thick. This means that it is extremely wearable for daily wear and can easily tuck under a tight cuff.
The movement within the 5975R-001 is the caliber 28-520 base. This caliber maintains a power reserve of up to 55 hours. This movement features a column wheel and a flyback function that allows for continuous timing capability.
These features come together uniformly and establish the 5975R-001 as a premium chronograph and appropriate for the 175th anniversary edition timepiece. A critique of this timepiece would be its availability, given that it is an anniversary edition and is limited. Thus, if you intend to purchase this, the secondary market would be your best option.
Longines Telemeter Chronograph (ref. L2.7126.96.36.199)
Longines has an illustrious history dating all the way back to 1832. They were once considered a rival to Rolex before the Quartz Crisis, but times have changed. Nonetheless, this means that Longines has a rich heritage in its archives to refer to. Many of Longines’ recent releases have been stunning, and the Telemeter Chronograph is no different.
The design of the Telemeter timepiece is based on a chronograph watch produced by Longines in 1933. The watch measures a round case of 41mm and houses the Caliber L688, an automatic movement with a column-wheel chronograph. The column wheel within the movement makes this timepiece special, as this typically appears in high-end chronographs.
The Telemeter Chronograph features a sapphire crystal and an exhibition case to view the movement. The timepiece’s dial features a three-register sub-dial layout with a 4:30 date position. The dial is white lacquered with black numerals. The watch features blue steel Breguet hands that exude elegance and finesse.
A few negatives of this watch are the lack of water resistance and the date wheel. This watch is 30m water resistant, which means, at most, you can wear it while washing your hands. The second is subjective; the date wheel is positioned at 4:30 and is awkward.
Tissot Telemeter 1938 Chronograph (ref. T142.462.16.032.00)
Tissot is currently hitting it out of the park with its heritage-inspired pieces, and this includes the Telemeter 1938 Chronograph. This timepiece is exquisite in design. It features a two-register sub-dial layout, measuring running seconds and chronograph minutes.
Two dial variants are available, black with gilt accents and a silver dial with blue hands. The watch is 42mm in diameter, 13.9mm in thickness, and 22mm lug width. The chronograph pushers are ovular in shape. There is no lume on the dial.
Thus, these design elements make it a dressier design. The timepiece features a sapphire crystal and an exhibition case for the wearer to marvel at or show others, as this could be a conversation starter.
The numbers and sizing lean towards a medium to large wrist size. However, I recommend trying on the watch in person before making a decision. The price of the watch is $2,025.00
Oris Big Crown Telemeter Chronograph (ref. 01 674 7569 4064-07 5 21 56)
The Big Crown series of Oris watches was built to be used as pilot military watches. The Telemeter Chronograph within the Big Crown series seems very fitting due to the nature of the telemeter scale and its association with the military.
This is a true tool watch in form and function. Each detail of this watch has a reason for it, from the lume to the plexiglass crystal and more. We will highlight some of the key features below.
The Oris is 43mm in diameter, 21mm lug width, and features an exterior telemeter bezel insert. The crystal is actually a plexi-domed material; this harkens to vintage watches.
I’ll add that plexiglass may scratch easily, but you can buff out scratches with Polywatch and a microfiber cloth. The large crown allows wearers with gloves to access and wind the movement. So, Oris considered a variety of users when creating this timepiece.
Negatives of this Oris timepiece are the odd lug width of 21mm and the lack of water resistance at 3 bar. One would hope that a military field watch could withstand harsh environments and be able to take a beating on the battlefield. The watch is priced at $2,025.00
Eterna 1940 Chronograph Telemeter (ref. 79188.8.131.521)
Eterna has had a significant impact on the watch industry. Without Eterna, there would be no ETA and no Swatch Group dominance within the watch industry. So we should appreciate their existence along with their Chronograph Telemeter timepiece.
This timepiece screams 1940s design and takes the wearer back to when watches were utilitarian tools. The telemeter has a case diameter of 42mm and 14.1mm thickness. It features a sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating, making it less reflective when worn outdoors or under intense lighting.
The Telemeter features large rectangular pushers and a large crown for easy access. There are two variants, one with a black dial and gilt accents and the other with a black dial and silvery white accents.
The movement is unique as it is a flyback chronograph. This means that the user can reset the chronograph timer without stopping it, which is convenient when timing something continuously. In my opinion, this is a beautiful timepiece.
The case is curvaceous, and it wears comfortably on the wrist. However, a couple of critiques are that it may be difficult to find an authorized dealer to try on Eterna watches and the 4:30 date wheel that disrupts the symmetry of the dial.
TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 18 (ref. CAR221A .FC6353)
The Carrera and Monaco are icons of TAG Heuer. But the Carrera Calibre 18 will be in the spotlight here. The Carrera has all the features you would want from TAG Heuer. There is no “TAG” on the dial; the dial features a panda configuration (silvery dial with two grayish sub-dial registers) and multi-faceted lugs associated with the Carrera case.
Also, this watch is extremely wearable compared to the Monaco, which wears large due to the flat case back and slab-like sides. Let’s inspect the details of the Carrera.
The Carrera watch wears svelte with a 39mm case diameter. It features a sapphire crystal for protection. The dial layout is clean and simple with minimal information on the dial. The Carrera features a date wheel at the 6 o’clock position, which can easily be missed, thus maintaining symmetry on this gorgeous yet simple dial.
The watch is 100m water resistant, which is a nice feature to have as it means you can technically swim with it. Overall, this timepiece maintains lovely vintage styling in modern form.
A negative aspect of this Carrera model is that it is discontinued. So, you would have to source this from a third party or secondary market.
Zenith Captain Chronograph (ref. 03.2117.4002/23.C704)
Zenith is known for creating one of the first automatic chronograph movements in 1969, the El Primero. But Zenith is also known for their military pilot watches; we will inspect one of them here.
The Captain Chronograph features a dual-register sub-dial layout. Therefore, unlike the typical three sub-dial layout, it is extremely legible, and the dial is not cluttered. There is plenty of lume on the dial of this Zenith to make it ideal for activities in the skies.
The watch measures 42mm in diameter, 12.5mm in thickness, and 50.2mm lug-to-lug length and features a sapphire crystal and an exhibition case back to view the gorgeous automatic movement.
The winding crown is large for easy gripping, and the chronograph pushers are rectangular with vintage styling. The case of the Zenith is mainly brushed with very little polishing, which is appropriate as this is not a dress watch.
The Zenith features the 4002 caliber movement that allows for approximately 52 hours of power reserve and is a high-beat movement. An interesting aspect of this particular El Primero movement is that the second position of the crown (typically associated with adjusting the time) allows the user to adjust the date.
Junghans Meister Telemeter (ref. 27/3380.02)
Within Junghans, there are two iconic collections, the Max Bill and Meister collection. For this list, we will be looking at the latter collection, specifically the Telemeter chronograph watch.
This modern watch draws inspiration from Junghans’ first telemeter and tachymeter scale chronograph watch created in 1951. The Meister Telemeter is a vintage style yet features a casual enough appearance. It is available in a black dial as well as a silvery white dial variant.
The case of the watch measures 40.8mm in diameter and 12.6mm thick. It comes with the option of a steel bracelet or leather band. I recommend the stainless steel bracelet because it is easier to source a good aftermarket strap than a bracelet.
The watch comes with a domed sapphire crystal and exhibition case back, showing off the nicely decorated movement. The chronograph pushers are ovular in shape. It is also 50m water resistant, which is not bad for a dressier chronograph watch. Having experienced this watch in Asia, photos do not do it justice.
The sapphire crystal is highly domed, and it wears very comfortably on the wrist due to the compact case profile and slimness of the watch. I was tempted to purchase it at the time but held back. The watch retails for €2,290.00
Alpina Alpiner Chronograph (ref. AL-750SG4E6)
Alpina is associated with classically styled sports and tool watches. The Alpiner Chronograph is part of that heritage. The Alpiner Chronograph is similar to the Heuer Carrera mentioned above as it features a silver dial with two grayish sub-dials.
The difference is that the sub-dials here are in a vertical arrangement, thus adding a nice touch to differentiate it from other chronograph watches. The case size is 41mm in diameter, and there is a sapphire crystal protecting the watch dial.
Upon first inspection, it appears that this Alpiner is a two-register sub-dial arrangement; however, it features three sub-dials. The running seconds sub-dial is nicely camouflaged at the 9 o’clock position. There is also a date wheel at the 6 o’clock position.
Despite the layout arrangement, this watch appears symmetrical. Moreover, a great added design element is the pump-style chronograph pushers. This is just tempting the wearer to start the chronograph timer of this timepiece.
Although this watch is discontinued in production, it is possible to source this through the secondary market, given the lack of demand for the brand. But a positive is that it can be bought at a bargain price.
Dan Henry 1939 Military Chronograph
Dan Henry is a well-known watch collector within the community. He set out to create great-looking watches with vintage styling. He also intended these watches to be accessible and affordable to a large audience. One of those timepieces is the 1939 military chronograph.
According to Dan Henry, he wished to pay tribute to chronograph watches of the 1930s because of their beautiful dials, along with the vast amount of information on the dials. Surprisingly, Dan Henry watches offer enough variations in their watch models that will likely suit a lot of people. Let’s inspect the 1939 chronograph in more detail below.
In terms of sizing, the case measures 41mm in diameter, 13.9mm in thickness, and 49.2mm in lug length. The watch features a 22mm lug width, so you can easily swap out the strap for a host of aftermarket options. Thus, this watch wears beautifully and comfortably on the wrist.
The timepiece features a sapphire crystal and is available with two dial color options; chocolate with gilts accents and silver with blue accents. There are two sub-dial registers on the dial. Also, date and no-date options are available for this timepiece, but I am drawn toward symmetry, so I’d recommend the no-date version.
Also, might I add that this is also the most affordable of all the watches discussed today due to it housing a quartz movement manufactured by Miyota. Lastly, the 1939 chronograph is limited in production so get them while you still can. The watch is priced at $270.00
Hanhart Pioneer TachyTele
The Hanhart Pioneer TachyTele has a military history that dates back to 1939. According to Hanhart, the watch’s name comes from the two sets of scales on the dial, the tachymeter (used for measuring speed) and the telemeter.
The Hanhart’s lower chronograph pusher has a distinctive red covering, and this was introduced in 1938 as a warning mechanism to prevent pilots from resetting the stop timer. The red color on the pusher was previously a red lacquer painted over the chronograph pusher, but it is now manufactured out of ceramic/ plastic to ensure longevity.
The Pioneer wears remarkably well, given the case diameter of 40mm and 15mm thick. The watch features a sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating. The dial is available in off-white or black; both colors contrast well and are easily readable.
The ETA 7753 automatic movement is the watch’s heartbeat, with 42 hours of power reserve. This is a good, tried, and tested movement. Overall this is a solid timepiece with excellent build quality, and it will impress the wearer.
I find it difficult to criticize this timepiece as it is a “Swiss Army Knife” given the 100m water resistance, screw-down case back, lumed hands, and numerals, along with a fluted rotating bezel. This is as much of a tool watch as one could buy without many compromises. Pricing of this watch starts at €1,990.00
Poljot Strela Chronograph (ref. OF38CYS)
Many may have not heard of the brand Poljot Strela since the brand comes from Russia. The Poljot Strela Chronograph’s greatest claim to fame is being the first watch to go to space on the 18th of March, 1965, as it was used during the mission.
So this is Russia’s equivalent of the Speedmaster Moonwatch. This was significant at that time because Russia was engaged with the USA in the Cold War and the “Space Race”.
The Poljot Chronograph watch has a case diameter of 38mm, a thickness of 14.8mm, and a lug-to-lug length of 46mm, thus making it a very compact and wearable watch on the wrist. The dial of the watch is white with a two-register sub-dial layout. The dial is unique as it features multiple concentric circle patterns on the main center dial and sub-dials.
The movement contained within the watch is the Poljot manual winding Caliber 3133. The movement can be seen through the exhibition case back. It is nicely decorated with Geneve stripes. The movement features a power reserve of 48 hours, which is decent.
But the magic of manual winding watches is the wearer’s connection with the watch because you need to engage with it by winding it at least every 2 days; otherwise, it will stop.
Although this timepiece is limited to 300 pieces, it is also the most affordable mechanical watch on this list today, coming in at under $900. Several online stores sell this watch from Europe. So, if you are interested in purchasing it, then do some research before taking the “giant leap”.
RGM 455-CE Classic Chronograph Enamel
RGM is an American watchmaking company that was established in 1992 and coincidentally the year of my birth, making us both 31 years of age at the time of this article. Watches of the 1940s inspired the design of the 455 classic chronograph model.
The particular model being highlighted is the enamel version. Enamel is a difficult material to work with, and this tends to result in more failures than successes due to the heat treatment applied to the dial.
However, RGM has performed an outstanding job in their ability to produce the Grand Feu real glass-fired enamel dial. The white enamel dial compliments the steel blue hands. The center of the dial features the snail-like tachymeter scale, adding a subtle touch to this timepiece.
The case size of the watch is 38.2mm and 13.9mm thick. Lug-to-lug length is 47mm, and lug width is 20mm, which ensures plenty of aftermarket strap options. For me, these measurements are the sweet spot, as I prefer watches that are 50mm or under in lug-to-lug length.
According to RGM, the automatic movement is decorated with Cote de Geneve stripes and perlage finishing. But a downside is that this movement is covered by the stainless steel case back. The watch retails for $7,950.00
Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph (ref. MB125581)
The final watch is the Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph. This is arguably the most unique in design and function. As this is a Monopusher chronograph, there is only one pusher on the watch that controls the chronograph timer. The pusher is an extension of the crown.
In addition, the 1858 line of watches is part of the high-end range of the Minerva watch collection from Montblanc. This collection is gaining more attraction, and what better way to start than with their Monopusher Chronograph.
The timepiece has a 42mm case diameter, and the stainless steel case is finished immaculately with satin brushing. The dial features two tones, namely black and cream/ beige color. There are two sub dials on the dial, making it simple and convenient to read from.
This watch features a sapphire dome crystal that shows off the vintage style. The timepiece features lume on the handset and numerals. The Monopusher is also 100m water resistant. In my opinion, these features help to make this timepiece a great GADA watch (Go Anywhere Do Anything).
A negative of this watch is the branding; Montblanc watches are not that popular. But this means discounts can be obtained on their timepieces. This Monopusher Chronograph sells for $5,400.00
In conclusion, watches with telemeter scales are not exactly a new or groundbreaking technology. Those who appreciate the chronograph complication along with the scale will likely do so for aesthetic reasons. The watches listed above are not intended to be a full guide of telemeter scale watches.
But they are a gateway into telemeter timepieces. And to end on a quirky note, John F. Kennedy once stated that “we must use time as a tool, not as a couch”, and so a reminder that watches are made to be used as tools.