You know what a regular chronograph is—but what is a flyback chronograph, and what makes it unique?
A flyback is a chronograph function that allows you to “fly back” to zero and restart the timer with the push of a button, even while the chronograph is running.
This post will explain in detail how this complication works and how you can use it. We will also delve into the history of flyback chronographs and some of the best flybacks on the market.
What is a Flyback Chronograph?
A flyback chronograph is a specific type of chronograph that can be reset while the chronograph is running.
A traditional chronograph must first be stopped before resetting it.
How Does a Flyback Chronograph Work?
If you were to try and stop a standard chronograph while it was running, you would risk damaging the movement.
But flyback chronographs feature a separate lever that makes it possible to reset it while it runs without the risk of damage.
How to Reset a Flyback Chronograph?
If you want to reset a flyback chronograph, all you have to do is push the reset button. You can do this while the chronograph is running.
This is faster and easier than the three button pushes (stop, reset, restart) you would have to do with a regular chronograph.
Flyback Chronographs vs. Regular Chronographs
On a regular chronograph…
- Pushing the reset while the chronograph is running will have no effect.
- If the chronograph were to restart while running, it might damage the watch’s movement.
If you have a flyback chronograph …
- Pushing reset when the chronograph is running will reset it to zero. It will automatically continue running.
- Resetting it while the chronograph is running will not damage the movement.
Are Flyback Chronographs More Expensive Than Regular Chronographs?
Typically, yes, flyback chronographs often cost more than standard chronographs due to their added complexity.
Benefits of a Flyback Chronograph
- Easier and quicker to reset
- Can be reset while the chronograph is running
- Will continue to run after resetting
The original purpose of flyback chronographs was to assist pilots. In the early days of aviation, pilots relied on watches to help with navigation. Pushing three different buttons to start, stop, and then reset a chronograph was often a significant inconvenience.
With a flyback chronograph, a pilot could push one. This made it easier to juggle everything going on in the cockpit. Naturally, flyback chronographs became especially important for military pilots.
Flyback chronographs have applications outside the cockpit as well. Racecar drivers, doctors, and other professionals have put them to good use.
What Was the First Flyback Chronograph?
The first flyback chronograph ever invented is the Longines 13.33Zs released in 1929. Even rarer at the time, the 13.33Zs featured a two-pusher flyback, while most chronographs only had one.
Best Flyback Chronographs
Now you are clear on the rather complex history of the flyback chronograph. What are some of the best and most exciting flyback chronographs you can collect? Below, we will introduce you to some of our favorites, including both vintage and modern examples.
1. 1960s Omega Chronostop Genève
The Omega Chronostop is a classic racing watch featuring just a single pusher, and no subdials, unlike many modern chronographs. Instead, the chronograph was used to track the laps on a race track for up to 60 seconds before resetting it using the flyback to time the next lap. Typically, these vintage flybacks sell for anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000.
2. A. Lange & Söhne 1815
This modern flyback chronograph by A. Lange & Söhne seeks to unite new and old with cutting-edge technology in a classic design. You will notice the minute track has an extra scale surrounding it to get an accurate reading within a fifth of a second and a pulsometer scale, making it a great choice for medical professionals taking a pulse.
The materials are no short of luxury, either. The black dial is solid silver, and the case uses 18-carat gold.
3. Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Ref. 5905
For a stunning watch that combines the functionality of an annual calendar with a flyback chronograph, turn to Patek Philippe. There are two versions of this watch. The first is the 5905R-001 in rose gold with a brown sunburst dial. The annual calendar watch is so accurate it only needs to be reset once per year – a horological masterpiece.
4. Seiko Monaco 7016
The Seiko Monaco 7016 is a watch with a rich history. It stands out with its rectangular, Tag-Hueur Monaco looking-shape. It is a favorite among collectors for its unique design and, perhaps most impressively, it’s ultra-thin 6.4mm. This would be impressive for any mechanical watch, but to shove a full-featured flyback in this slender movement? *Chef’s kiss*
We have seen these watches priced anywhere from $500 to $2,000 and beyond.
5. Frederique Constant Manufacture Classic Flyback
If you don’t have $10,000+ to spend, but want a Swiss timepiece with a touch of Haute horology in its design, turn to Frederique Constant. The Manufacture is a Swiss-manufactured watch containing the FC-760 movement and a patented star wheel.
While not cheap, this is an excellent mid-range option for someone looking for a modern flyback and a decent value.
6. 1969 Longines Super Water-Resistant Diver Flyback Chronograph
If vintage pieces intrigue you, why not start with the brand that invented the flyback? With a name that’s a little too on the nose, the Longines Super Water-Resistant has an accuracy of up to a tenth of a second, fantastic readability, and a Vernier graduated scale. Its roots tie back to the original 1936 flyback, and it has a generous water resistance of 650 feet, although you’ll want to get any vintage watch pressure tested before taking it into the water.
Unlike traditional chronographs, the flyback can quickly be reset while the chronograph is running. This lets you reset the chronograph quicker and easier, making it a great advantage to pilots, especially in the military and racecar drivers.
Today, it’s a functional and fun piece of horological history and innovation.
We hope this article helped break down the flyback, what it is, how it works, and some of the best you can find in every price range.