Graham Chronofighter RAC ¶
I’ve written about Graham watches in the blog before. It’s an interesting brand that has its roots in classical English watchmaking (though nowadays everything is made in Switzerland). What I have here is the prototypical Graham Chronofighter RAC, a classic design that, along with the Swordfish, has come to define the Graham style. While most people are familiar with the Oversize series of gigantic watches, not that many are aware of Graham’s more modestly sized offerings. While the Oversize is a sport watch that will dominate the wrist, the classic Chronofighter is an elegant, distinctly English design that straddles the line between classic and sport.
The Chronofighter uses Graham’s signature chronograph trigger mechanism and left-hand controls. The idea behind this layout is to make it easier for use by pilots – the reversed controls and trigger start-stop allow you to use your right thumb to activate the chronograph while wearing bulky gloves. Supposedly using your thumb is more precise and natural than using your index finger on fiddly, small pump pushers. And it works - the extra leverage of the trigger give the action a light, positive feel and the controls fall to hand naturally. And it looks cool; the end result looks like a piece of solidly built military hardware from the 1930s or 40s.
The Chronofighter, in classic guise like we have here, harkens back to a bygone era… that never really existed. I see it like a more modern steampunk design. Instead of being Victorian, it’s a quasi-1940s aesthetic that doesn’t look like anything of that era, but would not look out of place in that setting. It has a finely finished case with polished mechanical details and swoopy curves that don’t appear vintage or modern, but somehow looks like something in-between. It’s a style that looks like it is from a past era that exists only in the imagination of the designer. I really like it, much more so than the “modern” Chronofighter designs with their simplified trigger assemblies.
While not the Oversized, this Chronofighter is still a sizeable watch. Clocking in around 43mm, and with a substantial thickness, it wears very nicely – big enough for modern taste, but not too big. The trigger assembly adds quite a bit of bulk to the design as well (in a good way). It’s a good thing they reversed the controls, as otherwise the trigger would be constantly digging into your wrist. Left-handed users might be tempted by the layout but really this is a watch designed for wear by right-handed folks, much like a U-Boat.
As with all Grahams, the finishing is impeccable. The trigger assembly is a work of art, and activates the chrono through a pusher in the centre of the crown. The dial and case are flawless. The strap is vintage-look brown leather that matches the dial. The design isn’t that complex, but it is very well executed.
The movement is a modified Valjoux calibre with a bicompax (two side-by-side subdials) layout. In addition to upgraded finishing and a chronometer certificate, Graham adds a column wheel mechanism to the movement. This gives the ubiquitous Valjoux a higher-end feel, with controls that are comparable to an in-house chronograph calibre. The pushers are lighter and engage with a satisfying click, which is noticeably better than a standard Valjoux calibre. Unfortunately this model has a closed caseback, so you can’t admire the fine workmanship inside. Having handled some exhibition caseback Grahams I can tell you their movements are as beautifully finished as the rest of the watch, and the column wheel modification sets them apart from any other company that uses the 775X calibre. When you have looked at hundreds of 7750s over the years, seeing one with a column wheel mechanism is a pleasant surprise and shows the attention to detail that Graham puts into their watches, even where it isn’t visible.
The dial is a matte black finish with applied luminescent markers with “aged” luminescent compound to give the watch a vintage look. Lately this has been all the rage among manufacturers making retro hommages with faux-patina dials, ala Bell & Ross Heritage. The 12 and 6 are highlighted with large Arabic numerals, a signature of Graham designs. The hands are classic pointed-batons, with fine blued subdial hands. The subdials are finished in a silver circular graining that adds a nice contrast to the flat black finish of the rest of the dial. This combination is no longer available from Graham having been replaced by the Chronofighter Fortress, which takes the aged look a step further with a heavily weathered strap and dial.
So the Chronofighter RAC is a retro looking watch from an era that never existed, a cool anachronism that gives it a totally distinctive look. The size and presence is that of a sport watch, but the details are pure classic engineering, like the engine bay of a classic British sportscar. It inspires visions of leather-clad pilots flying Spitfires and Hurricanes across sunny skies over a rolling green countryside – that’s where I picture the Chronofighter being most at home.
If you have any questions about our Graham or any other watch we carry, feel free to call me at 514 845 8878 or visit our contact page.