Before we take a look at some regulator watches, let’s first explain what a regulator watch actually is. Back in the day, watchmakers would have a master clock against which all timepieces were set. It had hour and minute hands on different axes, thus allowing the most accurate time readout at any moment and enabling the setting or regulation of any watch in the workshop at any given point. Watchmakers were able to see both hands, giving them an optimal readout of the actual time.
Similar to these watchmaker clocks, a regulator watch also features the hour and minute hand on separate axes and (sub)dials. This way, you can always read the exact time displayed at any given time as the hands will almost never be at the same position (except for 2 times a day at 12 o’clock). Thus, they will hardly ever cover each other unlike regular watches where the hour and minute hands fully cover each other every single hour.
Chronoswiss are famous for their regulator models, both from back in the 90s and their latest models with subdials at different levels. In 1987, the company was the first to create a regulator wristwatch series. They still have several versions of the Regulateur available including a modern interpretation the so-called Flying Regulator, which features a central minute hand, a seconds display at 6 o’clock, and an hour indicator at 12 o’clock. As mentioned, their latest model features a raised seconds and hour track, giving the dial a great depth of field. Over the years, the movement hasn’t changed much from the original regulator.
In essence, there have only been a few small changes to the design: The bezel was changed from ‘coined’ to smooth, and the dial with different levels are the biggest visible changes. Cased in a modest 40-mm case, the Chronoswiss is amongst the smaller cases nowadays; yet in my book, this is the perfect size for a men’s watch.
Chopard L.U.C. Regulator
The Chopard L.U.C. Regulator comes in as a multiple register watch, featuring a central minute hand. The power reserve indicator is located at the 12 o’clock position and seconds are visible on the lower part of the dial. On the left side, you will find a GMT-hand and at 3 o’clock, you will find the actual hours displayed. In between the 4 and 5 o’clock markers, there is a small date window. All together, this is quite a functional watch with a hand-wound, in-house mechanical movement. With a 43-mm case, it’s not the smallest watch on the market, but plenty of watch enthusiasts will like these dimensions.
Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde
Unlike the above-mentioned watches in this article, the Jaquet Droz features completely decentralized hands and has two subdials that intervene in the center of the dial. The rather traditional hour and minute display has been moved up so the bottom of the display hits the center of the dial. The second display is a bit larger and overlaps the hour and minutes at the 4 and 8 o’clock positions. The watch is available in various case and dial materials. Cases range from steel to precious metals, and dials from enamel to mother of pearl and striped finishing.
This timepiece is available in many other configurations, including a central dead-beat seconds hand, large date, retrograde and other complications. The Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde comes in case sizes up to 44 mm, depending on the model and complication.
Another regulator style watch is the Patek Philippe 5235 in white gold, which features an annual calendar with day, date, and month displayed at the 6 o’clock position and just above 10 and 2 o’clock. As with other regulator models, there is a central minute hand, small hour display at the top of the dial, and a second hand at the bottom. This annual calendar regulator comes with an automatic movement with a micro rotor and has a power reserve of approximately 60 hours. All is cased in a 40.5-mm case made of white gold which comes on a fine alligator strap with square scales.
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