At Baselworld 2016, Graham Chronofighter Vintage celebrated the 15th anniversary of its Chronofighter model with the release of four ‘vintage’ models. On my return to the UK I was offered the opportunity to ‘get hands-on’ with a version of my choosing. I immediately gravitated to a model featuring a captivating blue dial, with coordinating leather strap, and very soon the timepiece was temporarily mine.
This ‘Vintage’ timepiece was inspired by the stopwatches once used by RAF flying officers during World War II. These watches, effectively pocket watches strapped to the sleeve of a bomber jacket, were vital when carrying out flying sorties, especially at night.
While operating at high altitudes, in non-pressurised cockpits, the pilots and their timepieces were exposed to freezing temperatures and their watches had to be tough to survive this hostile working environment. Therefore, both precision and reliability are two prerequisites for aviators’ watches.
As well as wearing the now iconic leather Irvin flying jackets, lined with sheepskin, the flying officers also wore thick gloves, keen to stave off biting temperatures. However, in the confines of the cockpit, the gloves inhibited free movement of fingers, hence a thumb operated trigger proved the optimal ergonomic solution.
Eric Loth, the founder of Graham, an engineer and physicist by trade, spoke to medical professionals and learned that the thumb is the fastest acting finger. Moreover, the thumb can move independently of other fingers. With this in mind and inspired by military aviation of yesteryear, he conceived the unusual trigger device which adorns the left hand flank of the Chronofighter’s case. In order to accurately measure elapsed time, it is critical that the time taken from observing an event to the moment the chronograph is actuated is kept to an absolute minimum. Equally, the same applies when the elapsed interval has passed and the wearer needs to stop the chronograph. The trigger design of the Graham Chronofighter Vintage mitigates this ‘human factor’, proving intuitive to use, courtesy of its ergonomic interface with the right thumb.
Graham has not plagiarised the designs of other horological marques but conceived its own very distinctive and, in my opinion, handsome timepiece.
The dial lucidly converses with the wearer and the trigger is user-friendly, bestowing a superb tactile interface with the watch. Moreover, the trigger mitigates the time the wearer spends thinking about actuating the chronograph, or conversely, halting the stopwatch function.
The timepiece proved to be a stylish horological companion during its time in my possession. Its prepossessing blue colour-scheme proved ideal for pairing with jeans and casual shirts. Moreover, the watch evoked optimistic thoughts of blue skies on a summer’s day, a fitting notion for a pilot’s watch. The trigger, Graham’s ingenious idea, shows a notable dose of blue-sky thinking. Indeed, perhaps we should rename Eric Loth, ‘Mr Blue Sky’.