The first time that I can remember seeing a watch from Carl F. Bucherer is relatively recently in the history of the company – it was at an event in New York, in 2008, for the launch of the CFB A1000 movement, which was, at the time, the very first series-produced peripheral rotor movement. The peripheral rotor offers a number of advantages over a conventional full-diameter winding rotor, including a flatter movement as well as a better view of the movement (on the assumption that there is something worth looking at, which was and is certainly the case with the CFB A1000).
Since then, the company has gone on to introduce a number of new calibers and at the high end. Probably its most interesting launch in recent years was the Tourbillon Double Peripheral, which is a sort of mystery tourbillon with a peripheral winding system, combined with a peripherally driven tourbillon cage. Although its complications, and the variations on the peripheral winding system, are of course always major news (the Patravi Travel-Tec is, to this day, one of my favorite multi-time zone chronographs, albeit owning any multi-time zone watch these days is more of an exercise in faith in the future than anything else), the company also specializes in producing robust, very approachably priced diver’s watches, daily wear timepieces, and small complications, including a very nice, (well) under-$ 10,000 annual calendar chronograph, which is nothing to sneeze at. One of its most popular releases in the last couple of years has been the Manero Flyback Chronograph, which the company has just announced with a new, deep blue dial.
The Manero Flyback Chronograph is a fairly large timepiece that sits pretty fairly astride the dress and sports chronograph divide. While its robust, 43mm x 14.5mm case speaks to a willingness to go beyond the confines of the boardroom, the overall styling of the watch is on the conservative side, and the two-register configuration keeps the general look of the watch from edging into clumsy or cumbersome.
The watch has relatively short lugs, which curve down fairly sharply, and this also helps keep the watch feeling comfortably snug on the wrist. If you want to cut the perceived bulk down a bit further, you can have the watch on a woven blue strap, but if you prefer a matching bracelet, Carl F. Bucherer provides a very handsome one. It’s a nine-link design, and while it does add mass, it’s also quite supple thanks to the small sizes of the links and its overall flexibility (in general, I’m a fan of the conventional wisdom that, if possible, you should get a watch with a bracelet if you can, unless there’s something about the bracelet that’s a deal-breaker – which is certainly not the case here). The bracelet gives the same impression of unostentatious high-quality as the rest of the watch – crisp edges, even and well-executed finishing, and an air of quiet reliability and solidity.
While Carl F. Bucherer is rightly highly regarded for its technically advanced in-house calibers, it also enthusiastically embraces the notion of using modified supplied movements in order to enable it to reach a wider audience at a less stratospheric price point (after all, building a brand exclusively on exotic tourbillons can be a very tricky business, with a necessary reliance on a rather narrow and generally pretty fickle audience). The Manero Flyback Chronograph uses the caliber CFB 1970, which is an ETA 7750 base, but with a column wheel substituted for the cam and lever system in the basic movement, and with flyback functionality added. The 7750 is as reliable and tough a movement as you could ask for. Since the first version, designed by Edmond Capt, reached customers in 1973, it has gone on to be, I am reasonably sure, the most widely produced automatic chronograph movement of all time, and moreover, in a huge range of different versions, forming the basis of everything from affordable tool watches all the way up to bona fide grand complications.
Of course, the major talking point for the latest version of the Manero Flyback Chronograph is the blue dial, which adds quite a lot of zing to the watch. I’ve seen the Manero Flyback Chronograph in a couple of different versions in the past, including one with a grey-blue dial (there are, in addition to the new model, five basic variations of the watch, with two in steel and three in gold, at $ 6,200 and $ 16,900 respectively), and while I certainly wouldn’t call them dour, the collection benefits from an additional splash of unapologetic color. The quality of the dial and hands in the Manero Flyback Chronographs is always impressive, and the new blue-dial model is no exception.
As I’ve said before with respect to these offerings from Carl F. Bucherer, this is the sort of watchmaking which used to be the mainstay of Swiss watchmaking before the Quartz Crisis – a reliable, time-tested movement, often modified to a particular specification, matched with high quality casework and dial work, and presented at a sensible price which, while it reflects the value added, also acknowledges the importance of providing value to the consumer. We have given the game away a little bit by mentioning the price for existing models already, but the news on that front is still good as nothing’s changed for the new model – $ 6,200 on a strap, $ 6,600 on a bracelet.
Given the additional complexity created by the flyback function, you might expect flyback chronographs around this price point to be a little thin on the ground, and you’d be right. Alpina and Frederique Constant have one which comes in at $ 4,295 and which uses a flyback chronograph module on the base movement, caliber FC 710 (both the base caliber and the flyback chronograph module are in-house). Another in the same approximate bracket is the Sinn 910 SRS, which James Stacey wrote up for us when it launched at Baselworld 2018, and which has a movement which is similar to the one in the Manero Flyback Chronograph – an ETA 7750, but modified to use a column wheel; the 910 SRS on a leather strap is $ 3,960. Which one of these three you’d prefer comes down to, as usual, price sensitivity on the one hand and personal preference on the other. The Sinn offers the best price along with an attractive, stripped-down tool-watch aesthetic; the FC (in the most recent version) a clean, mid-century-influenced design along with an in-house, albeit modular, movement; the Manero Flyback Chronograph offers the highest level of finish over all, with its edge in this respect being most notable in the dial, dial furniture, and hands (as well as the more complex domed sapphire crystal).
While the Manero Flyback Chronograph is certainly no slouch technically, it’s really the aesthetic that won me over. I know blue dials are having a bit of a moment (or maybe several moments, one should say, as the trend has been going on for a while now), but a watch is nothing if not the sum, and hopefully greater than the sum, of its parts, and I think the addition of something a little bolder, brighter, and blue-er makes the Manero Flyback Chronograph a watch with some real punch on the wrist, as well as adding a nice counterpoint to the more conservative design language elsewhere. I mentioned earlier that I’d tend to buy any new watch on a bracelet if available, but I think I’d be apt to actually wear this watch on the strap. It’s not just about the mass – in blue-on-blue, it’s a watch that asks to be picked up, put on, and taken out not just on the town, but maybe, and hopefully soon, up in the wild blue yonder as well.
For more on watchmaking at Carl F. Bucherer, check out our Inside The Manufacture story from 2019.
The Carl F. Bucherer Manero Flyback Chronograph, blue dial: case, stainless steel, 43mm x 14.5mm, sapphire crystals front and back; water resistance 3 bar/30 meters. Movement, caliber CFB 1970, 30.4mm x 7.9mm, two-register automatic chronograph with flyback function, column wheel controlled; frequency, 28,800 vph, running in 25 jewels with a 42-hour power reserve. Price, $ 6,200 on blue fabric strap, $ 6,600 on a bracelet. Available through Tourneau, starting in mid-August. See the Manero Flyback Collection at Carl-F-Bucherer.com.