The quintessential complicated timepiece to have in your collection is indeed a nice mechanical chronograph. This is something that many collectors can agree on when considering a timepiece. The idea of a split-second chronograph however, takes the complication even further. For today’s “Complication Talk,” let’s look at this true mechanical timekeeping innovation while understanding its purpose. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a highly complex piece of timekeeping machinery? It’s what we live for as collectors and educating ourselves is half the fun.


We can trace the origins of the split second or rattrapante back to a few pocket watches in the 1880s. Patek Philippe then incorporated it into a wristwatch back in 1923. That was the first known example and the complication made its way into the history books forever. Manufacturers like Venus and Valjoux then started producing the movements in larger numbers. As a result, we find several examples in dash timers and racing watches of the past. Today, the rattrapante  can be considered the absolute pinnacle variant of a mechanical chronograph. Collectibility has skyrocketed and brands are now producing a range of modern editions due to their popularity.


A split second chronograph is used to track multiple lap times at once. After engaging the chronograph, an additional pusher activates the secondary central seconds hand. This is a process explained in the video here with the Patek 5004. You can then reset the secondary seconds hand to catch up to the first with this same pusher. Now, because of this complexity, brands are incorporating it into their high complication watches. A great example is Breitling’s new for 2017 Navitimer Rattrapante.

If this all sounds complex, that’s because it is. There’s beauty in complexity and it’s what draws us to these watches in the first place. Additionally, a split second chronograph adds variety to your collection even if you do own several chronographs. As an aside, keep in mind that these are also slightly more difficult to service later on. Ownership cost is something to consider with any complicated timepiece. As usual, Gray and Sons specializes in this kind of servicing and can help you keep your timepiece running for decades.

Buying a Split Seconds Chronograph

Gray & Sons offers a wide selection of high-end mechanical timepieces. In addition to the Patek Philippe 5004, we have also carried a range of grand complications with built-in rattrapante  features. If you’re looking to add a timepiece like this to your collection, be sure to visit or stop by our showroom for a quality, personalized experience.