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rattrapante chronograph

What is a Rattrapante Chronograph and How Does it Work?

The rattrapante chronograph refers to a split-seconds chronograph that measures two separate events at the same time. Explore more here!
May 06, 2024

Arattrapante chronograph, also known as a split-seconds chronograph, is a type of mechanical watch that allows for the measurement of two separate events that start simultaneously but have different durations. The term “rattrapante” is derived from the French word “rattraper,” which means to catch up or to recover.

What is Exactly Rattrapante Chronograph?

The rattrapante, which roughly translates from French to “catch up,” is a chronograph movement with an additional seconds hand for the chronograph function superimposed over the normal second’s hand and an additional pusher.

Rattrapante chronographs are considered to be one of the most complex and difficult watch complications to manufacture, which is why they are often found in high-end luxury watches. The intricate mechanism requires precise engineering and assembly, and the additional components make the movement more complex and difficult to service.

In addition to the technical challenges, rattrapante chronographs require a significant amount of skill to operate. Unlike a regular chronograph, which only requires the user to start and stop the stopwatch function, a rattrapante chronograph requires the user to use the split-second function as well.

Rattrapante chronographs are often used in sports timing, especially in events where there are multiple competitors that need to be timed separately. For example, in a track and field race with multiple runners, a rattrapante chronograph can be used to time each runner separately, even if they cross the finish line at different times.

Rattrapante chronographs can also be useful in other applications where the timing of multiple events is required, such as in scientific experiments, industrial processes, or even cooking. For example, in a scientific experiment, a rattrapante chronograph can be used to time the duration of two different reactions that occur simultaneously.

How Does Rattrapante Chronograph Work?

A rattrapante chronograph has two seconds of hands that are superimposed on each other when the chronograph is not in use. When the user starts the chronograph, both hands begin to move together, measuring the elapsed time. 

However, by pressing a button, the second hand on the top can be stopped while the second hand on the bottom continues to move. This allows the user to record the time of the first event while the second event continues to be timed.

If the user wants to resume timing the second event, they can press the same button again, and the top second hand will catch up with the bottom second hand, and both will continue to move together. This catching-up mechanism is what gives the rattrapante chronograph its name.

Read also: Jumping Seconds Watches: A Brief into Iconic Complication

Recommendations of Rattrapante Chronograph

As mentioned before, the rattrapante chronograph is different from the common chronographs. As a result, not many brands can produce this type of watch, especially considering that it falls under luxury collections.

Below are some recommendations that make the best rattrapante chronograph.

IWC Portugieser Rattrapante Chronograph

 IWC introduced its first rattrapante chronograph to the Portugieser collection in 1995 when Richard Habring developed a split-seconds module for the iconic Valjoux 7750 movement. 

It uses a push-button at 10 o’clock to control the movement of the upper hand, while the lower hand is managed by the pusher at 2 o’clock. More recently, IWC released the Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Ceratanium in the lead-up to SIHH 2019.

Patek Philippe Ref. 5372P Grand Complication

The Patek Philippe Ref. 5372P Grand Complication in platinum was an evolutive release for the legendary independent watchmaking firm when it was announced in 2017. 

It represented the next phase of the brand’s iconic range of split-seconds chronographs, last updated in 2012 with the contemporary classic Ref. 5204. The 5372P maintains the complementary perpetual calendar functionality while heightening the complexity of the rattrapante mechanism by making it into a monopusher. 

The layout of the dial is transformed as well with the chronograph counters at 3 and 9 o’clock flanked by apertures showing the month and day of the week, respectively.

Breitling Navitimer B03 Rattrapante Chronograph

Breitling introduced its Navitimer 1 B03 Rattrapante 45, outfitted with the brand’s first in-house split-seconds chronograph movement, in 2017. At 2018’s Breitling Summit in London, the brand unveiled a new limited version with a “Stratos Gray” dial, available for sale exclusively at the brand’s 70 boutiques worldwide.

The split-seconds pusher is embedded in the 3 o’clock crown. Caliber B03’s modular architecture is built upon the base Caliber B01, Breitling’s first manufacture movement, which is equipped with automatic winding, date indication, an integrated 1/4-second chronograph function, and a 70-hour power reserve.

The split-seconds module added to this high-performance horological engine is comprised of only 28 parts and is fitted between the main plate and calendar mechanism.


A rattrapante chronograph is a sophisticated mechanical watch that allows for the measurement of two separate events that start simultaneously but have different durations. 

The intricate mechanism and difficult operation make it a desirable feature in high-end luxury watches, and its applications in sports timing, scientific experiments, and industrial processes make it a valuable tool in various fields.

You might also like: Watch 101: Instant Time Reading with the Jumping Hour Watch

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