Recently after posting a picture on our instagram profile of a beautiful Girard Perregaux I was asked ‘what is a rattrapante chronograph’. Reason being that a lovely customer of ours who owns this special watch had sent me a picture to show off his new strap that he acquired from us, a lovely Ostrich Honey Brown strap. His watch is pretty special (a small ltd run for Ferrari) and I’m sure you’ll agree it looks divine on our ostrich shin strap.
So what is a Rattrapante, or split second timer as it’s also often referred. Simply it’s a type of chronograph that lets you time two intervals instead of only one. A chronograph as we know it is nothing more than a stopwatch as seen on many famous watches. As you will see on our customers watch here, there are two second hands, that’s how you can spot a Rattrapante from a normal chrono. When you start the chrono you will see that the hands move together, you can not distinguish that there are two. If you were to time a race (its main purpose) you would start the chrono as per normal but to track the time of two runners/drivers you’d have trouble once the first crossed the line because you would have stopped the timer. In the case of a Rattrapante you can measure both elapsed times. Once the first runner or driver crosses the finish line you press the split button (likely bottom left on our customers watch) and then you continue to track the second runner/drivers time to finish. This allows you to read both the first and second times.
Whilst all of this sounds rather simple, it’s actually rather complex and considered a very good complication. Aligning the two hands in themselves is a rather complicated procedure. In addition to this the mechanism that lets the hands split and rejoin on split takes power from the mainspring of the watch and has to be made precisely and delicately not to upset accuracy. A. Lange & Sohne are masters of this, take the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar as an example, this is mind boggling stuff and has to be seen to be appreciated. Check out the video in the link above to see just how complex this is.
It’s pretty rare to see a Rattrapante and this is the first customer I’ve had to own one or at least share with me! They’re not cheap. That A.Lange & Sohne’s for example are £100k+, so not in the realms of mere mortals like myself.