Graham Chronofighter Superlight Carbon Skeleton – Red
The Graham Chronofighter Superlight Carbon Skeleton – Red showcases the Swiss marque’s impressive capacity for innovation and bold aesthetics. Mark McArthur-Christie shares his thoughts about this eye-popping creation from La Chaux-de-Fonds
Watchmaking, and Swiss watchmaking in particular, has a reputation for being a little over-serious, perhaps, even, for being a tad pompous. It’s certainly not deserved. It could be because Swiss humour is subtle enough to go almost unnoticed or because it can be obscured by the serious engineering behind the ‘joke’. Just look at the Moser & Cie Swiss Alp Minute Repeater. No hands and no dial – just a repeater mechanism and a visible tourbillon. Slide the lever on the right flank of the case to hear the time chime. All designed to look remarkably like (and quietly take the rise out of the blizzard of functions, bleeps and bongs on) a well-known wrist computer.
At the other end of the subtlety scale sit Graham watches. They put together some impressive technology – particularly around case making – but they don’t take themselves too seriously. Look at the Graham Emergency Gold, a watch with a 1g gold ingot embedded in the dial and its bezel-mounted instruction to ‘Break glass in case of emergency’.
Or how about the Graham Chronofighter Superlight Carbon Skeleton – Red (try saying that after a couple of glasses of Kirsch) as an example. This is in no sense a subtle watch. It will not slip quietly unnoticed under one’s cuff or anywhere else – but that’s not why you’d buy a Graham.
For a start, it’s 47mm (more with the crown and crownguard) in diameter. Then there’s the colour. It’s channelling Darth Maul, with its red-dyed epoxy resin and black carbon fibre case. But there’s serious casemaking going on here. The dyed epoxy resin has metal fibres moulded into it as well as an anti-UV additive to make sure it doesn’t fade. Together, the resin and the fibre inclusions make for a striking case – and no two will be identical.
In contrast to the red case are the black carbon fibre strap buckle and bezel. These are made from 3k carbon fibre. It’s worth a look at what that means… Pretty much everyone knows about carbon fibre being light and strong, but it comes in different weaves, depending on the thinness of the individual carbon filaments and how they’re put together to make the carbon ‘mat’. Getting the right balance between thinness and strength matters. 3k is ideal for the sort of rigidity these parts need, but won’t add much weight. In fact, the whole watch weighs in at less than 100g.
The trademark Graham start/stop trigger for the chronograph on the 9 o’clock side of the case is also carbon, moulded from the same 3k fibre. It’s all a very long evolution from its utility, pressed metal origin. The Graham chrono trigger design, as so often in watchmaking, originally had a very practical purpose.
It’s a feature borrowed from WW2 bomb-aiming technology, specifically from aircraft bomb timers. These were specialised, single-function chronographs, but with flyback and counter-motion works. The large, case-side trigger was designed to make it easy for the bomb-aimer to use whilst wearing gloves in the finger-numbing cold of unheated planes operating at high altitude.
Hamiton, Elgin and Zenith manufactured timers, but the Graham-style trigger came from a bomb timer made for the Italian Aeronautica Militare by Universal Genève. Often shown nowadays as a wrist-timer with a riveted leather strap, the ‘lugs’ of the device were intended to secure it to the bombsight itself.
This obscure piece of watchmaking has now become the Graham trademark, particularly for the Chronofighter range. You start and stop the watch with the carbon trigger, then reset it with the pusher just above it. So, you get an epoxy case with a carbon fibre trigger that’s influenced by an obscure piece of military technology from 80 years ago.
Inside the case and controlled by that same trigger is a Graham G1790 movement. Other Chronofighters have used the G1747, a movement evolved for them from the bulletproof Valjoux 7750 by La Joux Perret. The G1790 has a different configuration (interestingly, fitted inverted to the Silverstone RS – although no trigger this time) and is skeletonised.
The G1790 is a 28,800 vph movement running in 29 jewelled bearings and with a 48 hour power reserve. It gives you a 30-minute chronograph as well as a subsidiary seconds but no date. Like the case, the movement is pretty striking with contrasting black and rhodium plated bridges fixed with polished display screws. There’s hand-drawn decoration too and Graham has applied the same finish to the winding weight.
Despite competing with a lot of visual interest from the skeletonised movement, case and three red chrono and second hands, the time stands out clearly. Two Super-LumiNova spade hands give you hours and minutes and they’re surprisingly easy to see at a glance.
The black rubber strap is integrated into the line of the case and picks up the same hobnail texture as the reset pusher. Echoing the trigger and bezel, the strap buckle is, once again, carbon fibre.
All in all, the Superlight is classic Graham – it’s unapologetically different from anything else out there, completely unsubtle and not taking itself over-seriously. That doesn’t, in any sense, mean it’s frivolous though; it’s proper watchmaking with a robust, reliable movement and some striking and innovative casemaking.
- Model: Graham Chronofighter Superlight Carbon Skeleton – Red
- Reference: 2CCCK.B41A
- Case: Superlight tinted case; Epoxy resin with red dye and metallised carbon fibres (bronze tinted metallization for more contrast); anti-UV additive, black carbon patented fast-action start/stop trigger (3K carbon frame); black rubber reset pusher with “Clous de Paris” high grip decoration; diameter 47.00 mm; water resistance 10ATM (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front and exhibition caseback
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; chronograph
- Movement: Calibre G1790; self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 29 jewels; power reserve 48 hours
- Strap: Integrated black rubber strap with black carbon pin buckle
- Price: £8950 (RRP as at 29.6.2020)