What is a Flyback Chronograph?

Article By: Logan Hannen

Aug 15, 2018

What is up, watchfam?! Today, we’re going to dive into one of the most intriguing chronograph complications – the flyback.

First, let’s define a flyback function – essentially, it is a chronograph that doesn’t require the chronograph be stopped in order to reset it back to zero and, in so doing, it will start immediately again.

Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture
Source: aBlogtoWatch

Picture if you will your traditional chronograph watch (you don’t actually have to picture it; you can just look at the above photo). You’ve got the pusher located above the crown, and the pusher located below the crown. Now, traditionally, you push the top pusher to engage the chronograph, and then to stop the chronograph you push the top pusher again, and then the bottom pusher to reset it back to zero. In a flyback, what you would do instead is press the top button to engage the chronograph and then, when you want to time another even, simply push the bottom pusher to reset the chronograph seconds hand immediately back to zero and then, on its own, it will instantly begin to time the next event. To stop it and keep it stopped, you simply follow the standard method of chronograph operation.

Alpina In-House Flyback Chronograph
Source: Salon QP

Now, I can hear you all asking: “That’s great, but why on Earth would I need one of those?” Well, originally, this modification to the traditional chronograph function was designed for World War II pilots who needed to time not only practice flights and things of the like, but also precisely time bombing or supply drop off missions in quick succession. From there, the complication worked its way into the automotive racing circuit, where it was found to be especially useful for timing laps for drivers (or their respective teams not speeding around in a circle).

Heuer Bundeswehr Flyback Chronograph
Source: Deployant

I’ll leave you geeks with this – the beauty of a watch pictured above is the Heuer Bundeswehr Flyback Chronograph, ref. 1550. Originally designed for German Air Force pilots, the Heuer Bund, as it has become known, is one of those pieces that comes dripping with all of the heritage and, in many cases, the battle scars you’d expect from a military timepiece, with a truly timeless design and added cool factor that I, for one, can’t ignore. No clever quips to end this one, so as always, keep it classy, watchfam.