Sometimes a watch’s spec sheet can be daunting, if not an outright dealbreaker. Maybe it’s the thickness, the lug-to-lug, the movement—something puts you off and makes you wary, the odds of you buying said watch rendered infinitesimal. (One of the greatest values of a good review is moving the reader beyond a simple spec sheet). Graham watches are known for being big. Not “My wrist can’t do 43mm” big. Big big. Excepting for a single 36mm ladies’ model, the brands watches start at 44mm. Despite the brands link to historic British watchmaker George Graham, the watches are decidedly modern and the brand has no intention of scaling down, whatever the market trends may be. And yet, I found myself constantly wearing and enjoying the 47mm Graham Chronofighter Superlight Carbon Skeleton.
On the Wrist
There are two things that make the Chronofighter Superlight (I’m not typing out the whole name) dismantle preconceptions and work so well on the wrist. The first is the gently curved case made of a combination of a midcase made of epoxy resin laced with metallized carbon fragments and extensive use of carbon throughout the rest of the watch. This makes it wear far lighter than most 40mm watches, at around 106g. Is it large? Of course. But its size is drastically undercut by its feather weight.
The second thing that makes the watch wear well is the fitted strap. It perfectly continues the case’s curve, and its rubber is decidedly comfortable. The surprising wear experience isn’t all this watch brings to the table though. There’s a surprisingly legible, engaging skeleton dial with two-toned lume, the texture of the carbon bezel and crown, and of course, the hallmark Graham chronograph trigger. Frankly, it’s the trigger—not the watch’s size—that I think divides people most.
Graham Chronofighter Superlight Specs
Super-LumiNova Two Tone
There’s a refined complexity at work with the dial of this Graham Chronofighter. The brand refers to this dial as being skeletonized, but I think it’s important to understand that skeletonization exists on a spectrum. On one end, you have the stunning watches from Angelus, which completely lack a traditional dial and have had their movements pared down to the essentials. On the other end are watches like the Chronofighter Superlight Carbon Skeleton, which exposes some of its gearing here and there, but still has a defined dial. One spot where these dials can suffer is legibility. Often, the busyness created by skeletonizing the dial makes reading the time a chore, especially when brands neglect to account for this and us low-contrast hands. Graham, however, has used bold hands filled with lume for the hour and minute and bright blue for the slighter hands. This means that reading both the time and the chronograph is easy.
For my part, I like this style of skeletonization. While I’m blessed with dolphin-like skin and don’t have to deal with seeing a tangle of hair, I still don’t love staring through a watch at my flesh. Graham has thoughtfully revealed the movement in a way that is less gimmicky and more intriguing than the open-heart dials you see on entry-level mechanical watches. The raised subdial tracks, exposed screws, and what I’ll call the “lume channel” at the periphery all provide a pleasing depth to the dial. One drawback that I’m sure will irk some is that the dial has played sloppy butcher with the hour markers, hacking them up with reckless abandon.
Speaking of that lume channel, the two-tone Super-LumiNova is quite the sight. While Graham doesn’t specify, my guess is it’s a blend of C3 and BGW9, and they play well together. Not just fun to look at, the lume actually shines brightly and for a reasonable duration, making it usable.
Case & Strap
OK. Let’s talk about that trigger. All Graham chronographs have a trigger mounted on the left; on this model, it’s made entirely of carbon. By depressing it, you activate the pusher in the crown and start the chronograph (the 10 o’clock pusher resets). The idea behind it is that the thumb—not any of your fingers—is the best digit for actuating a pusher as it can exert the most force. To fully capitalize on this, the trigger reduces that force necessary, making the process of engaging a Graham chronograph easier than others. And I can say the theory works in practice: it was very easy to use. But it also occasionally digs into your arm (though not as much or as deeply as you’d expect) and it’s what everyone’s eyes go to right away. People love it or they hate, there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. Learning about the rational (and the fighter pilot history) behind it, sometimes helps, but some people just can’t get over the grenade-looking feature.
The rest of the case is no less remarkable, though. The midcase is made entirely of a blue translucent epoxy resin with shards of metallized carbon mixed in (it’s also available in red or green). It’s a striking look that adds yet another element of intrigue to this watch. As mentioned, it is translucent and with enough light, even shows itself on the wrist. More often though, you’ll be taking it off to show people how cool it is. As such, it’s more of a colorway on the wrist than it is a light feature. The case form itself is angular and bold, consistent with the modern dial, the polished carbon fiber bezel, and the domed sapphire crystal. The entire package is tied together a fitted rubber strap with a kinked, locking pin-buckle clasp. The strap is quite comfortable and does a great job staying put, but when I tried to switch it out, I found other straps simply didn’t work. On standard black straps, the watch’s size was exaggerated. Best bet is to keep it on the stock rubber.
We don’t usually discuss movements, but here I think it’s more than warranted. Behind a smoked sapphire crystal set into the screwed-on caseback is the manufacture G1790, produced for Graham by Concepto. It’s almost entirely black and may be the best match movement I’ve seen, insofar as that’s a thing. Of note, Graham has rotated the movement 180° to accommodate it’s left-sided crown and trigger setup. This means the running seconds is at 3 o’clock instead of 6 and, critically, that the crown winds in toward instead of away from the wearer. Because I’m basic, I ended up turning the watch around to wind it. Specs wise, you’re dealing with 28,800 vph and about 48-hours of power reserve (if Concepto’s numbers are accurate).
Much like its trigger, the Graham Chronofighter Superlight Carbon Skeleton is a love-it-or-hate-it proposition. Most people I showed it to online balked at the entire notion of such a large watch with the seemingly bizarre chronograph apparatus. But people who saw it in person (within and without the watch community) were blown away by how well it wears and how easy the chronograph is to use, to say nothing of the look. I realize I’m telling you that seeing (in person) is believing and asking you to accept this and accept this watch. That may be a bit too much of a leap for you, and that’s ok. The Graham Chronofighter Superlight Carbon Skeleton is a cool watch, and a serious one at that. It may just not be a watch for everyone.
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