Flyback to the future

The flyback function is a historical complication created by Longines in 1936 and originally developed for pilots. This function enables the wearer to reset the timer while it is running, and to simultaneously restart it. This operation can be done easily in a single press of a push-button. Here, our two tick-tock fanatics Frank Sans C and Jean Lassaussois introduce and decrypt nine high-precision chronographs.

By Chloé Redler

LONGINES, Spirit Flyback

The Spirit collection by Longines welcomes a new reference equipped with the flyback function. The Longines Spirit Flyback, with five variations, was inspired by the original 1925 flyback-function model used by pilots at the time to successively measure the different stages of a flight, for a better and easier navigation process. The modern edition of this watch is powered by a self-winding calibre equipped with a silicon, anti-magnetic balance spring that is both robust and precise and offers a 68-hour power reserve. Through its sapphire crystal caseback, the COSC-certified chronometer reveals an oscillating weight engraved with the globe design representative of the collection.

The carefully decorated oscillating weight of the new Longines Spirit Flyback was engraved with the globe design representative of the collection.

The 42-mm, steel case was designed with a bidirectional bezel equipped with a coloured ceramic insert and luminescent markers. The retro dial, in either black or blue, displays distinctive hands and numerals with a touch of bronze, and luminescent coating.

The new Longines Spirit Flyback watches are powered by a COSC-certified manufacture calibre.

With steel bracelet – €4,900
With leather strap / NATO – €4,800

Click here to read the new Longines Spirit Flyback full technical sheet.

TAG HEUER, Autavia Chronometer Flyback

 The TAG Heuer Autavia Chronometer Flyback.

Autavia, like Carrera, Monaco, Formula 1 and Aquaracer, is one of the emblematic collections of watchmaking Maison TAG Heuer. Obtained from a contraction of the words “AUTomobile” and “AVIAtion”, the name of this collection used to be displayed on the dashboards of racing cars and planes – from 1933 to 1957.

 In 1933, Jack Heuer created the “Autavia” dashboard.

In 1962, founder of TAG Heuer Jack Heuer decided to give that same name to his new chronograph. The current 42-mm, steel version displays a black ceramic, rotating bezel with a graduated 60-min scale. The large crown was shaped like the ones decorating old pilot watches, which were easier to handle while wearing gloves. To ensure optimum visibility, the hands and indices – displayed on a silver dial – were coated in SuperLuminova®. This COSC-certified self-winding chronograph with the flyback function is delivered with a leather strap, red on the underside.

The design of the TAG Heuer Autavia Chronometer Flyback was inspired by motorsports.

€6,850 euros

Technical details:

42-mm, steel case
Silver dial
100-m water resistance
Ceramic, rotating bezel
Screwed-in, steel crown
Sapphire and steel caseback
Pin buckle – Fine-brushed/Polished steel
Applied indices
Calibre Heuer 02 COSC Flyback
Chronograph automatic movement
80-hour power reserve
Balance wheel frequency: 28,800 V/h (4 Hz)
Functions: Hours, Minutes, Seconds, Chronograph: ¼ second, 30-minute counter, 12-hour counter


IWC, Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph

The sport-chic design of the IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph.

The Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph displays both a sport-chic design and a certain level of elegance with its 44.6-mm, steel case. It is powered by a manufacture calibre equipped with the flyback function and a 68-hour power reserve. This model displays a plain, silver dial with unique hour and minute counters combined in a totaliser placed at 12 o’clock. At 6 o’clock, the small second hand and the date aperture share a small counter. The chronograph, delivered with a steel bracelet, lives up to the taste of water sports lovers.


Technical details:

44.6-mm, steel case
Screwed-in crown
Transparent, sapphire crystal caseback
100-m water resistance
Self-winding movement
68-hour power reserve
Small hacking seconds
Date display
Flyback function, hour, minute and second chronograph
Hour and minute counters combined in a totaliser at 12 o’clock


ZENITH, Pilot Big Date Flyback

The Pilot Big Date Flyback by Zenith was inspired by pilot watches.

The new, 42.5-mm Pilot Big Date Flyback by Zenith, displayed at the Watches and Wonders 2023 exhibition in Geneva (see our previous article: Watches and Wonders 2023: episode #2) lives up to its name. This black ceramic watch is indeed equipped with an instantaneous (0.007 second) big date at 6 o’clock, featured on a dial with horizontal grooves. It is also powered by an automatic manufacture calibre with an approx. 60-hour power reserve. The chronograph includes the flyback function, which enables the wearer to reset and restart the seconds in a single press of the push-button.

The openworked, black oscillating weight is reminiscent of an “artificial horizon” – or attitude indicator – a flight instrument which informs the pilot of the aircraft orientation relative to the horizon.

The caseback puts on a worthy spectacle. The movement, visible through a sapphire crystal caseback, is equipped with an oscillating weight with an “artificial horizon” design. The watch is delivered with two rubber straps, black or khaki with a Cordura-effect finish.


Click here to read the Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback full technical sheet.


BLANCPAIN, Air Command

The Air Command collection was inspired by a pilot watch from the 1950s and contains a chronograph equipped with the Flyback function as well as a bidirectional countdown rotating bezel with a blue ceramic insert.

The Blancpain Air Command displays an intense blue, sun-brushed dial.

The bezel, graduated from 60 to 0, indicates the time remaining until the destination is reached. The 42.5-mm-diameter instrument was crafted in grade 23 titanium and displays a speed-measuring tachymeter scale as well as a 30-minute counter with three markers of different lengths indicating each slot of three minutes. These elements, visible through the “glassbox”, are displayed on a slightly sun-brushed blue dial and contrasted with hands and hour markers coated in luminescent material for optimum visibility. This precise and tough model houses a manufacture calibre equipped with a 50-hour power reserve, a silicon anti-magnetic balance spring and a meticulously openworked gold oscillating weight with a snailed finish. Its sporty design is enhanced by the blue, leather strap with white topstitching.


Technical details:

Flyback chronograph
Tachymeter scale
Bidirectional, titanium bezel with a blue ceramic insert and markers coated with SuperLuminova®
Blue, sun-brushed dial
Automatic movement
42.5-mm, titanium case with a satin finish
50-hour power reserve
Blue, calf leather strap with white topstitching



The Type XX by Breguet is a representative pilot watch which came to life at the wrists of aviators in the 1950s.

The Breguet Type XX is available for sale at Les Montres Les Bijoux, Jean Lassaussois’s “vintage” boutique.

At that time, the French Minister of War turned to watchmaking Maisons and made an invitation to tender for the development of an instrument which could be simultaneously reset and restarted, in order to make precise calculations. In 1954, Breguet responded with the Type XX, which was equipped with the flyback function. A few years later, the watch entered the general public collections, to the greatest joy of early collectors. Jean Lassaussois reveals this 39-mm, steel chronograph, available in Breguet’s vintage boutique. It is water-resistant up to 100 metres and displays a black dial delivered with a leather strap in the same colour, contrasted by the white hour markers coated in luminescent material.


Technical details

39-mm, steel case
Self-winding movement
Chronograph and flyback functions
100-m water resistance
Screwed-in caseback
Black, leather strap



HANHART, 417 ES Flyback Reverse Panda

The 417 ES Flyback Reverse Panda by German watchmaking Maison Hanhart.

The 417 ES 39-mm watch, originally designed for the German Air Forces, is powered by a self-winding distinctive calibre (Sellita) equipped with the flyback function, an integrated column wheel and a 58-hour power reserve. Its vintage design is enhanced by the black dial and white counters, or “reverse panda” design in watchmaking jargon. The stark contrast is reinforced by the hands and indices coated in luminescent material for optimum visibility under all circumstances. At the back, the screwed-in caseback displays the historical logo of the German Maison.

The 417 ES by Hanhart was worn by a certain Steve McQueen in 1962, on the set of The War Lover.

For the anecdote, this emblematic model by the Hanhart Maison was worn by famous actor Steve McQueen in his 1962 movie The War Lover. He was particularly attached to this watch, which shared the spotlight with two co-stars: a Heuer Monaco and a Rolex Submariner…


Technical details:

39-mm case
Manual-winding movement
Column wheel
Sellita-5100M Swiss Made
100-m water resistance
58-hour power reserve



RICHARD MILLE, RM 011 Felipe Massa

In 2007, Richard Mille, the watchmaking Maison (well-)known for its avant-garde instruments with atypical designs, launched the RM 011 Felipe Massa.

A vintage model of the RM 011 Felipe Massa by Richard Mille.

This titanium watch, designed in collaboration with the famous Formula 1 pilot, displays a recognisable tonneau-shaped case (50 mm x 40 mm). It is cut out for motor races with its crown resembling a smooth tyre encircling a spoked wheel rim and its aerodynamic pushers with non-slip ribbing. This vintage model also displays a skeleton-shaped dial which reveals down to the cog the precise, high-performance, automatic movement with the flyback function. The movement, with an 80-hour power reserve, powers a big date display at 12 o’clock, an annual calendar and a countdown.

Models are available on chrono24.


Frank may not want to include this watch but I love it! So I write about it (Chloé)

BREITLING, Premier B15 Duograph 42

The Premier B15 Duograph 42 by Breitling.

The Premier B15 Duograph 42 in steel perfectly illustrates how Breitling has mastered the art of timekeeping, as it is equipped with the rattrapante function which enables the wearer to measure two elapsed times simultaneously. This double chronograph function was made possible by the two superimposed hands, hence its name “duograph”. The 42-mm, steel piece displays a blue dial in perfect harmony with the brown, leather strap. The ever-retro chronograph  is powered by a mechanical, manual-winding movement certified by the strict COSC (Contrôle Suisse des Chronomètres or Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute) and equipped with an approx. 70-hour power reserve. Its calibre, visible through the sapphire crystal, was meticulously decorated with a Côtes-de-Genève finish.


Click here to read the Premier B15 Duograph 42 by Breitling full technical sheet.


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