• GWSC Team

A Guide To Chronographs

Did you know that the very first chronograph was for timing horse races?


Dating back to the 19th century, it was used by French King Louise XVIII who was an avid racegoer. Hundred years later, chronographs started coming into use by race car drivers, pilots, astronauts etc. In today’s modern day context, the uses of chronographs are endless – timing how long it takes to boil an egg, how long it takes to run one kilometre etc.


Today's article will introduce a few types of chronographs as well as features to look out for in an ideal chronograph.


For those who are unaware, a chronograph functions as a typical watch with an additional complication – a stopwatch function. Simple chronographs have an extra second hand that is independently controlled by the wearer, whereas more advanced ones may have multiple subdials, miniature faces or hands that track hours, minutes or seconds.


One example of an advanced chronograph is the rattrapante. The rattrapante has multiple second hands that can be stopped and started independently. This allows the timing of multiple simultaneous events (e.g. several runners running at the same time) and a series of events (e.g. running laps).


Rattrapante Watch

Credits to: Fratello Magazine


For a typical chronograph, two pushers – usually found at two o’clock and four o’clock – are used to control the stopwatch function. The pusher found at two o’clock is to start and stop the stopwatch, while the one at four o’clock resets the stopwatch back to 12. Different chronographs can time from 30 minutes to hours, depending on the model. The seconds, minutes and hours elapsed will be logged on the watch’s subdials.


Mono-pusher chronographs only have one pusher, usually found as an extra button above the crown. This single button functions in the same way as the two pushers: start, stop and reset. Many mono-pusher designs only features two subdials.


Mono-pusher Chronograph

Credits to: Analog/shift


Some chronographs have tachymeters as well. A tachymeter is a scale that is found on the outside edge of a watch’s main dial, or on the bezel of a watch. By referring to this scale, you will be able to measure speed based on time travelled, or distance based on speed.


Chronograph with Tachymeter

Credits to: Rakuten Global Market


It's clear that chronographs come in a variety of designs and styles, including fashion, casual and sports. So what are some ways we can choose an ideal chronograph?


1. Functions & features

· Find one with functions and features you will actually use i.e. choose a less complicated one if you are just buying for the fashion appeal

· Ensure you can actually operate and read the functions

· Pick a chronograph that can time a longer duration than intended, so you don’t need to continually reset it


2. Pushers

· Two or three pushers will allow you to use the stopwatch function most easily

· Ensure pushers don’t activate easily at the slightest touch but rather a click to activate


3. Watch face

· Luminous watch dial and markings will enhance readability in low light or at night


4. Movement

· Quartz chronographs are typically more accurate and lower maintenance than mechanical ones

· For mechanical chronographs, ensure that it comes with a built-in power reserve


5. Water resistance

· Take note if you intend to take your chronograph outdoors or for water activities

· Don’t use the pushers underwater as water will seep into the chronograph


One final tip from Breitling’s in-house watchmaker is “to not run the chronograph function constantly”. He compares it to running two watches, hence causing the chronograph to use twice as much power and runs down its power reserve more quickly. His advice is to keep your watch wound when using the chronograph function. Otherwise, running the chronograph at lower amplitude will result in different functions fighting for power, affecting the timekeeping and extra wear on the wheels.


Nonetheless, do remember to run the chronograph occasionally to ensure the lubrication does not thicken which will affect the functioning of the watch.


Hopefully this article has helped clear some doubts or questions you might have about this popular watch complication!


What is your take on chronographs? Are you guys a fan of them? Let us know in the comments!

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