A chronograph is watch that includes stopwatch functionality while also showing the time like a regular watch. A standard chronograph watch usually has an extra hand which stays constant at the 12 o’clock position until the chronograph function is used. A chronograph watch usually features two push-buttons, apart from the crown, of which the first is used to start and stop the chronograph hand, while the second is used to reset the hand to the 12 o’clock position.
The first chronograph was invented almost 200 years ago, in 1816, by a French inventor named Louis Monet. His purpose for creating the chronograph was purely for working with astronomical equipment and he never intended it to be mass-produced for the general public. Around five years later, in 1821, King Louis XVIII wanted a device that could be used for measuring elapsed time. He was a great lover of horse-races and desired to find out the exact length of races. The job was given to Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec, who developed the first commercialized chronograph. Unlike the chronographs seen today, this watch had an extra seconds hand which kept moving continuously. There was no feature to start or stop this hand.
More than twenty years later, in 1844, Adolph Nicole produced a chronograph which had a re-setting feature, and hence the hand could be moved back to zero and counting could be started at one’s desire. In the early 20th century, as aviation grew, chronographs became a great favourite of pilots as they allowed pilots to measure specific activities while flying. At this point, some chronographs began sporting tachymeter scales on their bezels, thus enabling the pilots to calculate speed as well. This was a highly useful feature and increased the popularity of chronograph watches.
Chronograph functionality was initially available only in manual-winding mechanical watches. The first automatic chronograph movement was introduced in 1969 and was the combined work of four companies: Breitling, Heuer, Hamilton and Dubois Depraz. The first watches were nicknamed “Chrono-matic”, combining the words chronograph and automatic. Today, automatic chronographs are widely available all around the world from various brands.
As times have progressed, chronographs have increased in their functionality. Initially, chronographs included only an extra seconds hand and thus could not measure more than 60 seconds of elapsed time. However, today chronographs can measure up to 12 hours of time. This is represented by sub-dials for the hour and minute counters. Of course, this includes a great degree of complication in the engineering of the movement, which is the reason why chronographs are so highly sought-after.
There are a few variations to the standard chronograph such as the flyback. Upon resetting a standard chronograph, the hand moves in a clockwise movement to the 12 o’clock poisiton. In a flyback chronograph, the hand may move clockwise or counter-clockwise depending upon whichever is the closest route, thus reducing the lag in time and enabling one to start another counting as quickly as possible.
Chronograph is one of the most popular complications in the world of watches. From racing to aviation to diving, chronographs are used in various sports for timing a wide variety of activities. Chronographs are available from almost all brands in the world today. Below are a few popular chronographs from some great watchmakers.