Chronographs – What they are, How they function and Why you should have one
If you are a keen follower of whatever happens in the world of watches or if you are a horology enthusiast worth your antique hourglass collection, you would have at some point invariably come across the word chronograph. Among the discerning watch aficionados and collectors, a chronograph watch is a must have possession. What are they though?
Read on to find out everything about these well-crafted and interesting timepieces which have captured the imagination of the world in a big way for many years now.
Chronograph watches have been part of history for centuries. It was first invented by Louis Moinet, a French man who wanted to use it for tracking astronomical objects in 1816. Unlike the existing watches his chronograph could measure time precisely up to 1/60th of a second. This was succeeded by a chronograph made by the watchmaker Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec, to help King Louis XVIII in recording the lap timings in horse races. This was a concept that used two watch faces and used ink covered needles to mark the time and hence impractical. Chronographs eventually started to be of significant help in athletics to track lap timings as well as in the military. When chronographs started having mechanical functionality at the turn of the 20th century the range of applications increased along with it.
What is a Chronograph?
Very simply put, a chronograph is a watch that is a stopwatch along with being a regular display watch. The modern chronographs are complex timepieces with incredible craftsmanship and are much more than a wrist watch used to just tell us the time. They rely more on the expertise of the watchmaker than technology unlike the latest smart watches. Chronographs also have many more built-in features that makes them more than just stopwatches.
A basic chronograph has a few dials within the watch face. It is apart from the three dials for measuring hours, minutes and seconds, that they have the independent sweep second for stop watch function. It also has at least 3 push-pieces or buttons usually on the right-hand side of the face - one at 2 o’clock position for stopping and starting and another at 4 o’clock position to reset the function. The stopwatch function can be started, stopped, and reset by successive pressure on the push-pieces.
The working of a chronograph
A chronograph has three main functions apart from the basic timekeeping: start (when it is activated), stop (when a reading is being taken) and return to zero or reset (when it’s ready for reuse). These are operated by push buttons on the side of the watch, which allows the stop, start and reset functions without actually interfering with the basic timekeeping function of the watch.
A chronograph works similar to other quartz watches. The main difference is that they have additional technology and mechanisms to control the add on features like stopwatch tachymeters etc. A chronograph watch has multiple systems within the timepiece to track different sets of time and have a lot of moving parts as well. Hence the technology used also has to be superior to ensure that the mechanisms don’t interfere with each other. This makes chronographs more expensive than standard wrist watches. Leaving the chronograph running for longer than needed can cause depletion of the power reserve on an automatic watch or the battery on a quartz watch. More modern uses of chronographs are in aviation, racing, health and medicine, diving and submarine maneuvering.
Some chronometers can even measure fractions of the second. Many modern chronographs use moveable bezels to function as tachymeters and aid in quick calculations of speed or distance. This function is mainly used by athletes for timing their races. If the time and the distance is known, a tachymeter can calculate the speed. Alternatively, when time and speed is known distance can be calculated as well. Some bezels allow the wearer to do multiple calculations simultaneously. This is not found on all chronographs, but seen commonly enough.
Reasons to own a chronograph
- A chronograph is much more than just a watch – It makes life easier if used to its full potential. Chronograph watches can measure heart rate, calculate average speed as well as keep track of two events at the same time. While being great for these extra functions these timepieces do the time keeping accurately despite all the complicated functions it undertakes. This is proof to the craftsmanship of a chronograph and a significant reason for their higher prices.
- It has varied kinds of tracking features – Apart from its main function as a stopwatch, there are some multi- scale chronographs available in the market. They have various other features like tachymeter, pulsometer and telemetres which help in calculating speed, distance, heart rate etc. Chronographs can be considered as many watches in one.
- Chronographs are more of an experience than a product – In this age and time of smartwatches and apps that have caught the imagination of the world, there is a charm to appreciating the craftsmanship and listening to the rhythm of a mechanical timepiece. The multiple functions are efficiently coordinated in a chronograph with as much accuracy as seen in apps and smart watches. For true blue watch aficionados and hobbyists, the charm of a chronograph is undeniable.
- The unique craftsman ship sets them apart – Creating a chronograph is like creating a piece of art. The craftsmen of every luxury chronograph dedicate enormous amounts of their time and energy to make sure that watch enthusiasts get the best timepieces to adorn their wrists. Some craftsmen take even take years to complete a single watch which make them priceless.
- The aesthetic appeal of a chronograph is unmatched - Chronographs look classy and timeless. The intricate machinery in it could look confusing for a novice but for people who appreciate beautiful wrist wear the whole package is a magical combination of form wedding function seamlessly. The performance and creativity that goes into chronographs make them veritable works of art. A chronograph can elevate the appearance of the wearer to a whole new level.
Some of the popular chronographs in the market which are our favorites are:
- Rolex Daytona 116500
- Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional
- Longines Conquest 1/100th Roland Garros
- Tissot Seastar 1000 Chronograph
- TAG Heuer Formula 1
- Breitling Navitimer Chronograph GMT 46
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