Chronographs were originally invented for measuring the movements of astrological bodies but chronograph watches. The term for an extra watch feature like a chronograph is “complication,” so named because they add extra levels to the mechanics of a traditional mechanical watch. The chronograph is actually considered the first complication, but in the centuries since its invention, things have only gotten more and more complicated for wristwatches.
What is a Chronograph Watch?
A chronograph is essentially a stopwatch used to track the length of elapsed time of an event or occurrence. Many chronographs have three sub-dials to measure minutes, seconds, and some down to 1/10th of a second. The wearer activates the chronograph functionality by pressing the pushers on the side of the watch case.
That is the most basic definition, although there are more complicated versions – such as a flyback Chronograph that allows the user to reset the timer without having to first stop the chronograph. On a normal chronograph, the user must first stop, reset, and then restart it before timing the next event.
How does a chronograph watch work?
The chronograph watch is a fairly simple and intuitive device. In its most basic form, a chronograph watch will have an extra second hand to time short intervals. Most modern chronographs are capable of measuring minutes and even hours, with some capable of measuring time intervals of 12 or even 24 hours.
The chronograph function is operated by two extra buttons on the side of the watch. One button starts the timer and the second button stops and resets the timer. Like we said, simple.
As chronographs became more popular in the 20th century, they also became more sophisticated. You’ll often find a tachymeter, which is used to measure time over a specified distance. You can also get pulsometers (measures pulses), altimeters (measures altitude), and pedometers (measures steps). The chronograph paved the way for all of these extra complications.
Why Buy a Chronograph Watch?
In this era of ubiquitous and ever-advancing technology, it might seem strange that anyone would still bother with a chronograph function on a wristwatch (it’s seemingly the timekeeping equivalent of having a Blockbuster card in your wallet). It’s true, a mobile phone or computer is just as capable of keeping time, and stopwatches can be found for a few bucks.
The appeal of a chronograph watch is twofold. On one hand (no pun intended), they are convenient. Having a timer function on your wrist is more practical than carrying around a stopwatch and it’s not always feasible to have a phone with you or out. If you need to time something, there’s no need for an extra device.
The second and, realistically more important reason is that chronograph watches are often finely crafted, beautiful fashion pieces. You can find cheap, ugly watches with a chronograph function, for sure, but spend a few minutes shopping for these types of watches and you’ll often find pieces of exquisite design, like the Zenith El Primero Original 1969.
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