All About Chronograph Watches
Did you know that the chronograph watch is over 200 years old? Louis Moinet, a French horologist and artist, invented the chronograph in 1816 to track celestial objects.
From there, chronographs were on-trend in the mid-to-late 1800s in field artillery. Today, current uses of the chronograph extend to such fields as auto racing, aircraft piloting, and submarine maneuvering and diving. It began as a simple pocket watch with astronomical purpose and remains a timeless piece of both fashion and innovation. While many purchase chronograph watches for their usefulness, others buy them simply because they are stylish.
What Is A Chronograph Watch?
In 1816, Monsieur Moinet invented the first chronograph as a pocket watch that had a single hand and three subdials (or pushers). However, the first chronograph was capable of measuring time up to 1/60th of a second.
The definition of a chronograph encompasses a basic display watch and a stopwatch. So, what do the three dials on a watch do when it comes to a chronograph? The functionality a chronograph has is unparalleled to an analog watch, which only tells the time by two hands revealing the hour and minute, but chronographs are a “complication” that increases the overall value of the watch.
What is the meaning of complication? A complication indicates the term for additional features a watch possesses, and it is standard for a chronograph to have multiple functions. Its smaller dials measure beyond the hour and minute to second and tenths of a second. Modern chronographs even measure in tachymeters for quick calculations of distance and speed. A chronograph wearer may start it (activate), stop it (take a reading), and return it to zero-base (re-use) by applying pressure to the stem successively.
Aside from checking the time, a chronograph watch boasts more features with various complications and fictions, from stop and go, to reset, and start again. You may be tempted to think of a chronograph as a fancy stopwatch, but it is so much more than that.
How To Read A Chronograph Watch
Those new to these watches may wonder how to use a chronograph or how to enter chronograph mode on what looks like, for all appearances, a regular watch.
The common features of most chronograph watches that you first recognize are the three subdials whose positioning varies with each manufacturer. Standard positions are at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions, but some chronograph models position their subdials at other positions, such as at 10 and 2; the same position your hands should be on the steering wheel of your car.
Most standard chronograph watches place the minute subdial at the 9 o’clock position and the hour one at 6. Take a look, first, at the hour dial, and you will notice the regular hour marks that are similar to your wall clock, ranging from 2 to 12. Along the circumference, there are 12 total intervals where each hour elapsed is represented by one division; the typical reference point is the 12 o’clock mark. The placement of the dial directly designates the number of elapsed hours.
In the standard instance, a minutes subdial is designated by a 30-minute mark at the midday point with the 15 on the opposing end; the dial position shows the minute reading. There are 30 interval marks for this subdial with each division equaling a single minute.
There are two meanings that can be read from the position of the day, either from the 30-minute mark or the 15. To know the appropriate direction to take, proceed to the hour subdial, and then, consider whether the hour hand is nearer to the previous hour mark or the following hour mark:
- If it crosses over the halfway mark of the gap between these two hours, then, the minutes are to be referenced from the 30-minute mark with the bonus minutes added to the figure. Minutes, in this instance, would range from 30-45 clockwise; the 15-minute mark functioning as the 45-minute mark.
- If it falls below the halfway mark, then you would reference the 15-minute mark as the max point with the 30-minute mark functioning as the zero-base or minimum. In this instance, the minutes would span from 0 to 15 clockwise. You can apply this idea to the left side of the minute subdial.
How To Set A Chronograph Watch
How do you go about setting a chronograph watch? On more modern pieces, you will press down the button on the bottom right side of the watch to place the watch in chronograph mode. Then, press the bottom on the top right to start the stopwatch. By pressing the button on the top right again you can stop the stopwatch.
How do you reset or recalibrate hands on a chronograph watch? Pull the crown out, then press the top right pusher to adjust the top dial until the 0 or 12 mark (or preferred position) is reached. Follow the same instructions for the other buttons until you have reached the same marks.
What Is The Point Of A Chronograph Watch?
Did you know that the literal translation of “chronograph” is “time writer?” The origin of the phrase fuses the Greek word “chronos” (or time) with the word “graph” (or writing). Why “writer?” The primary versions of the chronograph functioned through marking the dial with a tiny pen adhered to the index; this way the pen mark’s length noted how much time had passed.
Nowadays, the chronograph is used by astronauts, divers, doctors, horse trainers, racing drivers, and soldiers for its practicality and accuracy in measure with chronograph movement. Pulsometers function to indicate pulse rate while asthmometers work to track the respiration rate, as another complication of the chronograph watch.
The chronograph function in these classic and innovative watches can have simpler everyday uses:
- Time boiling pasta.
- Reset your wireless router.
- Track your peak heart rate.
- Measure your rest times while weightlifting.
- Track your break at work and compare it with your rate of productivity over time.
It is easy to compare the time elapsed for two different events. You can also find the mean time (the time it usually takes) of an event or action over time. Why not keep up with the race times at the track along with the professionals? Even if you don’t rely on a chronograph watch like a race car professional, doctor, or pilot, it still has valuable everyday uses.
Many wearers of chronograph watches simply appreciate the vintage, tactile feel of each of the subdials that the functionality contributes to the look. Wearing a chronograph watch welcomes an atmosphere of achievement, creativity, innovation, and speed into your style and life; it can be a real confidence booster as a statement piece. Don’t be afraid to purchase a chronograph watch for its aesthetic alone. You can also be that person who says, “I can time that for you.” It’s a great conversation starter when you feel like the person who typically stands in the corner.
Chronograph watches are not reserved for the use of those in specialized fields. Classic and innovative, the chronograph watch also fulfills many everyday purposes while making them both stylish and inspiring.