Chronograph Watches

Chronograph watch

What is a Chronograph Watch?

A chronograph watch is a specific watch type that incorporates a stopwatch combined with a display watch.

A basic chronograph has an independent sweep second hand and a minute sub-dial; it can be started, stopped, and returned to zero by successive pressure on the stem.

More complex chronographs use additional complications and can have multiple sub-dials to measure seconds, minutes, hours and even tenths of a second. In addition, many modern chronographs use moveable bezels as tachymeters for rapid calculations of speed or distance. 

Louis Moinet invented the chronograph in 1816 for use in tracking astronomical objects. Chronographs were also used heavily in artillery fire in the mid to late 1800s. More modern uses of chronographs involve aircraft piloting, auto racing, diving and submarine maneuvering.

Since the 1980s, the term 'chronograph' has also been applied to all digital watches that incorporates a stopwatch function.

History of Chronographs

The term chronograph comes from the Greek χρονογράφος (khronográphos 'time recording'), from χρόνος (khrónos 'time') and γράφω (gráphō 'to write'). Early versions of the chronograph are the only ones that actually used any "writing": marking the dial with a small pen attached to the index so that the length of the pen mark would indicate how much time had elapsed.

Designed for royalty

Louis Moinet invented the first modern chronograph in 1816, solely for working with astronomical equipment. It was Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec who developed the first marketed chronograph at the behest of King Louis XVIII in 1821.

The King greatly enjoyed watching horse races, but wanted to know exactly how long each race lasted, so Rieussec was commissioned to invent a device that would do the job: as a result he developed the first ever commercialised chronograph. Rieussec was considered the inventor of the chronograph until the Louis Moinet pocket chronograph discovery in 2013 when history was rewritten.

The first Chronograph with a central seconds hand

In 1915, Gaston Breitling produced the first chronograph with a central seconds hand and a 30-minute counter. Later, in 1923, Gaston Breitling introduced the first chronograph with a separate pusher at 2 o'clock. In 1934 Willy Breitling further developed the concept of the chronograph with the addition of the second pusher at 4 o'clock. Since then the 3-pusher chronograph design has been adopted by the entire industry.

In 1844 Adolphe Nicole's updated version of the chronograph was the first to include a re-setting feature which now allowed successive measurements, unlike the constantly moving needle in the original chronograph.

In the early part of the 20th century, many chronographs were sold with fixed bezels marked in order to function as a tachymeter. In 1958 the watch company Heuer introduced a model with a rotating bezel tachymeter for more complex calculations.

Pilots watches

Chronographs were very popular with aviators as they allowed them to make rapid calculations and conduct precise timing. The demand for chronographs grew along with the aviation industry in the early part of the 20th century. As the US exploration of outer space initially involved only test pilots, by order of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, chronographs were on the wrists of many early astronauts.

Chronograph usage followed a similar trajectory for many fields that involve very precise and/or repeated timing around increasingly more complicated high performance machinery, automobile racing and naval submarine navigation being two examples. As different uses for the chronograph were discovered, the industry responded with different models introducing such features as the flyback (where the second hand could be rapidly reset to zero), minute and hour timers, 

Watch brands

In 1969, the watch companies Heuer, Breitling, Hamilton, and movement specialist Dubois Dépraz, developed the first automatic chronograph in partnership. They developed this technology secretly in an effort to prevent other watchmaking houses from releasing an automatic chronograph first, namely their competition Zenith and Seiko.

It was in Geneva and in New York that this partnership shared the first automatic chronograph with the world on March 3, 1969. These first automatic chronographs were labelled "Chrono-matic".

Many companies sell their own styles of chronographs. While today most chronographs are in the form of wristwatches, in the early 20th century pocket chronographs were very popular.

Axion Chronographs

We are very proud the Axion range which comprises the Chrono, Ocean and Racing Commanders use the Valjoux movement trusted by many Swiss brands.

The Chrono, Ocean and Racing Commanders are the embodiment of Precision, accuracy and timing.