What is a Chronograph Watch?

chronograph watch

A chronograph watch can also be used as a stopwatch as well as keeping the time. Chronographs are the ideal watches for anyone who enjoys training or going to the gym, as well as more mundane functions like boiling an egg!

What is a Chronograph Watch?

A chronograph watch usually has a running second hand in a sub-dial, with the large central second hand staying pointed at 12 until the stopwatch is engaged. A flyback function returns the hand to zero quickly, so you can begin timing again. Quartz chronographs do so by rotating the second hand around the dial, whereas mechanical watches snap back instantly. You simply press the start pusher (usually located by the number 2) to start the stopwatch function and again to stop it. The reset button (usually by the number 4) activates the flyback and returns the hand to zero. It can damage mechanical chronographs to hit the return button while the stopwatch is running, whereas on battery watches with split timing this sometimes sets a “lap” counter.

Split Timing

Omega Speedmaster Reduced
The tachymeter runs around the outside of the watch dial

Split timing is when a chronograph has two seconds hands that move together. You can stop one of them with a pusher while the other hand continues to move around the dial. This is for marking lap times or milestones when you are training. The flyback function will return both to zero.

Tachymeter

A tachymeter (or tachymetre, depending on the language of the watch manufacturer) is a printed scale around the outside of the watch dial. It is used to calculate the average speed over a known distance. It is a useful function since it allows the wearer to track their velocity over known distances.

Mechanical Chronographs vs Quartz Chronographs

A quartz (battery powered) watch is usually more accurate, does not require winding and is less delicate than a mechanical version. The main complaint that watch enthusiasts have of quartz watches is the ticking seconds hand, and with a chronograph, this function is relegated to a tiny sub-dial. Mechanical chronographs are expensive to buy and service and can be easily damaged if the chronograph is run excessively or reset while in motion. However, they are astounding pieces of engineering and look great. Affordable mechanical chronographs such as the Seagull 1963 and the Alpha Moon watch are therefore in great demand from those who cannot afford Swiss versions such as the Omega Speedmaster.

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