Chronographs are watches that track intervals of time. For instance, they can monitor laps around a track, the time it takes to hike a mountain or how many minutes it took you to grill that burger. A basic chronograph has an independent sweep second hand and typically hour-counters and minute counters. Generally, a chronograph can be started, stopped and returned to zero by successive presses on a chronograph button on the case side.
The amount of time a chronograph can track varies depending on the watch. Most offer up to 12 hours, 60 minutes and fractions of a second. There are also different types of chronographs, including some that can time multiple events at once. Also, chronographs often incorporate other useful functions, including tachymeters to measure speed or distance.
It was Louis Moinet in 1816 who invented the first chronograph. He wanted to track astronomical objects. In fact, Moinet’s device was called a “compteur de tierces” (three-thirds) and was started in 1815 and completed in 1816. It was one of the most accurate watches of its time. Because Moinet used two pushbuttons to start, stop and reset the central hands, the watch is considered a chronograph (though the term wasn’t coined until later).
A few years later, French watchmaker Nicolas Rieussec unveiled his version of the chronograph, which he patented in 1821. It was then, as he presented his watch with seconds counter to the Academy of Sciences, that the watch was termed a chronograph (time writer). Rieussec’s chronograph was developed to measure laps of horse racing, and the early versions used ink dots to calculate the duration of events, and often were large clocks encased in table boxes.
Centuries later, we have come a long way in the development of the chronograph. Most today have small sundials on the main dial, wherein the hours and minutes are recorded. The seconds are usually tracked via a central seconds hand on the main dial. Of course, different brands use different methods of indication, but the concept is virtually the same. We invite you in any time to explore and discover our wonderful array of watches offering this historic function in modern time: the chronograph.