What is a Chronograph?

What is a Chronograph?

Something I have never really asked myself, however I decided to look at it in more detail. 

We’ve all seen watches that are Chronographs, the are usually rather large, meaty watches, robust with 2 or 3 knobs on the right hand side. 

Other than that they look pretty cool, there is method to the madness and have a really interesting history. 

It’s function is, to time….time. Just a fancy name for a stop watch on your watch really. But a bloody cool one. Before all the digital watches came into play, the chronometer was the way time measurements were recorded. Apparently became rather famous in the Great Escape Movie - GQ.  

With a start / stop button usually around the 2 o’clock position and a reset button around the 4 o’clock position. There are usually 3 sub-dials on the face, each messing, second, minutes, and hours. Click to start and the 3 dials do their thing, push stop - wow, you've got your time measurement, click the bottom button to reset. 

Other types of Chronographs...

Flyback chronographs have a timing hand that can be rapidly reset, or flyback, to zero. Ordinarily the sweep second hand is stopped to record the time and started again at that spot on the dial, or reset by spinning the second hand all the way to zero again, clockwise. The flyback allows a reading and a quick reset—a counterclockwise flyback—for the next measurement to start at zero.

A rattrapante, sometimes called a double chronograph, has multiple second hands, at least one of which can be stopped and started independently. When not activated, the second hands travel together, one under the other, to appear as just one second hand.

A tourbillon, although not strictly limited to chronographs, is an escapement set in a cage and placed in a rotating balance in order to minimize the effects of gravity on the escapement and increase precision. Because chronograph escapements are generally larger and connect with more complications, a tourbillion in a chronograph will differ from a tourbillion in a more simple timepiece.

Examples of popular Chronographs

IWC PORTUGIESER CHRONOGRAPH Blue and silver blue leather strap


The Portugieser Chronograph is one of IWC Schaffhausen’s most iconic models. With its compact diameter of 41 millimetres, it fits almost any wrist. However, the thin bezel gives one the impression of wearing a significantly larger watch.

Movement: 69355 Calibre IWC-manufactured movement
Case diameter: 41mm
Water resistance: 3 bar
Price: $7,950
Manufacturer Info: iwc.com

Omega Speedmaster Black dial black face

omega seamaster


This OMEGA Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch” features a black dial covered by a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and graced by a small seconds sub-dial, 30-minute recorder and 12-hour recorder along with a central chronograph hand. The black bezel, with its tachymetric scale, is mounted on a 42 mm stainless steel case and presented on a matching bracelet.

Movement: Calibre Omega 1863
Case diameter: 42mm
Water resistance: 5 bar
Price: $6,350
Manufacturer Info: omegawatches.com

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Black face black dial


This chronograph was designed to be the ultimate timing tool for endurance racing drivers. More than 50 years after its creation, the Cosmograph Daytona remains in a class of its own among sport chronographs and continues to transcend time.

Movement:  calibre 4130 self-winding mechanical chronograph movement
Case diameter:  40mm
Water resistance: 100m
Price:  12,400 EUR
Manufacturer Info: rolex.com

Breitling CHRONOMAT B01 42 Stainless Steel Silver


Breitling’s all-purpose watch for your every pursuit. The Chronomat holds a significant place in Breitling’s history. Introduced in 1984, at a time where extra-thin quartz timepieces were the order of the day, Breitling placed a bold bet on an impressively proportioned mechanical watch. Based on the Frecce Tricolori chronograph, which had been developed and launched in 1983 in collaboration with the famed Italian aerial squadron, the Chronomat celebrated Breitling’s centenary in style and marked the return of the mechanical chronograph to its rightfully prominent place at the brand which had built its global reputation on these incredible watches.

Movement: Breitling 01
Case diameter: 42mm
Water resistance: 200m
Price: 7,800 EUR
Manufacturer Info: breitling.com

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