How Do Chronograph Watches Work?

by Victor Fonseca ; Updated September 28, 2017

A Stopwatch

The chronograph is, for all intents and purposes, a stopwatch. Often controlled by the button located at 2-o'clock on a chronograph watch, the chronograph can be started and stopped in turn. Most chronograph watches have sub-dials that indicate extended periods of time. This allows some watches to track elapsed hours. Most chronographs, however, are meant to record short intervals of time, certainly less than five minutes worth of time. After all, the chronograph was developed to track the elapsed time for sprinters and runners alike and few sprinters run for more than five minutes.

Sporty Set

The initial patent for the chronograph was granted to the Frenchman, Nicolas Rieussec, in 1822. An essential tool for track and field events, the chronograph could gauge the relative speeds of respective athletes. Appealing, as expected, to the new class of sporty gentlemen around the turn of the 20th Century, the first chronograph watches were introduced in 1910. Most distinguished manufacturers today now have at least one chronograph watch in their catalog. This is a lucrative decision, given the popularity of the chronograph.

Separate Mechanisms

The price of a chronograph watch should be an indicator of how complex a mechanism it is. Not only must the watch housing include the time-keeping mechanisms, but it must synchronize the chronograph as well. Though the chronograph does not impact time keeping, the push-button controls of each aspect have been known, especially with pre-quartz watches, to interfere with one another. A jammed chronograph button could stop the time keeping with older watches. The precision craftsmanship of most quartz watches renders this something of a non-problem. The chronograph works as it always has: the push of the button starts it, the push of the same button stops it, and time keeps ticking on.

Photo Credits

  • http://www.xemex-swiss.com/

About the Author

Victor Fonseca started writing professionally in 1998. His specialties are history, popular culture, and information technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Southern Methodist University and spent a year studying at the American University of Rome.