How Do Chronograph Watches Work?

Written by victor fonseca
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How Do Chronograph Watches Work?
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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.

A stopwatch.
A stopwatch.

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 catalogue. This is a lucrative decision, given the popularity of the chronograph.

How Do Chronograph Watches Work?
A chronograph watch.

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 synchronise 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.

How Do Chronograph Watches Work?
The Porsche Chronograph Watch.

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