Do you know what the difference is between a chronograph and/or a chronometer? Or do you use the terms indifferently? Here is what you should know:
Its literal meaning refers to “time-writer” which originated from the Greek words of “chronos” and “graphos” meaning time and writing. Therefore, its meant to be a device to record a time interval. Earliest recordings show that people used to make markings on paper to show the beginning and end of an event and then just calculated the difference which was the elapsed time.
In 1821, it is said that Louis XVIII, requested the making of a marking timer for horse racing which is dubbed the first commercial chronograph. It was designed by Nicolas Mathiew Rieussec.
Then in 1844, Adolphe Nicole designed a chronograph that could manage successive interval measurement thanks to a resetting mechanism known as a “start-stop-reset” mechanism.
Fast forward to today, and a chronograph would mostly be in the form of a wristwatch and not in a pocket watch as back in the day and is seen as the most favourite complication in luxury mechanical time wristwatches.
Types of Chronographs
There are three broad categories of chronographs: simple, flyback, or rattrapante.
This one generally has two pushers or buttons that affect the chronograph mechanisms. Normally you would press the 1st button just once, let the timer begin, and press the same button again to stop the timer. Then you press the second button so that the indicator of the time goes back to zero. This all occurs while the watch still runs as usual.
Some chronographs will come with an extra sub-dial to record the elapsed hours and can come with special purposes like auto racing, navigation, aviation or scuba-diving.
You will find some Chronos, especially in aviators or car racing ones, will have the “tachymeter marking on the bezel which indicates that is can calculate speed over a certain distance, or vice versa (distance based on the speed at very rapid speeds. In 1958, Heuer manufactured a rotating tachymeter bezel which was completely unique to the traditional fixed version which could do additional calculations of timing.
You will also come across chronographs with a telemeter bezel which indicates it can calculate the distance of a specific event using the timer and stop button.
Photo Credits: TheWatchSpotBlog
With a single button that can stop, reset to zero and start the second hand, it is the advanced version of the three since it provides an almost instantaneous reset/restart timer feature while running.
Known also as the “double chronograph, it means “split-seconds” in German. This chronograph comes with an additional second hand (which can be stopped independently) that is precisely aligned along with a primary second hand. This helps to measure multiple events that happen at the same time for instance in a running race.
The chronometer is all about how it can perform as a device that keeps time.
Certification for any watch to be called a chronometer means that it is observed by Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres, a non-profit organization which is funded by the Swiss watch industry. It is the official body that certifies all Swiss made chronometers which are tested for accuracy and precision in 5 positions at 3 different temperatures for several days and each movement is measured individually. If it can meet the standards or exceed them, it will receive a certification and can officially be called a chronometer.