Sports watches with a stop function, so-called chronographs, are extremely popular. Modern watches can be equipped with a wide range of special functions. These are called complications on mechanical watches, one of which is the chronograph. Basically, the way chronographs work is similar to a stopwatch. By pressing a button, the timing is started, stopped and reset to zero.
But there is a key difference: while a stopwatch only measures the time, a chronograph wristwatch shows the time in parallel. Accordingly, only analog quartz and automatic watches belong to this category. In digital watches, only the designation stopwatch function is used, regardless of whether only the time or the time is displayed. The stopwatch or both is displayed. We show what to consider when buying and handling chronographs.
Classic chronographs and rattrapante watches
Generally, a distinction is made between two different models. Classic chronographs can measure a time interval, for this the regular second hand is used. The rattrapante or drag hand chronograph, on the other hand, has an extra second hand. It can be stopped and reset independently, allowing you to record intermediate times. In some wristwatches, the time is measured for longer periods on totalizers. These are small dials on which you can read the elapsed minutes and hours. If the time measurement can be continued after a pause, this is called additionsstoppung.
Already at the beginning of the 19th century. At the beginning of the twentieth century, pocket watches were equipped with a stopwatch function. In these men’s chronograph, the second hand of the watch could be stopped, but this stopped the entire movement and it had to be reset afterwards. The first men’s chronograph was designed and patented in 1821 by frenchman nicolas rieussec. At the same time the clock continued to run. A writing mechanism recorded the elapsed time in the form of dots and dashes.
The invention of the modern chronograph
The decisive breakthrough that enabled the use of the pocket watch and thus later men’s chronograph, was the invention of vallee de joux. in 1844, he attached the zeroing heart to the seconds wheel. But it was not until 1862 that he was able to start his company nicole& capt presents a men’s chronograph as a pocket watch in which the time measurement had no influence on the time of day. The technology was first used in 1933 in a breitling wristwatch, which also supported addition stopping. Although the prototype of a men’s chronograph automatic watch was developed in 1949, the men’s chronograph seiko quartz astron by seiko was not launched as a series model until 1969. other suppliers like heuer, breitling, dubois-depraz and zenith followed.
In the next few years, these automatic chronographs were superseded by quartz watches, which were much cheaper to manufacture and could also be equipped with a timing function. Only since the 1990s has the market for automatic watches recovered and there are once again ladies and men’s chronograph automatic watches. The operation is similar for all watches. There are two switches, the first one serves as start and pause button, while the second one brings the counter to zero position.
Rattrapante chronographs have an additional button for the second second hand. Whether ladies chronograph or pilot watch, two different techniques are used for the chronograph. Watches from the 1930s and 1940s are mainly equipped with a switching wheel. This technique is considered to be the supreme discipline of watchmaking and can now only be found as a ladies’ and men’s chronograph in luxury wristwatches.
This is how a modern chronograph works
When the gear wheel changes its position by pressing a button, a connection is created between various gears and the time measurement starts. all in all, it is a complicated interplay of gears and clutches. Therefore, the production is complex and correspondingly more expensive. In most watches there is therefore a cam circuit. The parts can be milled and no complicated readjustment is necessary. While there are also gears inside, the activation resp. Deactivation made easier.
By pressing the start button, the inner mechanism is simply released or locked by changing the angle of the clutch. From the point of view of functionality, both movements for chronographs are equivalent. A functional difference between the chronographs exists only in the movement used. Automatic chronographs offer the advantage of no need to change batteries. In exchange, the frequency of the clock is mechanically generated, which makes these clocks somewhat less accurate. In turn, the power reserve can be extended by pausing the seconds display. In contrast, quartz chronographs generate the clock electronically in a much higher frequency. The quartz models also offer the possibility to measure seconds in the 1/10 or even 1/100 range.