About Chronograph Watches
Regarded as one of the most practical horological complications and beloved by many, chronograph watches are a specific type of timepiece that combine stopwatch functionality with a robust dial display. But one may ask, why is a wrist-mounted stopwatch particularly useful? Whether you’re cooking something or seeing how long it takes to get from point A to point B, a chronograph creates a seamless timing cycle when compared to using a phone’s clock app, for example. As different types of chronographs and displays have been introduced to the luxury marketplace over the years, one characteristic remains steady — the complication’s rich history and lasting legacy.
Around 1815, French watchmaker Louis Moinet created a pocket watch design known as a compteur de tierces. At the time of his invention, the term “chronograph” had not yet been invented, and this went largely undiscovered until 2013 when the brand’s CEO Jean-Marie Schaller appeared at a press conference introducing the first Louis Moinet Chronograph. The initial concept of the chronograph is attributed to Nicolas Rieussec, who introduced the first “time-writing” device in 1821, Rieussec’s chronograph featured a box filled with clockwork that recorded elapsed time with two ink styluses. Interested in learning more about how the chronograph made its official transition to the wrist nearly 100 years later? Readthis article to find out how luxury brands like Longines and Patek Philippe trailblazed the world of chronograph complications.
Noteworthy Sports Chronograph Watches
On the most basic level, a chronograph has an independent sweep second hand and a minute sub-dial which can be started, stopped, and returned to zero — making it an extraordinarily accurate piece that’s great for keeping time during various sporting events. Of course, chronograph watches are designed by almost every luxury brand and are available in a wide range of types and displays from three-register to rattrapante, but be sure to explore some of the most coveted brands and sport models in this space before selecting the one that catches your eye.
In 1963, Rolex launched the Rolex Daytona, a three-register chronograph designed for professional racing. Years later in 1988, the brand released a self-winding Daytona with a slowed frequency from 36,000 to 28,800 vph which led to a longer power reserve. As an iconic model in Rolex’s lineup and in the world of motor sport, this piece is top of mind when we think of sport chronographs.
With a longstanding dedication to chronometry and Olympic sport timing, Omega released the Speedmaster sport chronograph in 1957. Interestingly, Buzz Aldrin stepped on the moon in 1969 wearing an Omega Speedmaster Professional, making it the only piece of equipment used in any of NASA’s piloted space missions.
In pursuit of their mission to create the most precise and reliable watches of their time, Zenith developed the first high-frequency automatic integrated column-wheel chronograph in 1969 with their groundbreaking El Primero model. Beating at 36,000 vibrations per hour, this watch is a prime sporting piece, and is available in multiple iterations including the El Primero Striking 10th Foudroyante and Defy El Primero 21, a chronograph that can calculate 1/100th of a second.
Known for its innovation, design, and functionality, Breitling’s history is intricately linked to that of the chronograph, introducing one of the first wrist chronographs in the early 1900s. Chronos continue to be an important part of the brand story, with two of Breitling’s brilliant sport chronograph models debuting within 10 years of one another. First in 1942, the Breitling Chronomat was released to meet the demands of the Swiss government who requested an innovative circular slide rule to be used with a wrist chronograph. Then in 1952, the Breitling Navitimer was launched following the success and popularity of the infamous Chronomat. Today, each model is available in a variety of styles and metals to meet the needs and taste of any collector.
Learn More About Chronograph Watches
As the world’s leading platform for buying, selling, and trading pre-owned luxury watches, we boast an expansive collection of pre-owned luxury chronograph watches from brands like Hublot, Tag Heuer, and IWC. As our team of over 160 associates and watch enthusiasts maintain a superior level of knowledge about the history and nuances of each piece, you can be sure that you’re in good hands. Thinking about giving a chronograph as a gift? Check out this gift guide for our top chronograph watch recommendations that are sure to please any collector or enthusiast. Or, if you’re interested in the correlation between chronographs and Sport Watches, browse our other collections of precise timepieces like sailing and racing watches.