In this comprehensive guide to the best chronograph watches, we will discuss the history and function of this classic watch type.
We’ll discuss how they work, why they might be right for you, how they compare with automatic watches and what chronograph watch brands are best for your budget and needs.
BEST CHRONOGRAPH WATCHES FOR MEN BY PRICE
At Great Watches, we believe everyone should own a go-to watch for different occasions. Watches are great for casual occasions. They work well at work. They pair well with an outfit in formal occasions.
Although chronograph watches were originally intended for astronauts and aviation professionals, they have become a viable fashionable statement. They deserve a place or two in your wardrobe.
With that said, we’ve collated the best men’s chronograph watches by price:
UNDER $75 PRICE: TIMEX
Timex has a long history of making watches. The were founded as the Waterbury Clock Company in Waterbury, Connecticut in 1854. The company dissolved in 1944 and rebranded into Timex Corporation, which eventually bought by the Timex Group B.V. to form the Time Group USA.
Today, they are one of the most recognizable watch brands in the world. They make everything from fashion watches, minimalist styled watches and finally, they have their own brand of chronograph watches. What makes them stand out is the price entry point.
If you’re new to buying watches, you might be hesitant to invest in a Rolex or an Omega. It might be best to try out a lower priced model like the Timex.
One that stands out is the Timex Men’s Expedition Field Chronograph Watch. Although a shade above the $50 threshold (check out price here), the watch is a great entry level watch for someone interested in a chronograph watch.
Here are the main features of this particular Timex watch:
- Imported from overseas
- Classic design for activities outside
- Measures for up to a 30 minutes as a chronograph
- Leather strap, and an INDIGLO light
- Quartz movement with Analog Display
- Up to 10ATM (see guide on ATM) so water resistant for up to 330 feet.
Don’t let the price fool you. Although the cheapest in terms of price from what we’re recommending in this chronograph review, it is still a quality watch. It has a classic outdoor style and still built for rugged use. Obviously, you shouldn’t smash it against rocks and wood!
However, it is good for swimming (10 ATM), rafting along the Colorado river or even mountain climbing. It’s you’re a pilot, it will certainly do the job as you navigate the skies.
It also has an average of four stars out of five with over 2,000 reviews on Amazon.
OVER $75 AND UNDER $100 PRICE: INVICTA WATCHES
First, a little history about the Invicta brand. Invicta is the latin word for invincible, as the company prides itself in manufacturing long-lasting chronograph watches.
Founded in 1837 by Raphael Picard, the original Invicta brand was first manufactured in Switzerland. The Picard family owned and manufactured Invicta watches until the early 1970s.
The company was eventually bought out by a US based watch company, but the headquarters was still relocated to Basel, Switzerland. Today, it is known as the Invicta Watch Group and is privately owned.
Invicta makes all types of watches from fashion watches to chronograph watches. They employ metal straps or leather straps. Their prices range from under $50 to over $1,000.
The have celebrity endorsements, such as ex-NFL pro player Jason Taylor, and the Invicta brand has won several awards, including the reddot design award in 2013.
One particular watch that stands out is the Invicta Men’s Aviator Stainless steel. Check out the price here.
It’s a typical chronograph watch, hence the Aviator in the name with an 18k rose gold ion-plate.
The highlights of this Invicta watch include:
- Imported from overseas
- 2 tone watch with stainless steel and the 18k rose gold ion plating
- 48mm stainless steel with a rose gold case
- Japanese quartz movement with analog display
- 10 ATM watch so water resistant up to 330 feet
- Three subdials for 60 seconds, 60 minutes and 1/10th seconds
- Flame fusion crystal
- 225mm band length.
The price point is slightly above the Timex chronograph watch reviewed previously. The blue and rose gold has a nice touch, and works well aesthetically with the metallic, silver band.
This particular Invicta chronograph watch is part of the Aviator family. According to the Invicta, the Aviator chronograph brand is made for pilots and aviation enthusiasts. It’s a fancy watch, yet reliable and durable enough for outdoor activities and obviously flying aircraft.
Since it has a 10 ATM rating, its user can go swimming in pools and in the ocean without any concern. However, it is not built for scuba diving.
With an average of 4.5 stars from 400+ customers, this particular watch is a solid choice for this price point. If you’re unfamiliar with Invicta and/or their Aviator line, this would be a good choice to test out this brand.
OVER $100 AND UNDER $200 PRICE: STUHRLING WATCHES
As we continue on this review of the best chronograph watches for men, we come to a relatively “new” player to the chronograph watch industry. The Stuhrling brand was founded in 1999 in New York. It was named after the master watch manufacturer, Max Stuhrling.
Max Stuhrling was a master watchmaker, who lived in Switzerland in the 1800s. Hence, Stuhrling prides itself in its Swiss standards of manufacturing watches.
Like the other watchmakers in this chronograph review, Stuhrling makes all types of fashion watches from luxury watches, minimalist watches and their own line of chronographs. According to their website, they were named one of the top 12 Skeleton Watches in 2018 by Gearhungry.
I’ve had a chance to buy one of these watches. What makes them distinct is the orange case that comes with their watches. It’s a nice touch and looks durable. You can check out our Youtube channel for the video unboxing and review of a Stuhrling watch.
If you’re in the hunt for a chronograph watch in the $100 to $200 price range, consider the Stuhrling Original Concorso watch. Check out the price here.
The main highlights of this watch include:
- A round stanless steel watch with a blue dial
- 42mm stainless steel round case
- Durable Krysterna crystal window
- Japanese quartz movement with analog display
- 3 link stainless steel band
- ATM rating of 5 (refer to our ATM guide)
The Concorso has a sporty look, which is built to last. It has an independent sweep second hand, which can be started, stopped and set to zero by putting pressure on the stem. It has an easy and secure clasp.
It has an average rating of about 4 stars in Amazon from over a hundred reviews. If you’re shopping for a watch in the $100 to $200 price range or are just curious about Stuhrling, this particular chronograph watch could be the right watch for you.
OVER $200 AND UNDER $400 PRICE: SEIKO WATCHES
Now, we come to the more premium watches in this chronograph watch guide. Seiko has a long storied history in the watch industry. This Japanese watchmaker was founded in 1881, when Kintaro Hattori opened a watch and jewelry store called “K. Hatton” in Tokyo, Japan.
A decade later, he started making clocks under the name “Seikosha.” Several more years later in 1924, Seiko started making the first watches, and this has been their best and staple product ever since.
Using the Japanese movement, Seiko is best known for their wristwatches for both men’s and women’s. They make all types of watches from the minimalist style, the luxury style and their own style of chronograph.
If you’re considering chronograph watches in the $200-$400 price range, consider the Seiko Men’s Excelsior Black Ion Solar Chronograph Watch.
Check out the price here.
Reviewing this Seiko Chronograph watch, we’ve identified the following features:
- 2 tone watch featuring a trio of subdials
- Has alarm settings, screw-back case and a solar movement powered by light
- 43mm stainless steel case with Hardlex dial window
- Japanese quartz movement with analog display
- 10 ATM rating (refer to our guide) so good for swimming in oceans but not scuba diving
The watch comes in a nice branded, blue case. For a chronograph watch, it has a minimalist style with it’s black dial and metal strap.
Garnering an average of 4.5 stars from 400+ customer reviews, it’s certainly popular on Amazon and worth a look if you’re curious about the Seiko brand or looking for a chronograph watch in the $200 price range.
OVER $400 AND UNDER $600 PRICE: TISSOT WATCH
We’ve covered the Tissot chronograph watch in our Swiss watch review, and we can’t recommend the watch enough. Tissot has a long history of making watches.
Founded in 1853 by Charles-Felicien Tissot and his son Charles-Emile Tissot in Switzerland, it’s easily one of the most recognizable luxury watch brands in the world today. This father and son combo manufactured their first watches in the 19th century, by selling pocket watches across the Russian empire.
Tissot eventually merged with the Omega watchmaking family in 1930, and has been a member of the Swatch Group since 1983. They are the official timekeeper for various world championship events in cycling, motorcycling, fencing and hockey. They are the official time keeper for NASCAR.
Indeed, they are a highly sought after brand and a reliable maker of watches, utilizing the reliable Swiss watch movement.
If you’re curious about the Tissot brand or are in the market for a chronograph in the $400 to $600 price range, consider the Tissot Men’s Race Black Chronograph watch.
Check the price here.
The highlights of this watch include:
- Manufactured and imported from Switzerland
- Swiss watch movement
- Black dial
- Stainless steel case
- Black rubber strap
- 10 ATM rating so good for swimming but not for scuba adventures
The watch has a 45mm stainless steel case with a black-glazed bezel. It has prominent pushers with a protected crown. The watch has a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and features silver toned stick and Arabic hour markers. Finally, it’s powered by the highly sought after Swiss quartz movement.
This particular watch has an average of 4.5 stars with over 70+ review on Amazon. If you’re curious about Tissot or are in the market for chronograph in the $400-$600 price range, this would be a perfect watch for your collection.
OVER $600 AND UNDER $1000 PRICE: HAMILTON WATCH
We’ve come to another one of our favorites here at Great Watches. We can’t complete a comprehensive review of chronograph watches without mentioning the Hamilton brand. The Hamilton brand is part of the Swatch Group, a Swiss watchmaker based in Switzerland.
Hamilton started out as an American watch manufacturer in Lancaster, PA. They produced their first watch in 1893, and the company was named after Andrew Hamilton, a Scottish born attorney.
During the expansion of the American railroad network, Hamilton — at one point — controlled 56 percent of the market! They made everything from stop watches to wristwatches. During the Second World War, they were a key source of watches for the U.S. military.
In 1969, Hamilton closed in U.S. operations and went overseas to Switzerland. Then in 1974, the Hamilton brand was absorbed into a Swiss company, which eventually was acquired by the Swatch Group.
Renowned for their watch making prowess, Hamilton specializes in luxury watches and the chronograph style, powered by the reliable Swiss watch movement.
If you’re in the market for a Hamilton watch in the $600 to $1,000 price range, consider the Jazzmaster Chronograph Silver watch. Check the price here.
The main features of this watch consist of the following:
- Round stainless steel watch with silver tone dial
- 41mm stainless steel case with synthetic-sapphire dial window
- Leather band with buckle-clasp closure
- 5 ATM rating (good for 50 meters or 165 feet underwater)
This particular watch has an average of four stars with over 10 reviews in Amazon. If you’re in the market for a Hamilton Chronograph watch or looking at the $600-$1000 price range, this could be the watch for you.
OVER $1,000 PRICE: OMEGA, ROLEX AND THE PATEK PHILIPPE
We’ve come to the cream of the crop in this guide for the best chronograph watches. In this section, we’ll review three premium brands:
- Patek Philippe
Omega is a Swiss based, luxury watchmaker. They are widely known as the “James Bond” watch, as James Bond is often seen wearing the watch in his movies.
This brand was founded in 1848 as the La Generale Watch Co., which was rebranded as simply “Omega” in 1903. Historically, they are known as the official timekeepers for Britain’s Royal Flying Corps in 1917. They are also the only brand certified by NASA for their astronauts.
Speaking of astronauts, one of their best chronograph watches is the Omega Moonwatch (or Speedmaster). Check out the price here.
This probably Omega’s most iconic watch. This particular brand of watch has been used in six lunar missions, and is a true symbol of what a chronograph watch. It’s built and used by aviation pioneers (in this case NASA astronauts). If it’s good enough for space missions, it’s definitely good enough to handle an active outdoor lifestyle.
Here are the main highlights of this classic Omega chronograph watch:
- Certificate of authenticity
- Stainless steel case with a steel bracelet
- Black PVD with tachymeter bezel
- Black dial with silver tone-hands and index hour markets
- Luminescent hands and markers
- Sub-dials which displays 60 second, 30 minute and 12 hour settings
- Mechanical-hand-wind movement
- 42mm case diameter
- 10 ATM rating
- Great for space travel!
As a bonus, the company promises to include a special moon watch presentation box with has a “NATO” strap, a Velcro strap, a tool to replace the bracelet and a history book about this particular watch.
If you’re a watch enthusiast, this is certainly a must. If you’re in the market for a chronograph in the $1000+ price range, this is certainly one of the best watches you can get. It’s a great conversation starter and is part of a history that goes back to Buzz Aldrin.
We can’t end a guide on chronograph watches without mentioning the iconic Rolex brand. Rolex is a world renowned, Swiss luxury watchmaker. It was originally founded by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis in London, England in 1905. The watchmaker eventually moved its manufacturing operations to Geneva, Switzerland in 1919.
In 2016, Forbes magazine ranked Rolex as the 64th most powerful global brands. What else can we say? If you’re into watches, you’ve definitely heard of Rolex unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 100 years.
If you’re in the market for a Rolex, then you might as well go for one of their Lamborghinis. Why not try their Daytona series. It’s definitely over the $1,000 price, and comes with free shipping….
Check out the price here.
The main features of the watch include the following:
- 40mm 950 platinum case
- Chestnut brown monobloc Cerachrom bezel
- 10 ATM rating (so you can look good swimming in your Hollywood pool)
- Cost less than a Lamborghini and don’t require parking
- Free shipping!
Honestly, you can’t go wrong with most Rolex watches. This particular brand has an average of four stars with over 30+ customer reviews. If you’re in the market for this kind of watch, go for it!
It’s very hard to topple Rolex as a luxury brand, but there is one more brand that is just a tad notch above it. It’s Patek Philippe.
Patek Philippe is a super luxury Swiss watch manufacturer founded in 1851 in Geneva, Switzerland. Antoni Patek, a Polish watchmaker, started with pocket watches and sold them in Geneva in the 19th century. He eventually partnered with French watchmaker Adrien Philippe, the inventor of the keyless winding mechanism.
Patek Philippe & Co. made the perpetual calendar, split seconds hand, the chronograph style and the minute repeater as popular features in watches. In short, Patek Philippe was a first rate innovator for the watchmaking industry.
Patek Philippe is known for making the most expensive watch in history, when the Henry Graves watch was made in 1933 for a prominent banker. This watch was auctioned for $11 million in a Sotheby auction in 1999.
If you’re in the market for a Patek Philippe, most likely you won’t need any recommendations from me. However, if you do insist, why not start with the Nautilus line. It cost less than a Lamborghini and doesn’t require parking! It also comes with free shipping (whether or not you’re a Prime member).
Check out the price here.
It’s based on the Swiss movement. It has all the qualities of a typical Patek Philippe branded watch. The only question is if you like the blue or black dial.
WHAT IS A CHRONOGRAPH WATCH?
Often, the chronograph is confused with the chronometer, which is a COSC-certified standard for Swiss made watches. They are not necessarily the same.
In simple terms, a chronograph watch is a fancy term for “stop watch.” It often has 3 buttons that start, stops and resets the watch. It also has various displays to show time in seconds, minutes and hours. As we will discuss in the history section, this was important because the chronograph was often used for many time sensitive activities, such as aviation.
Finally, the chronograph is ultimately just another type of watch that tells time! They can also be great amazing fashion items that goes very well with many outfits – from casual to formal.
HISTORY OF THE CHRONOGRAPH WATCH
According to Wikipedia, the word chronograph comes from the Ancient Greeks. It’s original meaning was “Time Writer,” which was a conjoining of “chronos” (time) and “graph” (writing). The primitive versions of the watch had a small pen attached to the chronograph in such a way that the pen would help tell the time.
Louis Moinet is attributed as the first maker of the chronograph watch by working on equipment for astronomy in 1816. Then Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec created the first commercial chronograph, which was sponsored and supported by the French king King Louis XVIII in 1821. The king had an affinity for horse races and commissioned the watch to help him time the event. For a very long time, Rieussec was considered the inventor of the chronograph watch, until a discovery in 2013.
In 2013, a Louis Moinet pocket chronograph watch was discovered, changing how we perceive the history of the chronograph.
Photo by Gabriel Laroche on Unsplash
The chronograph developed a reputation as an accurate measure of time. Hence, it became very popular with aviators in the 20th century. They worked on very time sensitive instruments and required the accurate time telling prowess of the chronograph. In fact, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered early astronauts to wear a watch on their missions.
One of the most famous astronauts was Buzz Aldrin, who wore an Omega speedmaster in the Apollo 11 space mission. In the 1970s, this particular brand of watch by certified by NASA for space missions. To this very day, it’s the only watch NASA allows for space missions.
However, NASA was not the first to walk in space with a chronograph. This distinction belongs to Russian cosmonaut Alexi Leonov, who went on a space walk on June 12, 1965. He wore a brand called a Strela.
Afterwards, the chronograph style watch became more widely available for the public. There are now Swiss style watches, German chronographs, and minimalist watches. Some of the well known brands today include Omega, Timex, Invicta, Stuhrling and high end brands like Patek Philippe and Rolex.
CHRONOGRAPH WATCH FUNCTIONS
In this section, we take a look at the various chronograph watch functions that are made possible by its diverse and igneous time recording features.
LAP TIMER OR MULTI-EVENT TIMER
The chronograph is commonly used as a lap timer which is useful when recording, say, the various finish times of multiple opponents in a race or the different lap times of a single competitor as well as the entire duration in either scenario. When the start button of the chronograph is pressed, i.e. the one atop the dial, the operation of the central sweeping arm is triggered and it travels across the face of the main dial.
At the end of a lap or when the first competitor reaches the finish line, the reset button below the dial is pressed and the sweeping hand stands still giving an exact measure of duration at that moment in time. When pressed a second time, the hand catches up to the current time elapse on the timer so that you can repeat the procedure for a second, third (and so on) opponent.
Finally, when the last opponent crosses the finish line, the start button is pressed to stop the whole timing cycle thereby giving the total duration of the race.
FAST-PACED TIMING AND PRECISE DURATION MEASUREMENTS
The chronograph’s ability to depict time accurately up to a fraction of a second is the reason why it is used in fast-paced sporting events, such as a 100-meter dash, as often the difference between first and second boils down to milliseconds.
Also, it can be used to determine cooking durations in the kitchen. For example, it can be employed like an egg timer so as to determine when an egg is half boiled.
MOST CHRONOGRAPHS FOR SALE HAVE A TACHYMETER FOR DISTANCE AND SPEED MEASUREMENTS
The tachymeter scale is often found along the periphery of the main dial or on the bezel circumference. The scale runs from 500 all the way down to 60 and can be used to calculate the speed of an object moving over a known distance and at the same speed. For example, if it takes 30 seconds for a car to traverse a distance of one mile, then the corresponding reading on the scale should be 120 which is the speed of the car in miles per hour. This is obtained from the formula T= 3600/t where T is the reading on the tachymeter scale and t is the time duration in seconds. 3, 600 is the number of seconds in an hour.
Alternatively, it can also be used to determine the distance travelled when the time duration is known. Say for instance you are in a car going 60 km/ph and start the tachymeter; when it reaches 60 on the scale, then that means you have travelled exactly 1 km. The best thing about a tachymeter is that it works regardless of the units of measurement used.
Also, the chronograph’s tachymeter can be used to determine the average number of attempts that can be made within an hour of an activity assuming that the activity is done at a constant rate. For example, it can be used to determine typing speed by calculating the time it takes to type a sentence then dividing 3600 by the determined duration (as indicated by the sweeping hand) to get equivalent typing speed in sentences per hour.
The possibilities are virtually endless with a chronograph.
HOW TO USE A CHRONOGRAPH WATCH
Here’s the low-down on exactly how to use a chronograph watch (Note: keep in mind that every brand have their own style and functionality. Refer to the brand’s manual).
Using the chronograph as a stopwatch:
PRESS THE 2 O’CLOCK BUTTON TO START
The chronograph’s operation hinges upon a pair of buttons sticking out on either side of the chubby dial. The one atop the dial, i.e. the button at the two o’clock position, is basically the equivalent of a start button and ought to initiate the watch’s working as a timer. Be sure to press it just once.
PRESS THE SAME BUTTON TO STOP
A second press of the same button stops the stopwatch at its current position and can be resumed later on making it effective when factoring out breaks in timing. This second press is the equivalent of pressing pause. It is advisable to have your finger gently sit on the top button when you are using the chronograph in this manner because this makes it easier to execute and stop the operation promptly.
THE 4 O’CLOCK BUTTON RESETS THE CYCLE
The other button of the pair, the one below the dial, works to end the timing cycle initiated by pressing the 2 o’clock button so as to start a new one. Think of it as a reset button.
To ascertain that the reset was successful, the sub-dials’ hands should reverse to their resting position. Remember to reset the watch after each operation otherwise you’ll basically be continuing the timing from the previous attempt the next time you use it.
However, not all varieties of chronographs have these timing buttons and in such cases, the time elapsed in seconds can be gauged by observing the deviation of the smaller faces’ hands as referenced from a certain point. Alternatively, the frames could be mobile allowing you to measure the seconds deviation from a set moment.
SETTING TIME AND DATE
To adjust time and date inaccuracies, gently pull out the middle dial until it’s in an extended position. Twist the dial to adjust the second, minute and hour hands until they reflect the correct time. Once that is done, simply push the dial back until it locks in place to resume watch operation at the set time.
For chronographs that come with a date functionality, the procedure is pretty much the same as highlighted above however the dial extension occurs in two steps. The first extension will settle at a position where you can alter the time but further pulling out reaches a second extended position where you can manipulate the date.
In this position, you can twist the dial to move up and down the date, and consequently the week, until the proper setting is attained. Push the dial back the whole length of the extension to secure the watch and continue operation.
WINDING YOUR CHRONOGRAPH WRISTWATCH
Winding is of the essence particularly if your chronograph is not automated. Doing so ensures proper function and the procedure should be carried out daily, preferably, but no more than two days apart. To wind, turn the crown, the dial in the 3 o’clock position on most chronographs, clockwise until you are met with stiff resistance. It will take about 20 to 30 turns to completely wind a run down chronograph.
HOW TO READ A CHRONOGRAPH WATCH
A chronograph is a little more sophisticated than your average watch, however, today we break down the complexities by uncovering just how to read a chronograph watch.
First things first —
Most chronographs come with a trio of sub-dials and their positioning on the face varies depending on the manufacturer. Standard sub-dial positions usually encompass the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions however some models can have these sub-dials in other positions e.g. at 10 and 2.
UNDERSTANDING THE MINUTES AND HOUR SUB-DIALS (WHEN IN STOP-WATCH FUNCTIONALITY)
On most chronographs, the minutes’ sub-dial is located at the 9 o’clock position and the hour dial is at 6. First of all begin by taking a look at the hour dial which has regular hour markings, akin to those found on your ordinary wall clock, which range from 2 to 12.
There are a total of twelve intervals along the circumference with each division representing an hour elapsed from the reference point which is ordinarily 12 o’clock. The position of the dial directly indicates how many hours have passed.
Taking the standard case of a minutes sub-dial marked with a 30-minute marking at the midday position and 15 on the opposite end, then the dial position here reflects the minute reading. For this sub-dial, there are a total of 30 interval markings with each division translating to a single minute.
The position of the dial can have two meanings as read from the 30-minute mark or as interpreted from the 15-minute mark.
To know which route to take you need to go back to the hour sub-dial and determine whether the hour hand is closer to the preceding hour mark or closer to the succeeding one. If it’s over the halfway point of the gap in between the two hours, then that means the minutes is referenced from the 30 mark and the additional minutes are added on to this figure.
So minutes, in this case, range from 30 to 45 clockwise with the 15-minute marker acting as the 45-minute mark.
On the other hand, if it’s below the halfway point, then the 15 mark is the reference and acts like the maximum point with the 30 mark essentially being the minimum, i.e. 0. Therefore, the minutes, in this case, range from 0 to 15 clockwise. The same concept also applies to the left half of the minutes’ subdial.
DETERMINING SECONDS ELAPSE
The thin and long hand, commonly referred to as the central sweeping hand, travelling across the main dial is basically the second timer hand and its job is just as its name suggests: to record time elapsed in seconds.
Movement of this hand is an indicator that the timer function is active i.e. the top button above dial has been pressed. Seconds are read by tracing the hand’s movement across the second mark with each gap translating to a second in real time.
The last of the sub-dials, i.e. the seconds sub-dial which is normally located at 3 in most chronographs, is used to measure the fractions of a second up to an accuracy as determined by the manufacturer.
This accuracy can easily be identified by taking into account the number of subdivisions relative to a full cycle of 1 second. The position of the dial here is directly proportional to the sub seconds elapsed.
Summing up the readings of all the sub-dials and the central sweeping hand gives an accurate depiction of time elapsed.
CHRONOGRAPH VERSUS AUTOMATIC
A lot of people don’t know the difference between an automatic watch and a chronograph hence why in this section we delve into the chronograph vs automatic debate to find out what exactly sets the two apart.
DIFFERENCE IN FEATURES
The difference can be noted straight away at a glance. Normally, an automatic watch has just a single dial at the side which is used to fine-tune the time configuration. A standard chronograph, on the other hand, is embedded with two extra buttons one on either side of the dial. The two buttons are used to start, stop and reset the stopwatch functionality.
While the automatic watch takes on the sole role of timekeeping, its counterpart doubles up as a stopwatch as well. Consequently, the customary central sweeping hand that begins motion when the start button is pressed on a chronograph is missing on an automatic watch. The latter can, however, incorporate the regular second hand in its design which only depicts actual time.
A chronograph can be manual or automatic; and if it is of the manual variety, then regular winding is required. An automatic watch, however, needs no winding whatsoever as it is reliant on the wearer’s movement hence why it is commonly referred to as a self-winding watch.
TACHYMETER ON A CHRONOGRAPH
Modern-day chronographs are imbued with a tachymeter scale either on the rim of the watch or the outside of the main dial. A feature that is absent from automatic watches that only employ time keeping scales. Therefore, a chronograph can be used to measure time and speed of moving objects while an automatic watch can only be used to tell time.
CHRONOGRAPH SUB-DIALS GIVE DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF TIME
There are some automatic watch varieties that also include the three buttons by the side as well as a trio of sub-dials almost similar to those of a chronograph making it hard to distinguish the pair. The positioning of the dials remains the same for a standard depiction of either type with the minutes’ dial on the 9 o’clock position, the hour dial at six and the sub-second dial on the 3 o’clock mark. However, taking a closer look at the readings on each watch will reveal that they measure different aspects of time.
For a chronograph, the 3 o’clock sub-dial is either a sub-second dial or gives a 24 hour AM/PM indication of the time registered by the hour hand. The same sub-dial on an automatic watch, however, indicates the calendar date which is normally displayed through a small window on your average chronograph.
The 6 o’clock sub-dial on an automatic watch is reserved for the 24 hour AM/PM indication but the same dial depicts hours elapsed on most chronographs and on others – particularly those without a central sweeping hand- it gives a measure of the seconds elapsed on the timer i.e. it is the seconds’ dial.
Lastly, the minutes’ dial on a chronograph which gives off the reading of the minutes elapsed is tailored to measure a whole different aspect of time on an automatic watch. In this case, the said sub-dial depicts the current day of the seven days in a week.
In a nutshell, the sub-dials on a chronograph offer an accurate analysis of time duration broken down into hours, minutes and sub-seconds. An automatic watch meanwhile has sub-dials that work to only depict the calendar date configuration.
IS A CHRONOGRAPH WATCH WORTH IT?
Thank you for making it all the way to the end of this comprehensive guide to purchasing a chronograph watch. We’ve looked at the history of chronograph watches. We’ve shown you how it works.
We’ve walked you through various chronograph watchmakers at different price points.
One is for certain: A chronograph watch is definitely worth it.
For watch enthusiasts, you definitely should get a chronograph watch. It has so much history that goes all the way back to the 19th century to the moon landing in the 1960s to James Bond. It’s a watch built to last for ages and certainly has earned its moniker as “timeless.”
For casual watch wearers, a chronograph deserves a place in your wardrobe. It’s great for outdoor activities. It’s great formal wear. It works with any work suite. It’s a great conversation starter if you’re lucky enough to get an Omega Moonwatch.
This comprehensive guide to the best chronograph watches concludes with this timeless truism: chronograph watches are worth it!
(Cover Photo from IG user @hamiltonwatch)