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The Legacy of the Chronograph

Discover what makes the chronograph the most famous complication in watchmaking today.

Bucherer Fine Jewellery Lacrima
A wristwatch is an excellent way to elevate your style, but it can also provide much more utility if you know what to look for when picking the perfect style. The chronograph is a type of watch built to emphasize utility and style. Specifically, it helps you measure speeds in addition to keeping track of time.

So what is a chronograph?
A chronograph is a watch that doubles as a stopwatch. In most analog designs, the watch face reflects what you can expect from a wristwatch, with the twelve hours of the day and two hands that display the minutes and hours. What sets the chronograph apart is a third hand that represents the stopwatch. You can manually start and stop the independent sweeping hand using a pusher outside the case.

More complex Chronographs can include different modes of measuring the recorded time, including exact hours, minutes, and seconds. Digital watches with a chronograph feature can also include various display options, including a stopwatch function. The chronograph is the most popular complication of the wristwatch today. In its various incarnations, this device has revolutionized fields like astronomy, aeronautics, sports, and military strategy. That’s to say nothing on its undeniable impact on style.
Cartier Roadster Chronograph
An enviable legacy
The chronograph has a history of impressive users to recommend it. Louis Moinet originally created the first version of this invention in 1816 to assist in his astronomical research. Moinet worked as an academic and inventor who created clocks for Napoleon Bonaparte and Thomas Jefferson. He was famous for creating precision instruments, including the first mechanical machine that records time down to the second.

However, the first recorded use of the name was by another French watchmaker, Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec. As watchmaker to King Louis XVIII, Rieussec invented the machine to help the king track the speed of his racehorses. His invention dropped ink on a dial to mark the timed interval. He was considered to be the inventor of the technology before a 2013 discovery of Moinet’s invention changed history. Though the style has undergone many improvements since then, it continues to represent luxury and sportsmanship.

Most notably, the Rolex Daytona chronograph was worn by Paul Newman, who brought his own brand of boldness and sex appeal to his passions as an actor, a pilot, and a race-car driver. He left such a mark on the style that the Paul Newman Daytona Rolex is one of the rarest and most expensive watches on the market. His preferred style is recognizable by its Art Deco font, and the square ends on its subdial markers. Newman’s personal Rolex sold for a record-breaking $17.8 million at an auction in New York in 2017.
Rolex Daytona Chronograph
On sale at Tourneau, you can find similar styles, including a Pre-Owned Rolex Daytona with Art Deco font. This stainless-steel model has a sleek black face with contrasting white details to showcase the stick markers for easy legibility. It’s easy to see why early NASA astronauts, aviators, and submarine operators relied on the chronograph wristwatch almost exclusively.

Which style of chronograph is right for you?
There are several types of chronographs. You can pick the style and function based on your needs. Many watch enthusiasts wear them simply for their aesthetic taste, but understanding how to identify different types of chronographs can help you find a remarkable watch you’ll want to invest in. Here are some types of chronographs: Manual: A manual chronograph is a hand-wound watch that the wearer winds to ensure the watch keeps regular time. These watches are considered classics and usually styled with sporty details.

Automatic: The Automatic chronograph doesn’t have to be wound by hand to keep time. It was invented in the 1960s to improve the functionality of the traditional sport automatic.

Simple: A simple chronograph is controlled by one or two buttons that control the start, stop and reset of the stopwatch.

Flyback: This type of chronograph is an advancement on the simple version that includes a fast return feature. It allows for the rapid restarting of the timer function without stopping it first.

Rattrapante: Rattrapante is a French word for “Split seconds,” which helps describe this chronograph’s use. It includes an additional secondhand that simultaneously allows for measuring more than one event.

The chronograph has a history of inspiring improvement. Take a look at some of the stylish chronographs we have available, and consider how they could inspire you.