Chronograph watches probably won’t ring a bell with too many people of our generation because they’re hardly called that anymore. Built for specialized users, these watches have become a fashion statement these days. Think swatch!
Chronograph watches are built to act both as a regular watch and a stop watch simultaneously. The Greek words “chronos” and “graph” literally mean charting time. They were built around 18th century but did not catch the public eye until around early 1900s when they were made into wrist watches. Century onwards we see its popularity have grown to the point where it’s become a fashion accessory and style statement.
These watches come in two types, namely digital and analogue. Digital watches are very sporty looking with digital displays and the user can switch modes by pressing buttons on the side of the watch. Analogue chronograph watches have the conventional watch face with small digital stopwatch displays on the dial. Some even have a smaller analogue stopwatch face on the dial. The stopwatch can be set using buttons on the side of the watch in both cases.
Swatches became almost the other name for chronograph watches because of their popularity and affordability. These watches can be actually very expensive, and have great designer looks. Initially, chronograph watches were used mostly by sports persons and military men.
The stop watch functions of a regular watch came in very handy for athletes who needed to keep time as well as military men who used the stop watch function for military precision. Chronograph watches were also customized for specialized use. For instance, military use led to addition of radium dials and hands, backlit dials etc all making it easy to use at night. They even had telemetry function, allowing men to calculate distance of artillery fire etc. They were also customized to be more hardy and sturdy.
Athletes wanted watches to accompany them to the swimming pools, ski slopes and the deep ocean, leading to water proof watches and watches that can stand extreme cold, dust etc.
Then more and more additional features were added, like watches that can count your pulse, tell you how many kilometers you have walked at what rate, your blood pressure.
The naval men actually have some of the classiest and collectible chronograph watches built with slide rules and other nautical measurement features included.
Last but not the least, chronograph watches were there when Neil Armstrong took his first step on moon. Watch manufacturer Omega’s “Speedmaster” is the official watch for NASA astronauts and it proved its worth when the Apollo 13 was crippled by explosions. NASA Astronauts successfully used their chronographical watches to calculate the Apollo 13s re-entry, which is generally computed by a complicated bunch of machineries.
So, chronographical watches were built to be hardy, sturdy long lasting and started to build a reputation of a professional watch rather than a mere timekeeping accessory. Anybody daring to delve inside will find a chaotic world of minuscule machineries ticking away frantically. And more the features, higher the price. It has also reached the collectible status by now, competing with the likes of Rolex and Citizen.