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What Is A Chronograph Watch? Top 8 FAQs Answered

This blog post will help answer 8 frequently asked questions regarding chronographs.

Like what is a chronograph watch? How do you use a chronograph? And which are the best chronographs available now?

Scroll down to learn all about these iconic timepieces.

Chronographs Explained

  1. What is a chronograph watch?
  2. How do you tell if a watch is a chronograph?
  3. How do you use and read a chronograph?
  4. Is it bad to leave a chronograph running?
  5. Why are chronograph watches so expensive?
  6. What is the best chronograph?
  7. What is the best affordable chronograph?
  8. Difference between a chronograph and a chronometer

What is a chronograph watch?

A chronograph watch is a type of watch with a stopwatch complication.

Basically a chronograph is a fancy word for a watch that can also act as a stopwatch.

A chronograph can be used to measure the time elapsed between when the stopwatch is activated and then deactivated.

From the early 20th century to the golden age of space exploration. Chronographs were used by pilots, race car drivers, and astronauts for timing themselves.

How do you tell if a watch is a chronograph?

You can tell if a watch is a chronograph because of a few defining features.

First look at your watch’s case. If it is a chronograph, the watch will have two pushers. Usually on either side of the watch’s crown.

Diagram of a chronograph watch

Then look at the dial of the watch. You should see a sweep seconds hand. On the dial you should also see three subdials too.

Diagram of a chronograph watch

However, chronograph watches can vary in how they look. Not every chronograph dial or case will look the exact same. 

How do you use a chronograph watch?

Using a chronograph watch is a piece of cake.

A chronograph works just as a stopwatch should. By measuring the elapsed time in between when the stopwatch is started and then stopped.

You push the top pusher to start the stopwatch function. Then you push the bottom pusher to stop the stopwatch function.

Check out leading American watchmaker Timex, as they show you how to use a chronograph.

Is it bad to leave a chronograph running?

While it’s not advised to leave your chronograph running for no reason. It isn’t bad. 

Because your chronograph should eventually stop. As most chronographs will stop automatically after 4 hours.

However, if you do leave your chronograph running it will waste your watch’s power reserves.

Why are chronograph watches so expensive?

Chronograph watches can be very expensive because the chronograph complication and movement is difficult to make.

However, there are many affordable chronographs available today. Almost all of the world’s leading affordable watch brands create inexpensive and high quality chronographs.

What is the best chronograph watch?

It’s difficult to choose one best chronograph watch. But if we were forced we would choose Omega’s Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch.

This watch is also known as the Moonwatch, as it was worn by US Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon. He even wore this Omega chronograph on the surface of the moon!

Buzz Aldrin wearing a Omega Speedmaster Pro Moonwatch, and photo of the Omega Moonwatch
Buzz Aldrin wearing his Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch

However, we have to include the Breitling Navitimer and the infamous Zenith El Primero, as close runner ups.

What is the best affordable chronograph?

There are many affordable chronographs available today. Yet we think the best affordable chronograph is the Bulova Lunar Pilot.

This chronograph can be purchased for around $500, and was even worn on the moon! Just like the Omega Moonwatch.

This watch was worn by US Astronaut David Scott in the 1971 Apollo 15 mission to the moon. This chronograph is often nicknamed the Apollo 15 watch.

Photo of David Scott on the moon, and a photo of the Bulova Lunar Pilot watch
David Scott wearing on the moon with his Bulova Lunar Pilot

Difference between a chronograph and a chronometer

The term chronograph is often confused with the term chronometer.

Chronometer grade watches are high precision timepieces.

Chronometers are watches that have undergone rigorous precision tests, and if they pass. They are then certified as a chronometer by one of the official organisations.

These organisations measure the accuracy of mechanical watch movements, specifically guaranteeing that a watch will run within +6 – 4 seconds per day.

For Swiss made watches, the organisation is the COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres).

Logo of the COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres)

A chronograph can be COSC certified as a chronometer. If it pasts the tough accuracy tests.

So not every chronograph is a chronometer. Only chronographs that have been certified as high precision timepieces are.

Remember, a chronograph is simply a watch with a stopwatch complication.

To Sum Up

Chronographs are basically stopwatches. They can vary widely in price and in how they look. Today they are much more affordable and remain a favorite among watch collectors.

Why not now take a deep dive into dive watches and discover some in our reviews.

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