The loupe

TrueFacet's Fine Jewelry and Watch Guide

Understanding a Chronograph Watch

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The concept of a chronograph is much older than one would think. The name, which translated from its original Greek roots means “time writer,” refers to the ancient practice of tracking time elapsed—in other words, using a stopwatch. While, before, it was done with pen marks on the dial, the process has become much more sophisticated and precise, which has endeared it to pilots and racecar drivers who need to keep exact time.

The chronograph function on luxury watches, while highly sought after, is often ignored, simply because it seems too difficult to use. We’ve put together this quick, top-level guide to understanding the basic chronograph function but always recommend you consult your specific watch model’s user manual as well—especially if you have a high-end chronograph watch which has its own mechanical nuances. Or, feel free to call our concierge experts at 1-800-690-3736 to walk you through the process!

Step 1: Figure out which parts of your watch are used for the chronograph function.
Luxury chronographs are often equipped with three sub-dials: one tracks hours elapsed (typically marked with a 12 at the 12:00 or 9:00 position, depending on the model) and one tracks minutes elapsed (marked with a 60 at the 12:00 or 6:00 position, again depending on the model). The last sub-dial is a seconds sub-dial, but this one actually tells the current time in seconds and is not part of the chronograph function. To measure seconds elapsed, you need to look at the second hand on the dial.


Chronograph Subdials Diagram


The two sub-dials and the second hand are controlled by the pusher(s) on the right side of your watch’s case. The top pusher, located at the 2:00 position, stops and starts the chronograph. The bottom pusher, which is located at the 4:00 position, resets the chronograph.


Chronograph Start, Stop, and Reset Pushers


Step 2: Reset the chronograph.
If your chronograph is not a flyback, you have to manually wind the chronograph hand to 12 using the crown of the watch. If it is, then the process of resetting the watch becomes much easier.
On a flyback chronograph, there will be two pushers instead of one. With a simple push on the bottom pusher, the chronograph hand on the watch spins back to 12 on its own.

The chronograph must be reset after every use, because if not, it will simply resume measuring time from the point at which it stopped, which could throw your results.

Step 3: Measure time!
To start your chronograph, simply press the top pusher on your watch. The chronograph hand will measure the seconds, and once a minute has elapsed, the hand on the minute sub-dial will inch forward, and the hands will continue to move until you press the top pusher again to stop the chronograph.

As you can see, chronographs can truly be as simple as pushing a couple of buttons. Now you can start making the most out of your luxury chronographs! If you’re interested in purchasing a chronograph of your own, now that you know how to use it, peruse our selection of chronograph timepieces on TrueFacet Marketplace here.