What is a Chronograph Watch?

Oct 01, 2019
What is a Chronograph Watch?

A chronograph is a type of watch that has a built-in stopwatch feature that allows the wearer to measure time intervals without interfering with the normal time-telling function. Chronograph watches can accurately record elapsed time from 1/100 of a second up to 12 hours.

side view of Rolex Cosmograph Daytona watch
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona / Photos from Rolex

One of the most sought-after complications in watches is the chronograph. Aside from the fact that chronograph watches add an instant touch of savvy, their sporty vibe is also one of the reasons men are drawn to them.


Whether manual, self-winding or quartz-driven, a chronograph watch usually has three main functions: start (to activate the chronograph), stop (to take a reading) and return to zero (to keep it ready for re-use). These functions are activated by pushers located on the side of the watch, along with the crown.


side view of Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona watch
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona / Photo from Rolex

You can see and compare the base time and elapsed time on the sub-dials. Usually, these sub-dials display either minutes and hours or minutes and seconds counters. A simple chronograph is the most common, which is operated by either one or two pushers to start, stop and reset time.


The flyback chronograph, on the other hand, is a more advanced complication in which you can use the reset function without the need to stop the chronograph. For multiple events that occur simultaneously, you will need the split-seconds chronograph — an additional complication within a chronograph function.


definition of Chronograph watch at a glance

So, whether you want a chronograph watch for its actual function, or you’re simply drawn to its aesthetics, you’ll never go wrong with these bold and masculine timepieces.

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

front view of Rolex Cosmograph Daytona watch

Paying tribute to Daytona — a place in Florida famous for the iconic Daytona 500 NASCAR race — the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is synonymous with motor racing. It allows drivers to measure accurate elapsed time and speed using the tachymetric bezel.


The self-winding mechanical calibre 4130 movement drives this watch, which has 50 to 72 hours of power reserve. Activate the chronograph functions — from 1/8 seconds to 12 hours — using the pushers that can be screwed down like a crown when not in use. The chronograph also features Parachrom hairspring, which ensures greater resistance to shocks and temperature changes.


A Rolex-patented Oysterflex bracelet and a 100m water-resistance complete this robust watch.

Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Co-Axial GMT Chronograph Watch

front view of Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Co-Axial GMT Chronograph watch

A homage to Omega’s maritime heritage, the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Co-Axial GMT Chronograph features a dial with a texture reminiscent of a sailboat’s wooden decks.


A self-winding chronograph Omega 3606 calibre movement with column wheel mechanism and Co-Axial escapement beats at the heart of this powerful watch. The chronometer functions are activated by return-to-zero pushers with 12 hours and 30 minutes sub-dial recorders. A second time zone through the 24-hour hand with the triangular tip is visible at a glance.


This impressive watch boasts 52 hours of power reserve and 150m water resistance. Finally, a matching black leather strap completes its look.

Panerai Mare Nostrum Acciaio Chronograph Watch

front view of Panerai Limited-Edition Mare Nostrum Acciaio Chronograph watch

Panerai launched its first chronograph in 1943 with the introduction of the Mare Nostrum prototype. To this day, Panerai’s chronographs carry the same sophistication and craftsmanship as the original models.


Featuring the manual-winding calibre OP XXXIII movement, the limited-edition Panerai Mare Nostrum Acciaio Chronograph is a 42 mm-sized wonder.


This watch’s dark blue dial features luminous Arabic numerals and indexes and two sub-dials. The sub-dials display counters for 60 seconds and 30 minutes chronograph functions. Meanwhile, the brushed stainless steel bezel has a tachymeter scale engraving, thereby complementing its edgy design. Lastly, a blue alligator leather strap finishes the sporty design.

TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Watchfront view of TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Watch

When it comes to date, power reserve, and chronograph functions, this TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph is a powerful timepiece, to say the least.


Featuring a skeleton dial against a fine-brushed and polished steel case, this 43mm watch runs on a Swiss-made Calibre Heuer 01 movement. Rhodium-plated luminescent indexes and three sub-dials with 1/4 second, 30 minutes, and 12 hours chronograph counters are visible on its skeleton dial.


This watch boasts a power reserve of 50 hours and a water resistance of up to 50 metres. Its fine-brushed and sandblasted titanium bezel feature a tachymeter scale for an additional edge. The same fine-brushed and polished steel makes up the bracelet.

Breitling Chronomat GMT Chronograph Watch

front view of Breitling Chronomat GMT Chronograph watch

A pilot watch worthy of a dive watch, the Breitling Chronomat GMT Automatic boasts a 500m water resistance, as well as chronograph and GMT functions. This 47mm robust watch is every inch a manly timepiece.


A unidirectional rotating stainless bezel with a tachymeter scale around the rim is highlighted on the onyx-black dial. Indexes, hands, and minute markers, as well as 24 hours (GMT) markers, are all in luminous silver-tone, thereby allowing for maximum visibility. At this watch’s heart beats a Breitling Calibre 04 automatic movement, which gives it a 70-hour power reserve. A stainless steel bracelet completes its overall design.

Patek Philippe Complications Chronograph Watch

front view of Patek Philippe Complications Chronograph Watch

Elegant and sophisticated in its 18K yellow gold case and brown crocodile leather strap, the Patek Philippe Complications Chronograph is big both on style and technical functions.


Although it features several functions and details on the dial, this watch still manages to look clean and streamlined. Two sub-dials feature the small seconds (at 9 o’clock) and 30-minute chronograph counters (at 3 0’clock). The rectangular pushers are reminiscent of Patek Philippe’s famous 1940s and 1950s wrist chronographs. The 39mm case houses the Patek Philippe CH 29-535 PS calibre manual-winding movement, which offers a 65-hour power reserve. Waterproofed up to 30 metres, a brown alligator leather strap completes this chronograph dress watch.

Breguet Transatlantique Type XXI Flyback Chronograph Watch

front view of Breguet Transatlantique Type XXI Flyback Chronograph Watch

Looking suave without even trying, the Breguet Transatlantique Type XXI Flyback Chronograph is a handsome watch.


The 42.5mm 18K rose gold case houses the automatic 584 Q calibre movement with a flyback function. Its dark-grey dial displays hour markers with luminescent Arabic numerals and minute markers around the outer rim. Three sub-dials feature a day/night indicator at 3 o’clock, a small seconds at 9 o’clock, and a 12-hour totaliser at 6 o’clock.


Additionally, a small date window sits at the 6 o’clock position. Water-resistant to 100 metres, the Breguet Transatlantique Type XXI Flyback Chronograph sports a black crocodile leather strap. What’s more, this watch boasts 48 hours of power reserve. How’s that for a suave and technically savvy timepiece!


Interested in another fun watch complication? Check out our feature on moonphase watches here.

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