What is a Chronograph Watch & How Does it Work?

What is a Chronograph Watch & How Does it Work?

Updated July 2022

History of the Chronograph Watch

The first historical record of a chronograph watch was invented in France by Louis Moinet in 1816. Moinet invented the new technology used in the chronograph to use in astrology, as it could measure time more precisely than most watches from the era—accurate down to 1/60th of a second. Although he invented the first chronograph in the early 1800s, his first watch never made it to market. The first publicly marketed chronograph was subsequently released in 1821, just a few years after Moinet designed the initial one.

Another Frenchman by the name of Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec, who was a watchmaker for King Louis XVIII, built upon Moinet’s concept by implementing two separate watch faces. King Louis XVIII wanted to keep time for racehorses running laps around the track, so Rieussec’s watch drew power reserves from one face’s movement to advance the needle around the other watch face. This second needle was also covered in ink, which allowed it to mark the elapsed time. However, this new method was impractical, so by the mid-1800s, other watchmakers had created new versions of the chronograph that could be reset, which removed the wastefulness of ink from the design. During this era, chronographs functioned merely as stopwatches but were revolutionary for the times.

What is a Chronograph Watch?

Before the invention of the chronograph, it was impossible to time events like horse races and other time-based events to such a high degree of precision. Athletes and runners could know exactly how long they elapsed on each lap, allowing them to log their times and push themselves to improve their times. In addition to sports, the military also found a use for the chronograph function. Although great strides were made in the 1800s, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that we started seeing retail wristwatches with built-in mechanical chronographs. Breitling was one of the original manufacturers that included a separate stopwatch function on the side of their watch, which operated the chronograph hand.

Around the same time, we also began seeing the introduction of new watch complications such as the tachymeter, automatic chronograph, and a variety of new watch manufacturers creating their own chronograph variations.

How Does a Chronograph Watch Work?

The only element that differentiates a chronograph from a standard wristwatch is the introduction of a second hand that functions independently from the timekeeping function. If that second hand can be started, stopped, and reset independently, then you have a chronograph watch. The inner functions of a chronograph watch are similar to other quartz movement watches with one main difference—chronographs need to have additional systems and mechanisms built-in to control each of the functions or each complication of the watch. This is the main reason why chronographs are often more costly to produce and subsequently more expensive than other types of watches. Essentially, chronograph watches have many more moving components, and watchmakers have to ensure that these mechanisms do not interfere with one another.

Chronographs keep time the same way as any other watch, building tension on a mainspring that slowly releases to move the gears and keep time, but it also has multiple independently functioning systems within the timepiece to track different sets of time. Typically, there are at least two separate systems, if not more.

How to Use a Chronograph Watch?

It may sound complex to the standard wristwatch enthusiast, and many people and collectors already own Chronograph watches but end up using them simply as a timepiece. If you’re one of these users, it may be time to learn how to use all the additional features your Chronograph Watch comes with, and we’re going to cover a few of those features below.


The primary and most common feature among all chronograph watches is the stopwatch. By using the two additional buttons on the side of the watch, you can start, stop, and reset the stopwatch function as needed. In certain chronograph watches, this feature will operate using an extra hand that goes around the face, but for the majority, this feature will operate using the dials on the face. The second hand will begin counting first, followed by the minutes, and then the hours. This may seem inconsequential in the modern age of smartphones, but this feature was incredibly useful for many people throughout the 20th century.


A tachymeter is used to measure speed and distance by way of a rotatable bezel. The tachymeter was mostly used by athletes timing their pace. If you knew the time and the distance covered, you could use the tachymeter to calculate your speed. Also, if you knew the time and speed, you could also use the tachymeter to calculate your distance instead. The number on the tachymeter may not make sense initially, but there are easy formulas you can use to calculate your speed and distance.

What to Look for in a Chronograph Watch?

When it comes to buying a Microbrand Chronograph Watch, there are a few things you should consider. Each of these following features will be important when considering which watch best suits your needs.


If you’re considering a Microbrand Chronograph Watch, you’ll want to make sure you’re buying something that is not only stylish but also reliable and made from quality materials. If your needs are practical and only need something that will last a few months, then you can go with any run-of-the-mill chronograph watch; but if you’re considering spending a little more on something you’ll have for a long time, you should do some research and purchase a watch that’s well-made from quality materials and engineered to perfection. 

All Serket Watch Company Chronograph Watches are made in stainless steel, with sapphire crystals, meca-quartz movements with high beat frequency that provide a sweep hand’s charm and style, underpinned by the precision and reliability of quartz engineered horology. We want you to own a luxury watch that not only you can use day-to-day, but one that you can also treasure and pass on to your children and grandchildren. That’s the real beauty behind owning a quality Serket Watch Co. timepiece.


A watch complication is any mechanical function that exists in addition to telling time on a watch. You’ll want to know what complications you’ll be getting in your chronograph watch, and if you’re just looking for a stopwatch feature, then you shouldn’t spend the extra money for extra complications. Conversely, if you need to use your watch to measure speed or distance, you’ll want to ensure it has a tachymeter.


You don’t want to pinch too hard when it comes to cost because you will probably end up with a low-quality timepiece—similarly, you can easily end up spending too much on a brand name mass-produced watch as well. You’ll want to find something that fits your budget and offers a better value for what you’re spending. Without question, there are some expensive watches brands that are worth the higher price tag, but when it comes to Chronographs you can often get the same quality mechanics from a Microbrand like Serket Watch Company, without paying for all the overhead.


Last but not least, and arguably the most important element of watch buying, is that you’ll want to purchase a watch that’s stylish. If you don’t like the visuals that a watch presents, then you won’t want to wear it—and there’s no reason to spend on something just because it has a specific brand label on it.

As with any product, you want to make sure you buy what you like and ultimately buy something you’ll want to wear. Our SERKET CHRONOGRAPHE with its meca-quartz-powered movement and a stainless steel case is one of our favorites. It can be dressed up for the office or dressed down for a night on the town—this chronograph watch has a real presence on your wrist.

Shop Serket Microbrand Chronograph Watch Collection

The advent of Microbrand Online Retailing has allowed us here at Serket Watch Company to produce timepieces that use high-quality materials and precision engineering for the everyday consumer. Whether you need to catch the train for your daily commute, or you’re heading out to dinner with a friend or catching late-night drinks with a client—our watches will keep you on time and in style.

Many brands that started during this period are now called "legacy microbrands" within the watch enthusiast community. If you’re curious about learning more about our products or want to see what truly sets us apart, check out our Online Shop and join the exclusive Microbrand Watch club.

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