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What Is A Chronograph Watch? (Understanding Your Watch’s Sub-Dials)

When buying a watch, the function should always trump the aesthetics. At Nordgreen, that is why it took us a while to justify bringing a chronograph timepiece to our loyal fans and new customers.

After all, if the chronographs do not solve a specific issue and are just yet another complication that you do not need, there is no reason to have it on the watch.

That said, what is a chronograph watch, and why do you need one in the first place?

A chronograph watch is a traditional timepiece fitted with an extra complication to act as a stopwatch. A watch can come with one chronograph, usually two and even as much as three at once. These chronographs will be used to measure time (in real-time and relatively) to different levels of accuracy.

In short, a chronograph improves the functionality of your basic analog watch, but do you need one?

What Is A Chronograph Watch, image of Jakob Wagner.

What Is the Purpose of a Chronograph Watch?

While chronographs are important, otherwise, we wouldn't have created the Nordgreen Pioneer watches with them; they are not for everyone.

At Norgdreen, we believe in buying the timepieces that you need only so that you can always get the best out of them.

If you would buy a watch with chronograph dials at all, here are some of the reasons you should have in mind:

 

Time Trackers

You must have heard that chronographs are great for timing races, but is that all there is to them?

Surely not. A good number of our customers don't go to the races so it would be poor of us to make something that they won't be able to use.

Fortunately, measuring time with a chronograph across other events and purposes is just as fluid.

Chronographs can be used to measure the time spent cooking, for parking so that you don't incur a ticket, on exercise routines, and more. If it requires getting an accurate description of the time spent doing anything, best believe that the chronograph comes in handy.

 

Expanded Analog Functions

Digital wristwatches seem to be able to do much more than their analog counterparts.

On those units, you can enjoy varying functions that range from GPS to step tracking and more. With traditional timepieces, though, it seems that you can only tell the time and do nothing more.

All that changes with the chronograph function that evens the scale, even if a little bit. Now, if you desire what this design brings to the table, you could do much more with your chronograph timepieces.

 

Speed Measurement

Besides measuring time, you can also measure speed with your chronograph.

The formula for speed is defined by distance traveled divided by the time taken for that travel.

Whether in a school race, horse race, manufacturing-level comparison, or any other thing, accurate measurements of speed will come in handy.

When the distance is known, start-stop and reset the chronograph watch at the right times to capture a more reliable elapsed time record. With that, you can measure speed without using special tools.

In line with that, here's another reason to love chronographs…

 

Obtaining Distance Measurement

Especially distance traveled.

Do you feel like the odometer on your vehicle isn't calibrated right? Do you want to measure distance traveled by a racehorse, athlete, animal, or piece of equipment?

For one, we assume that you have the speed (or average speed) already. With that, stop the chronograph when the body is done moving to get a better understanding of the time spent.

Following the formula already given above, multiplying the speed (or average speed) by the time gives you the distance (or average distance) traveled.

 

Improving your Career

Lawyers, per diem nurses, consultants, and a host of related professionals bill for their time by the hour.

If you happen to be in this category, it's almost like the chronograph wristwatches were invented for you.

On the one hand, you want a piece of quality traditional analog watch to call your own. On the other hand, you don't mind if your watch makes your work easier.

Now, you can track the time better when dealing with a client and always be sure that you are fair to both parties. Best of all, you have a professional-looking watch that you wouldn't trade for anything around your wrists still.

 

Legibility

Truth be told, this is not a direct purpose of the chronograph.

Given the way that the watch is built, though, legibility is one of the perks that come with it.

To accommodate the chronographs, these timepieces have to be larger than normal. Not too large for comfort, but large enough that they are easily accessible and readable.

If you have a thing against small-faced watches, this is a good reason to pick a chronograph watch. And you get to enjoy all the extras that it packs on board.

 

Aesthetics

While this is not a core reason, we have found that some users purchase our Pioneer chronograph watches for the beauty that the sub-dials add to the setup.

Besides every other advantage that you get, these sub-dials help the watches to stand out from other bare-faced designs out there. The minimalist approach that we employ at Nordgreen is such that the chronograph does not steal all the shine of the watch, only complementing it.

So, even if you don't require the chronograph function now, you can still have the unique complication on your watch for its style element.

 

What Is A Chronograph Watch, image of design layout.

What are the three (3) dials on a chronograph watch?

In case you missed this earlier, here's a fine point about chronographs:

They can come with as many as three dials.

But what do these dials do?

Well, they are typically like the hands on your watches too. Where one measures the hours and one handles the minutes, the third is usually there for the seconds.

The three hands on a chronograph sub-dial are there to measure the time elapsed in seconds, minutes, and hours respectively. Once the chronograph is activated, the seconds' dial starts ticking, registering minutes and then hours if left on for long.

When you need to track time for something so fast (such as an Olympic 100m race), the seconds' dial works best. When you're waiting for your coffee order, the minute dial is where you would want to look. If you're discussing business with a client, though, you'd most likely see what you're looking for on the hours' dial.

If you have used a variety of watches, you would know that some come without the second hand. The same can be true for a chronograph, so you end up having just the hours and minutes.

Make sure you check that before you purchase one.

 

What is the difference between a chronograph and a chronometer?

What is a chronograph, and what is a chronometer? Are they the same, used interchangeably, or should you never make that mistake?

Before any other thing, here's a fun fact:

A chronograph watch can also be a chronometer, but that doesn't mean they are the same thing.

Sill confusing, we suppose?

Alright, let's break it down better.

A chronograph is built with a stopwatch function within the system to allow the user to obtain elapsed time. It is designed with a reset button such that the user can always start measuring the time from zero again whenever they want to.

A chronometer, on the other hand, is a watch that has been rigorously tested to keep accurate time for a longer timeframe (usually 15 days) under different conditions, usually as a feature of the high level of accurate and precise engineering employed in its manufacture.

Watches that pass the tests usually feature:

  • An official rating certificate from the COSC to celebrate this feat;
  • Extensive tests over a continuous 15 -day period to determine accuracy and precision;
  • Doesn't exceed +6- and -4-seconds timekeeping variation ranges per day.

To celebrate this feat, most watchmakers put the 'chronometer' stamp on their watch faces.

Now, that said, here are some other fun notes:

  • A chronograph is not always a chronometer;
  • Chronometers can also be equipped with chronographs;
  • A chronometer doesn't have to be a chronograph too.

While the 'Chrono prefix refers to watches, you now know what the different words mean when it comes to getting functional timepieces.

 

What is the difference between chronograph watches and normal watches?

For starters, both chronographs and normal watches tell the time. As long as they are both made of quality materials.

That is why our chronograph watch line and normal watches tell the time accurately, are durable enough to last for years, and keep good time for longer too.

Likewise, you can pick up normal watches and chronograph timepieces in luxury designs. This gives you the freedom of wearing what you want, when you want.

But what is a chronograph watch's advantage over normal watches, or vice versa?

Designed by Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec (July 20, 1781 – June 18, 1866), the watch was invented to measure how long it took racehorses to complete a race. Since the miles run by the horses are already fixed (the race track length), it was also easier for the race watchers to calculate the speed of each horse that they were following.

Thus, the biggest difference between the chronograph and normal watch is the ability of the former to measure relative time by itself.

These chronographs have come a long way from the mechanical chronograph in pocket watches to the ones that we have in quartz watches too today. If anything, they have only been bettered in form, function, and precision.

Of course, you can also measure time with a normal watch. All you have to do is pick a reference point to start from. With the chronograph watch, though, you just have to press the start-stop button (usually at the 2 O'clock and 4 O'clock markers, on either side of the crown) when due, and you're good to go.

What Is A Chronograph Watch, image of Pioneer on arm.

 

Is a chronograph watch worth it?

One of the reasons why we created a series of watch collections for men and women at Nordgreen is because we never want to push an idea on anyone.

In line with that, this question only has one good answer:

It depends.

We'll tell you why:

If you've gone through the purposes of a chronograph watch (which we explained for you above) and none of that resonates with you, we don't see any reason why you should get one.

For men, you can get the Native watches (for the utmost minimalism), Infinity collection (for the blend of luxury and simplicity), or Philosopher watches (for some style on top of minimalism). The ladies have a series of choices, starting from the unisex Native watches through the Philosopher watch and their exclusive Unika timepiece design.

However, if you nodded to one or more of the points up there, it might be time to see what a chronograph watch can do for you. Not just any chronograph watches either, but an amazing luxury unit that is equally as precise and accurate that doesn't put a dent in your pockets either.

 

What Is A Chronograph Watch, image of gunmetal Pioneer with a black dial and army green nylon strap.

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