9'848
Sep 21, 2015

Chronograph Saga 1 – Roots and Features

Tags: Batyscaphe Flyback Lim. Ed. Ocean Commitment, Blancpain, Chronograph, Compteur de tierces, Dressage Chronograph, Girard-Perregaux, Harmony Chronograph, Hermès, Louis Nardin, Omega, Vacheron Constantin


The chronograph is one of the most demanding complications to conceive and develop in watchmaking. Louis Moinet, also an astronomer, invented the chronograph for scientific purposes in 1816. He needed a highly precise instrument to measure the movement of the stars in the sky. He called his creation the “compteur de tierces,” in English “counter of thirds.” It was the first timing machine able to measure periods of time on demand. This masterpiece surprisingly appeared at auction in 2012 and was bought by the current eponymous brand. Its technical mastery astonished the watch community: indeed, this pocket counter can measure time to a precision of 1/60th of a second. This implies a movement frequency of 30 Hertz, a record-setter as the only other early chronograph this precise appeared one full century later: the Mikrograph invented by Charles-Auguste Heuer.

The word “chronograph” was coined with the next machine invented to measure periods of time on demand. In 1822, French horologist Nicolas Rieussec patented a machine that literally wrote its measurements. The system contained two horizontal discs, one for the minutes, the other for the seconds. Thanks to two ink dispensers, measurements were recorded by a drop of ink falling on each disc at the beginning and the end of the measurement. It was the Royal Academy of Science, who christened Rieussec’s invention “chronograph” by combining the Greek words chronos (“time”) and graphein (“to write”). The word has remained in use since then.

The chronograph is one of the most complex functions in mechanical watchmaking, even if that is somehow hard to believe considering how widespread a complication it is. The chronograph is actually the only high complication to attain such great success, though it shouldn’t come as such a surprise: decades ago, demand for it was high to time races, processes, medicinal measures, etc. For this reason, engineers have industrialized its production.

Today, the chronograph is far and away the most popular complication. Men in particular like the feeling of having a complex instrument with various counters and displays on the wrist. Some models have also become real icons in the world of watchmaking, sought-after by aficionados. These include the Daytona by Rolex, Omega’s Speedmaster, and the Navitimer by Breitling.

In this first episode of five comprising this “saga,” we introduce you to this underestimated horological complication.





youtubeVIEWS 7233LIKES 197COMMENTS 32

  • douro20

    douro20

    It is quite incredible that Moinet was able to make a reliable timepiece which beat at 30Hz back then.

    Oct 05, 2015

  • Mateus Maranhão

    Mateus Maranhão

    What Speedmaster are you using ?? Please, I need to know

    Sep 30, 2015

  • Nate Blubaugh

    Nate Blubaugh

    This is the most entertaining way to teach people about the chronograph I have ever seen.

    Sep 23, 2015

  • rollaroundaparty

    rollaroundaparty

    Did anyone check their facebook at 1:40 ? :D

    Sep 22, 2015

  • Ralph Jacob

    Ralph Jacob

    I appreciate chronographs even more now. No wonder Jean-Claude Biver loves this complication. Great work you guys. Can't wait for the other sagas.

    Sep 21, 2015

  • jclto

    jclto

    Wonderful round up, thanks for the insightful chrono history (Y) !

    Sep 21, 2015

  • ryvr madduck

    ryvr madduck

    Excellent video

    Sep 21, 2015

  • G-FORCE

    G-FORCE

    Awesome Videos to dive into a specific Complication! Love the format and patiently awaiting the Videos about Grande & Petite Sonnerie, Minute Repeater, Perpetual Calendar, Sidereal Time and many more. Simply adore your channel and love watchmaking!

    Sep 21, 2015

  • Amintas Neto

    Amintas Neto

    Great work!!! Please keep it up

    Sep 21, 2015

  • Abhishek Srivastava

    Abhishek Srivastava

    Awesome series. loved it.

    Sep 21, 2015

  • Truth and Downfall

    Truth and Downfall

    Nice video guys. I always enjoy watching your content and i appreciate the informativness. I want to quickly correct you on the fact that if your watch runs at 4Hz your seconds hand will move at an 8th of a second. If you have a 3Hz movement it will tick with a 6th of a second. This is due to the escapement making two tick whilst the balance wheel completes one theoretical revolution. 4 (theoretical) revoulutions of the balance (wich equal 1 second/4Hz) make 8 ticks of the escapement and 8 ticks of the seconds hands ;) hope you understand what i'm trying to say. Anyways Cheers guys, keep up the excellent work.

    Sep 21, 2015

  • griffn14

    griffn14

    I was wondering if there is a mechanical digital watch that has a chronograph complication - of course, displayed digitally too? And do I have to say that I'm really looking forward to the next episodes in this series. :-)

    Sep 21, 2015

  • SK97

    SK97

    Looking forward for the next episodes. Great work Louis and Andre!

    Sep 21, 2015

  • yiannis merianos

    yiannis merianos

    September it's learning time! back to watch school.

    Sep 21, 2015

  • MrMeep1999

    MrMeep1999

    wow, love the format with illustrations and all

    Sep 21, 2015


NEW: Subscribe to our monthly content mailing list

* indicates required

Related Content ( 13 )

chronograph-saga-2-how-it-works
Chronograph Saga 2 – How It Works
In our last report we introduced the chronograph. Now, let’s have a look at how it works. The first ...
22'677
Sep 22, 2015
dubai-watch-week-focuses-on-watchmaking-education
Dubaï Watch Week Focuses On Watchmaking Education
For the first Dubai Watch Week, the bar has been set really high in terms message sent out to watch lovers...
4'920
Oct 23, 2015
the-omega-speedmaster-moonwatch-is-a-legend
The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Is A Legend
In a way, the Speedmaster model by Omega belongs to the history of the humanity as it was the first watch ...
46'268
Nov 17, 2015
chronograph-saga-3-the-flyback
Chronograph Saga 3 – The Flyback
The flyback chronograph is an evolution of the original complication. It allows the watch to restart a tim...
11'803
Sep 23, 2015
chronograph-saga-4-the-split-seconds
Chronograph Saga 4 – The Split Seconds
The split-seconds chronograph is the most challenging version of the chronograph to create and manufacture...
11'476
Sep 24, 2015
chronograph-saga-5-very-special-chronographs
Chronograph Saga 5 – Very Special Chronographs
Some chronographs broke the rules by bringing innovation and novelty to the chronograph at the same time. ...
16'098
Sep 25, 2015
first-in-house-chronograph-movement-by-de-bethune
First In-House Chronograph Movement by De Bethune
Denis Flageollet, Co-founder and Master Watchmaker of De Bethune, explains us in detail the development of...
6'577
Jul 30, 2015
the-rebirth-of-the-contograf-by-eberhard-co
The Rebirth of the Contograf by Eberhard & Co.
Eberhard & Co. relaunched the Contograf in 2014, a chronograph first presented in the 1960s. Two features ...
6'188
Jul 2, 2015
audemars-piguet-invents-the-schumacher-laptimer-chronograph
Audemars Piguet Invents The Schumacher Laptimer Chronograph
Former Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher has always been a big fan of fine mechanical watches. Therefore...
59'295
May 27, 2015
vacheron-constantin-new-products-2015
Vacheron Constantin 2015 New Watches
The Geneva-based manufacture makes a big splash at the SIHH 2015 launching a new collection called Harmony...
26'382
Jan 19, 2015
about-blancpain-villeret-monopusher-chronograph-complete-calendar
About: The Blancpain Villeret Monopusher Chronograph With Complete Calendar
Yes, it's a long name for this nice watch, but it tells you everything at a glance. The monopusher chronograph...
24'954
Nov 18, 2014
blancpains-under-water-commitment-and-a-limited-batyscaphe
Blancpain Ocean Commitment And A Limited Batyscaphe
We often think of Blancpain as a traditional watchmaker; yet, it also gained a real and strong recognition in ...
14'765
Oct 14, 2014
the-invictus-morphos-first-chronograph-by-hautlence
The Invictus "Morphos", First Chronograph By Hautlence
Designed by Eric Cantona and realized by Hautlence, the Invictus Morphos is the first chronograph ever present...
4'755
Sep 4, 2014