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 8150LIKES 211COMMENTS 33

  • SnowmansApartment


    So it‘s just a stopwatch?

    Mar 15, 2018

  • 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


    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


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

    Sep 21, 2015

  • ryvr madduck

    ryvr madduck

    Excellent video

    Sep 21, 2015

  • GT


    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


    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


    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


    wow, love the format with illustrations and all

    Sep 21, 2015

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