Your Essential Guide to the Heady World of Chronographs

·1 min read

It's natural enough to associate chronographs with automotive world. The two technologies developed more or less hand in hand. But the chronograph owes its existence to a different kind of power altogether: horses. While Louis Moinet developed the first pocket watch later identified as a chronograph in 1816, it was five years later that Nicolas Rieussec marketed the first timepiece by the name “chronograph” meaning time writer from the Greek words “chronos” and “grafo” to write. It was a large wooden box that used ink styluses to record the times of racehorses on two rotating paper discs.

Chronographs evolved through the 19th century for a world that was increasingly in motion. As the internal combustion engine gave cars more power and speed, watchmakers perfected the chronograph to track and record the speed of the nascent racing world with ever greater accuracy in the first quarter of the 20th century. Subdividing seconds into ever smaller increments has been a challenge that multiple brands have tilted at ever since.

By 1913, Longines was marketing a wristwatch with a chronograph function. Soon after, the addition of tachymeter scales around the outside edge of chronographs gave nifty new computational powers to modern movers and shakers who needed to calculate time of flight, fuel consumption, and an array of other useful data. By the 1960s, the modern chronograph became the tool watch for weekend racers and car nuts. This edition of Dialed In, streaming above, dives into the heady world of the chronograph to pick out a handful of iconic timepieces from Omega, Porsche Design, Zodiac, Alpina and TagHeuer, all of which represent great deals across a range of budgets.

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