Automatic Vs Chronograph Watches Finally Explained!

In today’s article, we will be examining automatic vs chronograph watches. There is a lot of confusion out there between these two types of watches. Here, we will attempt to alleviate some of that confusion with a thorough explanation of each. The first thing we need to do though, is to give the most brief and simple definition of each of these types of watches.

What Is An Automatic Watch?

An automatic watch is a mechanical watch that is powered by the natural motions of a person’s arm.

What is A Chronograph Watch?

A chronograph is a type of analog stopwatch that features sub-dials to measure elapsed time.

So basically, an automatic watch would be referring to the way in which a watch works. A chronograph, on the other hand would be a watch with a particular function.

One thing that these watch types have in common is that they both use an analog display. By their very nature they have hour, minute, and seconds hands, so they will always have an analog display rather than a digital one.

So now, with those basic explanations out of the way, we can start to get more in depth into the topic. In the next section we will go into much greater detail about each of these types of watches.

More About Automatic Vs Chronograph Watches

More On Automatic Watches

We stated earlier that an automatic watch is a type of mechanical watch, but what does this really mean exactly? Well first off, a mechanical watch is a basically a type of watch that is powered by a spring called a mainspring. This is in contrast to the quartz watch, which is powered by a battery.

In order for this mainspring to have the energy necessary to power the watch movements, it has to be wound. Once wound up, the spring then slowly unwinds. It is this unwinding of the mainspring that powers all of the gears and such inside of the watch. This is the basics of how a mechanical watch works.

What makes an automatic watch unique is that you don’t have to wind it yourself. Instead there is a weighted metal rotor inside of the watch that moves around as your arm moves around. This action of the rotor moving around inside the watch is what winds the mainspring. The result is that the watch gains power naturally on its own from just being worn.

Despite this, you will still always have the option to hand wind the watch if need be, but if you wear it regularly, there should be little to no need to manually wind an automatic watch.

Why Wear An Automatic Watch?

So you may be wondering why you would even want an automatic watch in the first place, especially in the modern age of digital and smartwatches.

Automatic watches have become a symbol of fine craftmanship, and elegance. This is why you will find that a lot of expensive name brand luxury watches will be automatic watches. An automatic watch can be a real marvel of construction. This is especially true when it comes to the more intricate luxury brand models.

Swiss watches are especially renown for their prowess when it comes to designing automatic mechanical watches. Ultimately, you would get an automatic watch if you have an appreciation for the mechanical engineering that goes into these types of timepieces.

More On Chronograph Watches


Now for the chronograph watch, we know that it is a type of stopwatch. But it’s not like a digital stopwatch. This is a type of stopwatch that uses moving parts rather than a digital display.

A feature unique to chronographs is that they usually contain 3 different sub dials around the watch face. The sub dials represent the hours, minutes, and seconds. These sub dials are different from the hour, minutes, and seconds hands because they apply to the stopwatch function only. The actual watch hands are used to tell time as usual.

Chronograph watches were commonly used before the arrival of digital stopwatches. In fact, the first chronograph clocks ever made were used to track the time during horse races. When chronograph watches finally came onto the scene, it was not uncommon for them to be used to track automobile races.

Why Wear A Chronograph Watch?

Now the question becomes, why wear a chronograph at all? Why not just wear a digital watch? There are a couple of reasons for this.

One of the reasons why someone would wear a chronograph is much the same reason as why a person would wear an automatic watch. A person may appreciate the construction, and how it all comes together and works.

Another possible reason would be for the style alone. Chronograph watches have their own unique style with those sub dials and all. Some people just really like the visual aesthetics found in chronograph watches.

Can An Automatic Watch Be A Chronograph?

Okay, so at this point we know what both chronograph and automatic watches are. So the next question is, can an automatic watch be a chronograph?

The answer is yes, there are plenty of automatic chronographs available on the market. It is much more common to find quartz chronograph watches than automatics though, and automatic chronographs are usually going to be more expensive than the quartz models.


We have now pretty much covered all of the basic things you would need to know about automatic vs chronograph watches. This is one of those topics which has often been misunderstood, so I hope that this article has thoroughly explained the subject matter in greater detail.

Both automatic watches and chronograph watches are items you will find in most every serious watch collector’s library. These types of watches can very stylish. Not only that, but they also represent important key moments in the history of watches!

If you enjoyed the contents of this article, we have many more informative and comparison articles for you to read, should you be so inclined. So be sure to check those out, as we cover a wide variety of interesting topics about watches.

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