Types of Chronograph Watches and Functions

You probably already know what a chronograph watch is. However, what you may not know is that there is more than one type of chronograph out there. There are several, in fact. Throughout this article we are going to discuss the different types of chronograph watches that you may come across.

Now in case you didn’t already know what a chronograph watch is, here is a simple explanation. A chronograph watch is basically a watch that contains stopwatch functions.

The interesting thing about chronograph watches is that there are several different types. You have your traditional, old school styled chronographs. And then you have your more unique styled ones. And lastly there are the more modern digital ones.

Each of these types have their own specific take on the stopwatch functions that sets them apart from the others.

Throughout this article, we will briefly cover these different types of chronograph watches in detail. But, before we get into that, let’s quickly go over a short history lesson in chronographs. When and where did chronographs first begin?

A Brief History of Chronograph Watches

The first chronographs to come to market were the chronograph clocks produced by Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec, in 1821 These were requested by King Louis XVIII. The purpose of these was to time horse races, as King Louis XVIII was an avid fan of such races.

Now, while Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec’s chronograph clocks were the first to hit the open market, they were not actually the first chronographs ever invented.

The first ever chronograph was invented in 1816 by a Frenchman named Louis Monet. His chronograph, however, only possessed the stopwatch functions, and not the actual regular timekeeping functions of a clock. It was strictly a chronograph device.

From there, you would see various different additions to chronographs. Most people recognize chronograph watches as being an analog watch that includes usually 2 or 3 extra sub dials. However, the various features were added over time.

For instance, in 1844 a man by the name of Adolphe Nicole developed a chronograph that included a reset feature.

1915 saw Gaston Breitling of Breitling watches introduce a chronograph with both a central seconds hand and an additional 30 minute counter.

Finally, in 1934, Willy Breitling of Breitling watches finalized the style of a chronograph with 3 push buttons. This would become the style that most people recognize in chronograph watches.

Now that we know a little bit more about the background of chronographs, we can start looking into the different types of chronographs that are out there.

Types of Chronograph Watches

There are really 5 main types of chronograph watches you will come across. The first 3 are the more traditional styled chronographs that you will recognize. The other two are a bit different, however. To start, we will cover the traditional styled chronographs.

Traditional Styles

types of chronograph watches traditional

Simple Chronograph

First, we have the simple chronograph. It can have either one or two push buttons. When chronograph watches first hit the market, they only had one button to start and stop the chronograph function.

By 1923, though, chronographs with two push buttons started hitting the market. The two buttons allow for the measurement of intermittent time periods. It is now commonplace for simple chronographs to have two push buttons.

Flyback Chronograph

Next, is the flyback chronograph. Like the simple chronograph, it contains two push buttons. The difference is, that this one has more advanced features than the simple chronograph.

The flyback chronograph allows you to quickly reset the timer while the chronograph is still running. What this means is that the timer can be reset to zero and restarted in an instant at the push of a button.

This was a popular feature with pilots as they often needed to have extremely precise timing in their particular line of work.

Rattrapante Chronograph

Last of the traditional styles is the rattrapante chronograph. What makes this one unique is its ability to measure two different events simultaneously.

The rattrapante chronograph has 3 push buttons. It also has an additional seconds hand that sits directly over the chronograph hand.

With this one you can start both seconds hands at the same time. The 3rd push button, however, will allow you to start or stop the additional seconds hand.

Other Styles

types of chronograph watches other styles

Now that we’ve looked at the traditional chronographs, let’s take a quick look at a couple of the other styles.


The Meca-quartz is an interesting one as it combines properties of both mechanical and quartz watches. A Meca quartz is considered a hybrid movement.

In a Meca-quartz watch, the normal timekeeping function is controlled by a quartz mechanism. The chronograph features, on the other hand, are controlled by a mechanical type of component. A battery powers both of these functions.

This is a fairly rare movement, so it will be difficult to find watches that utilize this movement. Seiko did produce a Meca-quartz watch with their SSB095 model.

Digital Chronograph

A digital chronograph is any digital watch that possesses a stopwatch feature. This would include virtually all digital watches, including smartwatches.

And while all of these watch types do contain stopwatch features, you will rarely ever hear them being referred to as “digital chronographs”, even though technically, that’s what they are.

Final Thoughts

So, that’s it really. Basically, we have now covered all of the different types of chronograph watches. You have now seen that all chronographs are not created equal. Chronographs have styles that appeal to both casual wearers and collectors alike.

Hopefully his guide has been helpful in showing you the different forms and styles chronographs cans take. Knowing this should make it easier to decide what to get if you do, choose to purchase a chronograph watch.

This concludes our look into the different types of chronograph watches. If you enjoyed this article, then don’t hesitate to check out some of our other info articles. There you can learn more interesting and often overlooked facts about watches. You can find those articles here

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