What Is a Digital Chronograph Watch?

In this article, we will be discussing the digital chronograph watch. You may be wondering what a digital chronograph even is. Well, when it comes to the use of the word “chronograph” in watches, it can mean a couple of different things, depending on the context of how it is used. Even then, sometimes people often misuse the word, or do not fully understand the meaning and context of it.

But that’s ok because we are going to cover all of those different aspects of what a chronograph can mean. However, since the focus here is on the digital chronograph, we will start with the simple explanation of what that actually is.

To put it simply, a digital chronograph is a digital watch that contains stopwatch functions. That’s pretty much it. You may be wondering why we would even call it a “chronograph” at all? Why not just refer to it as a digital watch? After all, pretty much all digital watches have stopwatch features these days. So why even make the distinction of calling it a “chronograph” in the first place?

The answer to this question lies in how the term was originally used. Stopwatches existed before digital watches after all. And it was these types of devices that were originally referred to as “chronographs”. Let’s talk more about that below.

The Original Chronographs

digital chronograph first chronographs

The very first chronograph watches were not at all digital, but rather analog. In case you aren’t familiar with the terminology being used, I will explain. An analog watch is a traditional styled watch. All this means is that it is a watch that possesses a dial, minute, hours, and seconds hands. So basically, just a typical ordinary watch. This is what it means for a watch to have an “analog” display. There are different types of analog watches though, such as mechanical, and quartz. The very first chronograph watches, however, were mechanical.

The first actual chronograph device was developed in 1816 by a French man named Louis Monet. Hid chronograph resembled a pocket watch. It only contained the chronograph features, however, and not any actual regular timekeeping function.

Before there were chronograph watches, though, there were chronograph clocks. The first chronograph clocks were invented in the early 1800’s, These chronograph clocks were used to time horse races. In fact, the very first chronograph clock was invented by a man named Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec. This chronograph clock was, in fact, used to measure how fast King Louis the XVIII’s horses were running when they ran the track.

Chronograph Watches

chronograph watches look

Over time, further on down the line in history, chronograph watches came onto the scene, These were originally used in various different fields such as aircraft piloting, and submarine maneuvering. They became especially popular among automobile racing enthusiasts.

Traditionally, analog chronographs have a very distinct appearance. They usually have 3 sub dials representing the hours, minutes, and seconds. These are different than the hours, minutes, and seconds hands of the watch, as the sub dials only apply to the stopwatch function of the watch.

This classic look of the analog chronograph is what usually comes to a person’s mind when you hear the word “chronograph” being used. But, as we have stated earlier, since the term is used to describe a watch with stopwatch functions, it can also apply to a digital watch. Even though now, most all digital watches have chronograph features, this was not always the case.

The First Digital Watches

Now the very first truly digital watches were pretty simple and did not actually possess these functions. It was actually the watch company Hamilton that produced the first digital electronic watches. Their model was called the Pulsar, and it was extremely expensive for that time. Not only that, but the digital display was not visible at all times. You would have to manually press a button in order to view the display. This saved on power at the time, as this early version of digital displays would have run out of power if the displays were always on.

Over time various companies innovated and improved upon the digital watch, producing cheaper and cheaper digital watches. more and more features were eventually added to digital watches, including the stopwatch features we are familiar with. Now, these features are standard in most all digital watches.

Enter The Digital Chronograph

what is a digital chronograph watch

Earlier, we mentioned that a chronograph can be mechanical or quartz. When it comes to quartz watches, this can also get a bit confusing. That is because a quartz watch can be either analog or digital. That’s right, digital watches are also technically quartz watches.

This is because both analog and digital quartz watches utilize a quartz crystal in their functions. This would be another good reason to use the term “digital chronograph”. That way if someone is talking about a quartz chronograph, you can easily make the distinction.

Of course, ordinarily, if you do actually mention the term “quartz chronograph”, it is generally going to be understood that you are really just talking about the analog styled chronograph watch. However, if you want to be one hundred percent entirely technical, then you would call it a digital chronograph when referring to a digital quartz watch. This would make the distinction between which type you are talking about.


That is pretty much all that we are going to cover when it comes to the digital chronograph watch. Hopefully, you now have a much better understanding of this topic. So, to summarize, as you can see, the term “digital chronograph” is just a way of differentiating a digital watch with stopwatch functions, from an analog watch with stopwatch functions.

Mostly though, when it comes to everyday lingo, for the most part, people are not going to call a digital watch a “digital chronograph” though. But, if you ever hear that term, at least now you know what it actually means when somebody says that!

Anyways, this completes our analysis of that particular topic. Hopefully this article has been both interesting and informative! If you enjoyed this article, then please feel free to check out more of our info articles to learn more cool, interesting, and lesser known topics about watches. You can browse through some of those here

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