What is a Chronograph Watch – Specialist Watch Buying Guide

Let me take liberty to guess the reason why you may be interested in this post, either you are intrigued by an awesome design of a chronograph watch or got influenced by the hype around online world about them. Whatever the rationale may have brought you here I am totally with you. It can be quite frustrating at times wanting to know more about something and getting lost in the sea of information.

So let’s cut to the chase and dive straight into it.
What is a chronograph watch? Or what does chronograph watch do? are most commonly asked questions. To get the grip around them we need to look at their origin, types and functionality. Chronograph watches are undoubtedly one of the most popular watches around the world but very few consumers actually understand purpose or reason behind the design. The word chronograph is the combination of Greek words “Chrono” and “Graph” meaning “Time” and “Writing” respectively, which literally makes it “Time Writer” when put together.

So what makes chronograph watches so special?

Their looks and sophisticated engineering behind the design, I would say. With the advancement in technology, they come in all shapes and sizes to perform multiple functions. However, core of chronograph still remains time keeping. Watch enthusiasts simply love to have sophisticated time pieces and enjoy horology (study and measurement of time) using joyful and expensive watches.

First thing you will observe on a chronograph watch is presence of additional dials and buttons, often called pushers. Most commonly pushers are used simply to start, stop and reset time functions. All modern chronograph watches are automatic or self-winding and can be further categorised as Flyback, Rattrapante and Mono-pusher.


It is simply a counter for consecutive events. Typically, the Seconds hand can be started by first press of a button to allow for event timing to begin. Next push would reset the seconds hand to zero and begin again. Its unlike normal chronographs where you would push once to start, push again to stop and press the other button to reset. Their preferred usage is to quickly re-time changing events.


meaning “catch-up” in French, usually has two seconds hands. The first press triggers both hands to start, the next push would stop one hand while other carries on and further press of a button would start stationary hand again to catch up already moving hand. The best use of Ratterpante can be observed in a relay race where overall and baton pass timings are equally important. There are often called split seconds chronographs.


This range is the most simplistic yet most complex to manufacture, as one button performs all the start, stop and reset functions of stop watch. It is undoubtedly the uncluttered and cleaner design where monopusher is integrated into the winding crown.

Modular vs Integrated Chronographs

Advancement in technology has influenced many aspects of an individual’s life. It has impacted chronograph manufacturing too. Chronographs movement can now be incorporated in a watch via modular design approach. Watches made through modular design method tend to be less expensive because chronograph module is added onto base movement. Modular chronograph are easier to service however since they share the same main spring in a watch you may observe the stuttering of chronograph seconds hand. Consequently, it does affect the time keeping in the longer run.

On other hand chronograph watches made with integrated movements are more sophisticated and always destined to be chronographs. The smooth functionality and site of seeing watch operating, from the back, is a treat itself. Operating such chronograph is such a joy that I would metaphorically relate experience similar to driving an open-top Rolls Royce on a favourite holiday location. These chronographs for obvious reasons come with a dear price tag but the experience of using them is worth a million.

What to look out for when buying a chronograph watch?

I would recommend “listen to yourself” and choose as per your need. I can list many features here and waste space and your time. My experience tells me when we go out for a hunt to buy something, we have that vague idea unless we spot something that completely takes over our heart. The inclination that comes from the heart is where we tend to go. What brain does afterwards is just a mere facilitation.

So whichever style you are inclined towards, I always recommend buying from reliable sources with good reputation. There are a few tips though which I think could benefit you.

DO Look out for:

  1. A timepiece from a manufacturer well known for accuracy and quality.
  2. Check water resistance level of a watch as per your intended use.
  3. Check how the watch is powered. If batteries are required then ask for an average life?
  4. Always check your wrist size and dimensions of watch face.
  5. Consider your looks wearing watch against formal and casual dresses

Hope this has helped, If you would like to further look into my chosen watch models. Then please read my reviews on trusted brands or leave a comment for a feedback.

Good Luck!

8 thoughts on “What is a Chronograph Watch – Specialist Watch Buying Guide

  1. Well, what an interesting article. Who knew there was so much to know about watches. I have a fascination for different styles of watch, so I look forward to reading your reviews in the future.

  2. Hello there,

    I agree with you.
    Chronograph watches can be very well designed and in that way they are very attractive.
    For a man, to have a quality beautiful watch is a must have accessory.
    Sometimes though they can be very expensive. Are you in aware of some affordable chronograph watches out there on the market.
    I mean up to 500$?

  3. Thank you for the assistance on what to look for when buying a watch. I see there is much more to consider than just the look of the watch. Is there a specific brand you would recommnend?

    1. Your are more than welcome. I have recently reviewed an awesome citizen watch. Please click here to read it and let me know if you need further help.

  4. Thank you so much for this very informative and in-depth article. I guess you could say that I’m an amateur horologist. I’ve always been intrigued with measuring time, but never knew what all the extra dials were for on a chronograph watch until I read your article. I see you specialize in men’s watches, but can you recommend any ladies chronograph watches?

    1. Thanks Scott. I totally with you on this. Most people do not know what chronograph actually means or the functionality of dials. ladies chronograph watches I would recommend checking out here

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