If you’re looking to get into the world of watch enthusiasts, or horophiles, if you prefer the technical term, then it’s worth knowing the difference between the types of watches you own. Nothing will let down your integrity faster than stumbling in a basic conversation with a dedicated watch collector or salesperson.
To get ahead in the watch game, you need to know your stuff, so let’s get you educated, shall we?
The basic difference between analog and chronograph watches is the functionality – analog watches tell the time, with two hands showing the current minute and hour, whilst chronographs feature a ‘complication’ (that’s the in-the-know term for any functions a watch has other than telling the time).
Chronographs were originally created to time events, as such they feature stopwatches.
Though the presence of three additional dials to display the duration of time is a relatively new and modern addition.
For a more detailed breakdown of the differences between chronograph and analog watches, we’ve broken down the history of the creation and brief evolution of each.
Sundials from Ancient Greeks
From primary school, we all know that timekeeping began with sundials – Ancient Greeks positioned large structures in a way which captured the sun’s direction and used this to cast a shadow on the current time on the surrounding dial.
But, umm, with the advancements of modern technology, sundials have become more of a decorative object than an accurate timepiece. Phew!
Huge Structures From China
Using prior research from Chinese mechanical engineers, Yi Xing built the ‘Water Driven Spherical Birds-Eye-View Map of The Heavens’ in the year 725 – yes, we’ve been using mechanical clocks for over a thousand years!
The invention used controlled water drops to turn a wheel mechanism to keep time. This did run into slight problems in colder months though, as the water tended to freeze – not helpful for keeping cogs moving!
In 976, Chang Hsiin redesigned the mechanism, recreating the design with mercury instead of water – solving the issue of time being frozen during winter.
These mechanical feats measured over 30 feet high, with wheels the size of your average living room – they weren’t quite ready to be carried around on your wrist yet!
Modern Analog Timepieces
As engineers continued to improve the mechanisms of timepieces, and introduce springs and cogs to the concept, the resulting timepieces shrank in size, until they were introduced to Europe in the late 1400’s
A German locksmith, Peter Henlein, is widely regarded as the creator of modern timepieces, as he was the first to create pocket-sized timepieces. From this, he became renowned across the world as nobility and the privileged in society contacted him to commission smaller and more elegantly designed timepieces – which we now know as pocket watches.
Peter’s timepieces were often inaccurate and he did not invent the mechanisms behind timekeeping, but his popularity seems to have overshadowed the facts – a 15th century Kardashian, perhaps?
The First Chronograph Timepiece
Louis Moinet created the first chronograph timepiece in 1816, though this was largely undiscovered until very recently. In 2013, history books were rewritten as Louis Moinet’s stopwatch – a pocket-sized timepiece designed to assist astronomers which recorded time to 1/60th of a second.
Until this discovery, it had been assumed that the first chronograph was created by Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec in 1821 to accurately time horse races.
Although Nicholas was pipped to the post five years prior, he does still get the credit for coming up with the name ‘chronograph’ which literally translates to mean ‘time writer’.
In addition to this, Nicholas was appointed ‘Watchmaker to the King’ by King Louis XVIII, who asked him to create a stopwatch device to accurately record horse races. So, once again, fame and importance take the stand in horology history.
Tag Heuer Bring Innovation To Chronographs
Chronographs remained largely the same throughout the next hundred years, until 1958, when Heuer – you know them as Tag Heuer – attached the rotating bezel tachymeter – that’s the spinning edge which lets you work out speed based on time traveled and your traveled distance from your speed.
This opened the industries in which chronograph watches were used, from horse racing and aviation to automobiles, naval navigation and, eventually, deep-sea diving.
These watches were close to the designs we see today, and once you’re invested in the world of watches, you will definitely be on the lookout for good condition watches from this era, as they are hard to find and worth the search.
Hopefully, this guide has taught you a little bit about the differences between chronograph and analog watches and has refreshed and updated your horological vocabulary to allow you to flourish in conversations with fellow watch enthusiasts. Remember to make a great impression and most of all, let your passion for high-quality watches shine!
We’ve love to know in the comments, any more details about the difference between analog and chronograph watches we could have included?