Learn How to Use Chronograph Watch

Last update February 15, 2019
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Let’s just pinpoint exactly what kind of a device we’re talking about and explain what is a chronograph watch and what it can do for you. To put it simply, a chronograph watch is a combination of a regular display watch and a stopwatch. It has multiple regular hands to measure time on all levels, including hours, minutes, seconds as well as special hands to calculate speed or distance though these aren’t a required feature and may be absent on the more basic models. Invented in 1816, the device was initially intended for tracking astronomical objects, though that use is far less frequent nowadays. The most popular use for a chronograph, regardless of how high-end and intricate it is, is as a stopwatch. And that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about from here on out. Today, we will learn how to use chronograph watch step by step.

How to Use Chronograph Watch Step by Step

Despite the high-precision measurements available with a device of this kind, using it is not complicated at all and won’t require any special skills. First, you need to accommodate yourself to the timepiece and its parts. Take a look at your watch and establish what each of the hands stands for. Your timepiece most likely has three little sub-dials that look similar to the regular display but are a bit smaller and each of them only measures one unit. Usually, the one on the left is for minutes, the middle one is for hours, and the right one is for seconds. However, the rightmost sub-dial’s hand actually counts the passage of seconds in the present time, unlike the other two, which are specifically intended for stopwatch operation and measurements. The actual chronograph seconds hand is the longest on the dial, positioned squarely at 12 o’clock.

To turn your chronograph on, just press a button, usually positioned on the side of the timepiece. As soon as you push it, the long second hand will start moving and, after a while, so will the stopwatch-minutes hand. You can use a digital timer or a similar measuring device to check how precise your wristwatch is and keep track of the regular seconds hand to see the current time.

After you’re done measuring, just push the button again and the chronograph will stop. Take down the results, if you have to, and don’t forget to press the button again to reset the hands back to zero. Alternatively, you can keep the progress if you’re trying to track the length of several separate events as one unit.

It’s important to remember that different watches may have varying bezels on the subdials. So while a high-precision model might be able to time up to 60 minutes, a more basic timepiece will have just 30 minutes marked on the bezel.

While we’re on the subject, let’s do a quick rundown on how to read chronograph measurements. It’s pretty simple if you’re measuring in seconds only but when you go a tier or two up, to minutes and hours, you have to take into account how many marks are on the sub-dial bezels. If your minute sub-dial only counts to 30, a 45-minute timer will end up showing 15 on the minute hand and 0.5 on the hours dial. However, cheap models may not even have an hours dial and only count up to 30 minutes, which puts a substantial restriction on your measurements. That’s why we recommend only using the best wristwatches as spending a bit more can guarantee precision and reliability.

Ways to Use Your Chronograph Watch

Most people use the timer to measure how long their evening run lasts or see how much time is needed to cook a certain dish. Chronographs are especially handy for joggers as you don’t have to put them on your running belt, which may already be full. However, not every application of a chronograph is mundane. For example, many divers use the built-in chronographs on their timepieces to see how long they’ve spend underwater and when they’ll have to come back up. Of course, not every model can withstand water and the pressure that comes with being submerged so you’d have to get a dive watch for that. Another popular use is tracking the movement of objects to measure their speed. Whether you’re checking to see how fast your new car can actually go or training your kids to run an obstacle course for a championship, precision is key and a good chronograph should offer just that.

When you know how to use a chronograph, finding a cool or unusual application for it is just a matter of your own imagination. Measure how long it takes you to beat a level in a video game or complete your workout or even see how fast you can finish your commute to work, anything goes! You could even use it at your job if you ever have to do time-sensitive projects or any tasks that require precision timing. As long as your watch is ticking, the chronograph will always have a use. But if your timepiece lets you down and stops, you can use a watch winder to get it going again.

And if your chronograph timepiece has a built-in tachymeter, you can use it to measure the speed of moving objects or even check the distance traveled by using the markings on the bezel. Of course, a tachymeter is also immensely useful in aviation but if you’re a pilot you already know that and few casual flyers will require the help of the device. Also, while you may not be able to measure wind speed with your tachymeter, you can always get an anemometer to do that.

One unusual idea is to use the chronograph to keep track of time zones when you’re traveling. This is only possible if your wristwatch has a sub-dial which counts up to 12 hours, though. Just start the chronograph at exactly midnight or noon in the new zone and you’ll always know the correct time instead of constantly forgetting about the shift in hours.So if you value your time and want to know how long you spend on everyday tasks, a chronograph is a pretty cool way to do it. For example, you could try some speed reading software and clock your improvement over time by using the watch.


Hopefully this short manual has helped you and explained clearly how to use a chronograph watch. Just follow these simple steps and you’ll be able to track time, speed, and distance with ease and high precision. The controls of a chronograph watch are fairly straightforward and don’t require any practice or extra knowledge. Just remember to get a good reliable model.