Chronometer VS Chronograph 2021 – What’s the Difference?



Published on 15th July 2021

For anyone who’s new to the fascinating subject of Horology, the terms ‘Chronometer’ and ‘Chronograph’ may seem all too similar to each other. It can also become quite confusing to learn that they are anything, but the same and you may end up using them interchangeably. These two terms represent two completely different aspects of timepieces. Whilst one is a feature in a watch, the other defines the watch in itself. To learn more about the difference in these two confusing terms, let’s read further, shall we?

The Chronometer

Chronometers are not to be confused with chronographs. A chronometer is a term that defines a specific kind of watch.

What is a Chronometer?

Handsome Chronometer
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Certified Chronometer

A chronometer is in essence, any timepiece that can measure time with extremely consistent accuracy even in unfavorable external conditions.

The term, ‘Chronometer’ was coined in the 18th century when watchmakers like John Harrison invented clocks that were so precise that they were used in ships to determine longitude by comparing the GMT with the position of astronomical bodies in the sky.

Today, ‘Chronometer’ is a certification issued by organizations such as the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) in Switzerland, the Japan Chronometer Inspection Institute in Japan, etc for timepieces that are able to perform highly accurate timekeeping.

What is a Chronometer used for?

Omega Seamaster Certified Chronometer

Apart from the fact that the modern chronometer certification is an indication of high watchmaking standards and quality, chronometers in the past have been used as marine chronometers in ships like we mentioned, and in astronomical observatories. Chronometers can be seen as a part of various subcategories of watches like dive watches, pilot watches, tactical watches, and even dress watches!


How does a Chronometer watch work?

In the past, chronometers were made with especially durable and innovative materials to ensure accuracy. Various materials such as Palladium were used in the movements for their unique physical properties. Genuine Diamonds, Sapphires, or Rubies were used for jewels in the movement. The balance springs were often made with special materials to ensure a long, accurate life.

With advancements in technology, modern mechanical chronometer-certified watches are built with excellent attention to detail. In both cases, they feature complications such as perpetual calendars, minute repeaters, moon phases, and many more. The material usage now depends on the target audience for which the watch is being made.


Who uses Chronometers? Why own it?

Certified Chronometer
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Certified Chronometer

In the past, chronometers were a necessity in places where accuracy was vital. But with the invention of the atomic clock, quartz timekeeping, and all, the mechanical chronometer of old has become a highly valued and collectible historical antique.  Since the watches are no more just reserved for royalty, the modern-day chronometers are made accessible and affordable to a larger crowd.

The modern-day chronometer-certified watches can be purchased by anyone as a hobby, status symbol, or just to appreciate the technical artistry that goes into them.

The Chronograph

Whether you are sporty, dapper, or professional, a chronograph can come in really ‘handy’ to you!

What is a Chronograph?

Jacques Leman Chronograph Watch

A chronograph can be a bit of a complication. In brief, it’s basically a stopwatch feature on a timepiece that also shows the minutes, hours & seconds. That’s what makes it completely different when we compare it to the term, ‘Chronometer’. People often tend to confusingly interchange the usage of the terms Chronograph and chronometers. Read more to find out what is the difference between both!


What does a Chronograph watch tell you?

Tissot Chronograph
Tissot Chronograph

A Chronograph watch measures elapsed time, independently from the main timekeeping. It’s a fantastically complicated system beneath if we’re talking about mechanical chronographs. Even though it’s highly complicated, it’s also one of the most common complications for a timepiece. It’s a highly convenient function to time aspects of our life.

How does a Chronograph watch work?

Usually, a Chronograph watch has a second hand that sits stationary till it’s engaged. Then there will be sub-dials with their own hands to measure elapsed minutes and in some models, even hours.

The watch will have pushers outside the case to engage the mechanism. The most common layout is 2 pushers at 2 and 4 O’Clock. The upper pusher is used to start and pause the mechanism. The bottom one is used to reset everything back to the center.

This isn’t a rule and there are exceptions. Like the beautiful Cartier Monopoussoir which has only a single pusher to perform all the aforementioned functions. The pusher is held in place to reset the mechanism, while it’s pressed normally to start and pause. Also, there is the Omega Chronostop that has just a second hand and no sub-dials. Then there are pieces like the Panerai Luminor Chronograph that have the pushers on the left side too. So many variations exist.


Do you need a Chronograph watch?

Chronograph Watch

In most cases, the real question would be, “Do you want a Chronograph watch?” After all, it’s a beautiful complication that provides more detail and depth to a standard timepiece.

Of course, having a stopwatch on your wrist that can be used anytime is fantastic and convenient on its own. There are numerous uses like you know.

Then there’s the artistry. Taking timepieces such as the A. Lange & Söhne 1815 or the Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes De Vache 1955 as examples, the chronograph mechanism is shown proudly through a display case back. Why? It’s beautiful to behold. The complicated maze of small parts, the artistic engraving, what’s there not to love?


How’s a Chronometer different from a Chronograph?

Chronometer Chronograph
1. It refers to a timepiece that performs highly accurately under any circumstance. It’s also a certification of high standards of quality & accuracy. 1. It’s a stopwatch complication on a watch that is convenient enough to be used anytime.
2. A chronometer timepiece may or may not feature a chronograph complication. 2. A chronograph watch may or may not hold a chronometer certification.
3. A timepiece can be accurate enough to be chronometer-certified if the materials and internal engineering of the movement are so effective and efficient that the watch performed almost flawlessly. 3. A timepiece that has either a chronograph module attached to a standard movement or has a movement that has an integrated or built-in chronograph complication to measure elapsed time independently from the main timekeeping is termed as a Chronograph.
4. There are specific institutions that award a chronometer certification to timepieces after rigorous testing. 4. It’s up to the manufacturer to decide whether their timepiece shall feature a chronograph complication or not.

Best Watch with Chronograph in 2021

Whilst there are many watches under this category, the following are our pick of the lot for the year 2021!

Bulova Archive Series Men’s Pilot Chronograph Watch

Bulova Archive Series Men’s Pilot Chronograph Watch
Bulova Archive Series Men’s Pilot Chronograph Watch (Image: Amazon)

The Bulova Archive Series Men’s Watch boasts the unique Bulova Three Prong Quartz Crystal Movement, with a frequency of 262 kHz, which is eight times more than the standard quartz movement, with amazing accuracy. The simplistic pilot watch design and functionality depicted in the sober yet stylish timepiece is the most elegant chronograph watch to own this year. A basic black design followed from the dial to the leather strap!

Bulova Archive Series Men’s Pilot Chronograph Watch : Specifications

  • Precision timing to 1/1,000th of a second.
  • 12-hour chronograph function.
  • One of the world’s most accurate movements – accurate to within seconds a year.
  • Precisionist-class torsional resonator movement proven in laboratory testing to be three times more accurate than standard quartz.
  • Stainless steel case and bracelet.
  • Curved mineral crystal.
  • Multiple-layer black carbon fiber, blue and silver dial.
  • Yellow continuously sweeping second hand. 

  • High-frequency quartz chronograph.
  • Movement with a second hand that ticks twice per second; High Accuracy.

  • Value for Money.

  • Blue Lumination could be better.



The Conclusion

Now that we’ve learned what’s the difference between a Chronometer and a Chronograph, we have also learned how to appreciate the history behind both the terms and how innovative and important both of them have been in the history of mankind’s progression. After all, the Chronometer is a very mathematical, analog, and basic precursor to the modern-day GPS System and the chronograph has so many stories to it such as its usage in the Omega Speedmaster as a watch that was worn on the moon and in space.

Chronographs and Chronometers might coincide, but now we know the basic difference between them. There are many types of watches that may only have either of these. Depending on the usage and purpose of the watch, the inclusion of a chronograph can be decided. Remember, Chronometers can include chronographs, but not every chronograph is a chronometer!

The world of Horology is so beautiful. When you decide to purchase your next timepiece, you may even consider getting one that is chronometer-certified or featuring a beautiful chronograph movement! The sky’s the limit! Check out our personalised list of the best chronograph watches this year. Don’t miss it!

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