The evolution of the chronograph

The chronograph, by virtue of its precision and complexity, occupies a special place among watchmaking functions. Its ability to measure elapsed time has revolutionised countless fields, from sports and aviation to scientific research.

What is a chronograph?

The chronograph is a watch that incorporates a stopwatch function. While there were early versions that used a pencil to basically mark the elapsed time, modern chronographs are like having two watches in one.

They usually have one or two additional buttons on the side, together with subdials on the main dial, to control and display the stopwatch function. This allows the time of events to be measured without the need for a separate stopwatch. Let us now see how they have evolved over the years.

Origin of the chronograph

The quest to measure time at specific moments goes back centuries. In 1816, Louis Moinet surprised the watchmaking world with his innovative ‘compteur de tierces’, designed for astronomical observations. This instrument could measure intervals of up to 1/60th of a second, an extraordinary feat for its time.

In 1822, Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec, who registered the term chronograph, cemented the chronograph’s place in history with his invention when he was the watchmaker to King Louis XVIII. Rieussec’s chronograph had a dial equipped with a small pen that dropped dots of ink, literally “writing”, as he liked to say, the passage of time and thus giving the watch its name.

Miniaturisation of the chronograph

Early chronographs were bulky and primarily scientific tools, but a wave of innovation turned them into the wristwatches we know today. Adolphe Nicole’s landmark 1862 patent

introduced a chronograph with its own seconds hand, controlled by the now familiar start, stop and reset functions.

In the late 19th century, demand for chronographs increased. Longines and Breitling emerged as industry leaders, further refining designs, improving accuracy and reliability and pushing

the boundaries of miniaturisation. Chronographs became essential tools in sports timekeeping, military applications and even in early aviation.

The chronograph in the 20th century

The mid-20th century was the beginning of a golden age for the chronograph. In the historic “space race” of the 1960s, Omega’s legendary Speedmaster became the watch of choice for NASA. This strengthened the chronograph’s reputation and marked it as a symbol of human exploration.

The evolution of the chronograph

The race to invent the first self-winding chronograph culminated in 1969 with collaborative efforts between manufacturers such as Zenith, Heuer, Breitling and Dubois Dépraz.

The quartz crisis

The rise of quartz watches challenged the mechanical chronograph. Fortunately, the rich tradition of watchmaking endured. Manufacturers focused on the enduring appeal of the craftsmanship, perfecting traditional movements and adding features such as the flyback function, which allows instant reset without stopping, and split-second functions to time multiple events simultaneously.

The chronograph today

The 21st century has seen the chronograph become a watchmaking playground. High-tech materials such as ceramics and carbon fibre, complex internal movements and avant-garde designs have seen the chronograph gain in importance over the years.

Over the years many watches have been released with a chronograph function, some

examples of which are also available at Ideal Joyeros: TAG Heuer Carrera, Chopard Mille Miglia Classic or the IWC Big Pilots Spitfire.

The evolution of the chronograph

Today, the chronograph is an icon, a type of watch that is available in both sporty and elegant styles and is also practical in many cases. We encourage you to discover the variety of luxury watches available at Ideal Joyeros so that you can find the one that fits your style perfectly.




Welcome to our Virtual Luxury Boutique.

  • Immediate expert advice in real time.
  • Knowledge and experience in luxury watch brands.
  • Advice and guidance with the purchase of jewelry.
  • Opening hours from 10:00am to 9:00pm (GMT), 7 days a week, Monday to Saturday.

Contact us throught the following channels:


To contact our Boutiques. BOUTIQUES


To send us a question/ query by mail. CONTACT


To send us a question/ query by whatsapp. EUROPE