Home Continuing Series Historical Horology Historical Horology: So, Who Made The First Chronograph?

Historical Horology: So, Who Made The First Chronograph?



When it comes to watches, there are generally two camps – those who are interested in where our modern watches originated from, and those who could care less. Now, the second camp, I am guessing we lost those people as soon as they saw the title of the post. Those of you left, well, welcome to the first camp. In today’s entry in the Historical Horology series, we will talk about who created the first chronograph.

Now, if you’ve been a good student of historical horology, you are probably ready to throw out the name Nicolas Rieussec. And that is understandable – his has been the name attached for quite some time (since 1822, to be precise). In fact, we even covered his creation in an earlier article in this series.


History is a funny thing, though – now and again a new discovery will come to light that changes the understanding. This happened last year when word got out that Louis Moinet (the company) had something they were going to bring to light. What that something was was the compteur de tierces (aka “thirds timer”) by Louis Moinet (the man).

This pocket watch was created in 1816 to assist in the observation of astronomical happenings. You’ll notice that date is a good long time before Rieussec created his watch, thereby making the “First” crown an easy one to move over. What Moinet created is not just a watch that we are stretching the definition of what a chronograph is.


Yes, it has behavior more similar to a stop watch, but the layout is something we would recognize today, and the functions are controlled by a familiar pusher configuration. Surprisingly enough, the pocketwatch also has an escapement that operates at an unheard of 30Hz (most mechanical watches today operate at 3 or 4 Hz), all while maintaining a 30-hour power reserve. Not too shabby for a watch that’s almost 200 years old, I have to say.


For a more in-depth look at this discovery, check out Joshua Munchow’s great article over at Quill & Pad.

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