When it comes to the history of watchmaking, one of the most popular (and complex) complications that have come to be seems to be, time and again, the chronograph. While I myself seem to be personally moving away from an interest in chronographs, I certainly understand the appeal, and still believe it to be an amazing feat of engineering with the accuracy we’re able to get to these days. If you’d like to learn some more about the chronograph, and things like how it came to be, and how to use one, read right on.

First things first – this is a Historical Horology post, so we need to tackle some history. While a man by the name of Louis Monet created what we would consider to be the first chronograph watch (in 1815), it was actually Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec who created the first market-ready version that was commisioned in 1821 by King Louis XVIII. Why did the king want such an ability? To time horse races, a favorite pastime of his.

Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec
Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec

The watch proved popular, although it had an interesting quirk (by today’s usage of chronographs) – it was constantly running. It wasn’t until 1844 where we had a reset capability added by Adolphe Nicole. After that, while the watchmaking industry underwent massive changes, the chronograph itself didn’t see any massive innovation, until we come to 1958, when a rotating bezel tachmeter was added by Tag Heuer.

Of course, since that time, there’s been all manner of scales added to the chronograph, allowing for a variety of different measurements that are able to be captured. If you’d like to dig more into the history (as well as have a primer on how to read some of those scales), check out this article from Gentleman’s Gazette.


ByPatrick Kansa

A big data developer and leader with a penchant for gadgets, books, watches and beverages. You can find my work on WristWatchReview, Knapsack.News, and Slushpile. If you're on Twitter and/or Instagram, you'll find me there as @PatrickWatches.

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