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Chronometer vs. Chronograph: What’s the Difference?

Chronometer vs. Chronograph: What’s the Difference?

Chronometer vs chronograph. While both have "Chrono" in their words, their meanings are significantly different. Read on to find out more.
Mar 28, 2024

Obtaining new watches can sometimes be a daunting act in itself, most especially when reading its description and it’s filled with high-tech features (think: a tachymeter watch). A common question is on the difference between a chronometer vs chronograph, most especially for the newer watch enthusiasts. 

While both have “chrono” in their titles, there is a distinctive difference between a chronometer vs. a chronograph lies in their meaning. A chronometer leans toward the performance of a specific watch while a chronograph tends to refer to an additional function. This article will try to tackle just that, defining what is a chronograph watch and what is a chronometer.  

Read on to find out more information on the difference between a chronometer vs. chronograph.

What is a Chronograph Watch

A chronograph watch relates to a certain function in a watch. This function is an extra feature in addition to the basics of a timepiece: displaying the hours, minutes, and seconds. The accuracy of a watch does not rely on whether the watch is chronograph or not but there is added pleasure in daily time reading for this additional feature.

Essentially, a chronograph is also a stopwatch. There are pushers usually situated on the side of the case at 2 o’clock or 4 o’clock and when applied with pressure, the second hand can stop, start or return to zero. This allows for the tracking of time.

For modern chronographs, the act of recording time using this function generally involves a sub-dial to not interfere with the workings of the main one and to be reset as pleased by the wearer.

3 of the Best Chronograph Watch

For a clearer difference between chronometer vs chronograph watch and perhaps as a way for you to get more references on attractive watches worth adding to your collection, here are three timepieces with a chronograph feature.

Read Also: 6 Best Chronograph Watches Under $500: Practical and Stylish

Hamilton Intra Matic Chronograph H

The first recommended chronograph watch is the Hamilton Intra Matic Chronograph H. It features a sweet manual winding Caliber H-51 movement capable of 60 hours of power reserve. Furthermore, the chronograph takes inspiration from its 1969 A&B Chronographs, a simple feature with two stoppers located on its 2 and 4 o’clock position.Hamilton American Classic Intra-Matic Chronograph H Black - Leather Ref. H38429730

The vintage aura is clear at a glance, a thin case, an off-white colored dial, and a retro design. This is further accentuated by its domed sapphire crystal.

IWC Portugieser Chronograph

This Swiss luxury watchmaker established the Portugieser 1930s maritime-inspired line of timepieces. Simple 2 and 4 o’clock pushers along with subdials signifying seconds and minutes situated on its 12 and 6 o’clock contribute to the feature of recording time. 

This timeless watch, a combination of light gray, golden hands, and numerals with dark blue sundial hands shows an exuberant air of refinement and class.

A.Lange & Sohne Triple Split

Next, the A.Lange & Sohne Triple Split is a splendid choice for a chronograph. This German-made timepiece features the rare triple-rattrapante chronograph, an ode to its titular name, you are able to divide the chronograph seconds hands to time different events. Not only that, the same can be done to the minutes and hour hands too. 

Its capability of generating multiple splits in one chronograph powered by a singular movement deserves more than a round of applause in itself.

Read also: Casual yet Stylish: The Favorite Watches Pick to Accompany You

What is a Chronometer 

The difference between a chronometer and a chronograph is that a chronometer does not relate to a certain function. A chronometer is a term to define a certain performance of a watch. 

This particular definition is applied to watches that have passed intensive precision tests through a 15-day period by an official certification organization. For watches made in Switzerland, the organization is the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC). 

Alternatively, watches can be certified as a chronometer when approved by the Japan Chronometer Inspection Institute. These precision tests must be met with a certain mark on several criteria including,

  • Mean variation in rates
  • The distinction between rates in vertical and horizontal positions
  • Average daily rate
  • The greatest variation in rates
  • Temperature-dependent variation in rate
  • Rate resumption
  • The largest variation in rates

These tests are performed in multiple positions, face on top, face on bottom, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, and 9 o’clock. The easiest criteria to grasp for the watch enthusiast is the average daily rate, to classify as a chronometer, its deviation per day must be constrained within the -4 seconds/+6 seconds range.

This idea to certify watches stems from the collective passion for precision that watchmakers have. While these man-made movements powering the display of time never results in a 100 percent precision, a question is then posed on the extent of accuracy a watch can have. 

Usually, timepieces that have been certified as a chronometer have the aforementioned title on their dial to signify this prestigious achievement.

Read also: How Long Do Automatic Watches Last? A Brief and How to Care

3 of the Best Chronometer Watch

Now that the discussion on what is a chronometer and the difference between a chronometer and a chronograph has finally been answered. Here is a personal recommendation on the best watches certified as a chronometer.

Breitling Superocean Heritage II B20

All watches by Breitling are chronometers certified by the COSC. This particular Breitling Superocean Heritage II B20 is powered by an in-house B20 movement. Among the beautiful features of the watch include a black unidirectional bezel and the same colored dial with the word ‘chronometer’ displayed below the Superocean logo.

This is a watch measuring quite a significant space in the wrist with up to 44mm in diameter. Along the base of the bezel is 18 karat gold. With its 200 m water resistance, this specific timepiece is not only superior in glamor but also in performance. 

Ball Watch Co. Trainmaster Standard Time Chronometer

Next, the best chronometer watch comes from the American brand Ball Watch Co., the Trainmaster Standard Time Chronometer. This classy timepiece features a sub-display for seconds situated at 6 o’clock. One can grasp an old-fashioned yet stylish look through the fonts for their numerals, slim case, and modest 39.5mm sizing.Ball Watch Co. Trainmaster Standard Time Chronometer Ref. NM3888D-LL1CJ-WH

This dress watch certainly does not gloss over quality for its automatic chronometer signature is clearly displayed on its porcelain white dial. This preciseness is supported by the Automatic Caliber Ball RR1105.

The most beautiful aspect of the watch is when the light starts to dim, atop the Arabic numerals, minute and second hands are micro gas tubes placed minimally and proportionally to each other aiding nighttime reading.

Omega Seamaster Master Chronometer

Aside from certifying the prestigious chronometer title from the COSC, the Omega Seamaster Master Chronometer also goes through further rigorous testing for its submerged capabilities, temperature variations, and exposure to up to 15,000 gausses of magnetic fields to become certified by the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS).

With its 300 m of water resistance and supported by the Omega Caliber 8800 movement offering up to 55 hours of power reserve, the outcome is a definitive quality watch. Furthermore, the wave ornament on its dial and the variety in both material, steel or leather, and color, gray, blue, or black adds to the beauty of this timepiece.

Is the difference between a chronograph and a chronometer now clear? A timepiece can have both a chronometer and a chronograph. But, a chronograph watch does not necessarily mean that it can qualify as a chronometer and a chronometer timepiece can choose not to possess a chronograph. 

Stay updated to our Gnomon blog for more useful wisdom on the world of horology, catered for the watch newbie, enthusiasts, and collectors.

Read also: The Alluring Charm of Watches with Sweeping Second Hand

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