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how to use a chronograph watch

How to Use a Chronograph Watch: A Complete Guide

Learning how to use a chronograph watch ensures you use the features optimally and safely.
Jun 28, 2024

A chronograph watch is more than just a timekeeping device. It's a multifunctional tool that offers stopwatch capabilities, making it a favorite among watch enthusiasts, athletes, and professionals. But do you know how to use a chronograph watch? 

Understanding its various functions and features can greatly enhance its utility and your appreciation for its craftsmanship. From starting and stopping the timer to reading the subdials and utilizing additional features like the tachymeter, mastering a chronograph requires a bit of practice and knowledge. 

This guide will walk you through the steps to effectively use a chronograph watch, ensuring you can leverage its full potential for both everyday activities and specialized tasks.

Understanding the Chronograph Watch

Before diving into how to use a chronograph, it's essential to understand its components and functions. A typical chronograph watch has the following features:

  • Main timekeeping dial: Displays the current time.
  • Subdials: These smaller dials track elapsed time (often in seconds, minutes, and hours).
  • Pushers: Buttons on the side of the watch are used to start, stop, and reset the chronograph function.
  • Tachymeter (optional): A scale around the bezel used to measure speed over a known distance.

Starting the Chronograph

In the first place, you might ask yourself about how to set a chronograph watch. In many cases, a chronograph watch features two pushers on the right side of the watch. Typically, the top pusher (Button A) starts and stops the chronograph, while the bottom pusher (Button B) resets it.

To initiate the chronograph function, press the top pusher (Button A) firmly. This action will set the central chronograph hand in motion, beginning to measure the elapsed time from zero. The subdials will also start to operate simultaneously.

For instance, the seconds subdial will begin counting up from zero, and as each minute passes, the minutes subdial will advance. This continuous tracking allows you to time events accurately. Whether you're timing a sporting event, cooking, or any other activity, starting the chronograph is your first step.

Read also: Best Chronograph Watches Under $1000 for 2024

Stopping the Chronograph

When you want to stop the chronograph, press the top pusher (Button A) again. This action halts the movement of the central chronograph hand and the subdials, freezing the display to show the exact elapsed time. This feature is particularly useful for recording split times during races or other events where multiple intervals need to be measured. 

Reading the Elapsed Time

The next thing you should know on how to use a chronograph watch is reading the elapsed time. In doing so, observe the positions of the chronograph hands. The central hand usually indicates elapsed seconds, while the subdials provide additional information. 

For example, one subdial might show the elapsed minutes, while another indicates hours. Some chronographs also include a subdial for fractions of a second, providing even more precise measurements. 

By combining these readings, you can determine the total elapsed time with high accuracy. Familiarize yourself with the scale and markings on your watch to ensure you're interpreting the readings correctly.

Resetting the Chronograph

After you have recorded the elapsed time, you can reset the chronograph to its original state. Press the bottom pusher (Button B) to return the central chronograph hand and the subdials to zero. 

This action prepares the watch for its next timing event. It's important to ensure that the chronograph is stopped before resetting it to avoid damaging the internal mechanisms. Resetting the chronograph ensures that you can start a new timing event from a clear and accurate zero position.

Read also: What Is a Flyback Chronograph? A Timekeeping Marvel

Using Additional Features

A chronograph watch usually features additional measurement features, such as a tachymeter bezel and split timing. Below are the details:


If your chronograph watch has a tachymeter, you can measure speed over a known distance. Start the chronograph when passing a starting point and stop it after covering the distance. The position of the central chronograph hand will indicate your speed in units per hour (e.g., kilometers or miles per hour).

Split Timing

Some advanced chronographs offer split timing (or lap timing) features. This allows you to record multiple intervals without resetting the chronograph. Consult your watch's manual for specific instructions on using this function.

Affordable Chronograph Watches

Ready to hunt for some of the best affordable chronograph watches? We have our favorites here!

Seiko Prospex Speedtimer Chronograph White Ref. SBDL095

Seiko Prospex Speedtimer Chronograph White Ref. SBDL095

The first affordable chronograph watch to consider is the Seiko Prospex Speedtimer Chronograph White. The watch features a quartz movement that ensures exceptional accuracy, with a chronograph capable of measuring elapsed time up to 60 minutes in 1/5-second increments. 

The dial, adorned with contrasting subdials, offers clear readability, while the pushers facilitate smooth operation for starting, stopping, and resetting the chronograph. Designed for both practicality and elegance, the Seiko Prospex Speedtimer Chronograph combines reliable performance with sophisticated aesthetics.

Price: $479.00 USD

Steinhart Yachtimer - Gnomon Exclusive

Steinhart Yachtimer - Gnomon Exclusive

The Steinhart Yachtimer - Gnomon Exclusive stands out for its robust chronograph functionality. Designed specifically for nautical enthusiasts, this chronograph watch features a precise stopwatch mechanism that allows for accurate timing of sailing intervals and regattas.

Its well-placed pushers facilitate easy start, stop, and reset actions, while the clear and legible subdials ensure that elapsed time is effortlessly readable. The Yachtimer's chronograph capabilities are enhanced by its durable build and high-quality movement.

Price: $1,259.00 USD

Yema Rallygraf Meca-Quartz Chronograph Reverse Panda - Bracelet

Yema Rallygraf Meca-Quartz Chronograph Reverse Panda - Bracelet

Last but not least, the Yema chronograph could be an excellent choice for affordable options. The Yema Rallygraf Meca-Quartz Chronograph Reverse Panda is known for its precise chronograph functionality.

The Meca-Quartz movement combines the accuracy of quartz with the tactile feel of a mechanical chronograph, ensuring both reliability and an engaging user experience. The Reverse Panda dial, characterized by its striking black background and contrasting white subdials, enhances legibility, making it easy to read elapsed time at a glance.

Price: $359.00 USD

Tips for Maintaining Your Chronograph Watch

Besides learning how to use a chronograph watch, knowing how to take care of them is also crucial. That way, you can have your chronograph watch runs for years to come. Here are several things to note:

  • Regular servicing: Have your watch serviced regularly by a professional to ensure it remains accurate and functional.
  • Avoid overuse: While chronographs are designed for frequent use, avoid continuous use for prolonged periods as they can wear out the internal mechanisms.
  • Proper storage: Store your watch in a cool, dry place, preferably in a watch box, to protect it from dust and moisture.

Final Thought

A chronograph watch is a versatile and practical accessory that can enhance your timekeeping experience. Understanding how to use a chronograph watch helps you use your chronograph watch with confidence and precision. Whether timing a race, measuring your speed, or simply enjoying the intricate mechanics of your watch, mastering the chronograph adds a new dimension to your horological journey.

Read also: Jumping Seconds Watches: A Brief into Iconic Complication

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