Due to the similarity of sound, the words “chronograph” and “chronometer” are often confused, although in essence they are two completely different concepts. Both devices have a common purpose - to tell the time, but they do it differently. Any chronometer can be a chronograph, but not any chronograph can be a chronometer. Let's figure out why.
Chronograph – a mechanism built into the watch that allows you to record short periods of time. Unlike a conventional stopwatch, a chronograph performs functions such as starting, stopping and resetting results, without affecting the operation of the watch mechanism itself. Buttons are used to control the mechanism.
Chronograph literally means “recording time” - a combination of the Greek words chronos - “time” and grapho - “to write”. Today, such a name is often confusing; it can hardly be called successful, because modern chronographs are capable of recording time intervals, but not recording them. The explanation for this confusion lies in history. The very first chronographs were equipped with ink needles, which, recording time readings, put a dot on the dial.
It is impossible to say with certainty that one person was the inventor of the chronograph. The first modern chronograph was invented in 1816 by Louis Monet, it was intended for the study of astronomical objects. A few years after this, watchmaker Nicolas Riessec made improvements to the invention necessary for mass production, thus fulfilling the order of the French King Louis XVIII, a big fan of horse racing. The king's desire to know the exact time it took a horse to cover the distance from start to finish was the reason for the appearance of the first commercial chronograph, which soon went on sale. The first wrist chronograph appeared only at the beginning of the 20th century thanks to the efforts of Gaston Breitling. The chronograph was equipped with a stopwatch and one control button, allowing actions to be carried out only sequentially.
Today, simple one-button chronograph watches have become almost a rarity, replaced by more complex mechanisms. Summing chronographs have two buttons: with one, you start or stop the stopwatch, with the other, you reset the results. Split chronographs equipped with an additional module that drives the second hand, they are capable of simultaneously recording the time of two different events. Typically, split-seconds chronographs have three buttons: the first two, as in the case of summing chronographs, are responsible for starting, stopping and resetting, and the third is for stopping one of the hands. There are also fly-back chronographs, they allow you to reset the reading and at the same time start a new one by pressing the button just once.
Chronometer is a watch with particularly precise movement that has passed mandatory certification carried out by the official Swiss chronometry institute COSC (Controle Officiel Suisse des Chronometres). Each chronometer is tested individually and, having passed all tests, receives a “Bulletin du marche” certificate of conformity.
Initially, the chronometer was created for ship navigation. In 1761, inventor John Harrison announced the completion of a device housed in a large wooden box. It, according to Harrison, was capable of giving sailors the long-awaited ability to accurately determine longitude during long sea voyages. The first tests confirmed the words of the Englishman - the chronometer worked, and a new era began in the watch industry.
Harrison did what no one had done before. The vibration of the ship during movement did not affect the functioning of its chronometer; it was resistant to temperature changes and high humidity. The precise course of Harrison's chronometer allowed the ship's crew to calculate longitude - for every 15 degrees the ship moves to the East, local time moves forward an hour. For every 15 degrees to the West, time goes back an hour. Thus, knowing the local time at the ship’s location, the sailors calculated the distance of places, both in the East and in the West.
Tragedy brought the chronometer to a new level of development - in 1891, a train accident occurred in Ohio, USA. Local authorities learned their lesson and decided to quickly develop a chronometer for use on the railway. Among the technical requirements for the device, its compactness was especially emphasized - Harrison's chronometer was the size of a small cabinet, which did not suit the railway workers.
The creation of a new chronometer was undertaken by a man whose name is immortalized in the name of the famous watch manufacturer Ball. American Webster Clay Ball created the first chronometer in the format of a pocket watch; his innovation later migrated to wristwatches.
Wristwatches with a chronometer can be either mechanical or quartz. A quartz chronometer is slightly less susceptible to temperature changes, but this is a common property of all quartz watches. However, let's not forget that in cold weather quartz watches are slightly behind, and in warm weather they can be a little rushed.
Moreover, an aging quartz crystal will become less and less accurate over time - all these circumstances must be taken into account. As a rule, a quartz chronometer is purchased in order to purchase a new one in a few years. Mechanical, subject to maintenance rules, is only once and is passed on to descendants.