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Chronograph Dials

Updated on November 24, 2013

About Chronograph Watch Dials

Chronographs are mechanical wrist watches that, in addition to their normal clockwork, have mechanisms that allows them to time short-term events. This type of watch has both timekeeping and stopwatch functions that allow for the measurement and register of time intervals, and more.

There are many types of chronograph watches, from the traditional mechanical to the modern digital. Plus, there are many variations of the chronograph watch depending on the purpose for the watch and the dials associated with that purpose.

As you'll see below, I've complied a list of the various dials that can be incorporated into a mechanical chronograph watch, along with some of the functions, or indications, that can be derived from that dial.

Chronograph Basics


Chronograph Dials and Indications

Below is a list the various chronograph dials and what they indicate:

SECONDS, MINUTES, AND HOURS: The more common dials of a chronograph watch will measure seconds, minutes, half hours, and hour increments. A very handy function for just about anyone - even if you just want to know how long you left your vehicle in the parking lot.

SPLIT SECOND: Timed events, such as sports and racing events, require split second measurements. This split second measurement feature exists only with chronographs with either minute counters or with minute and hour counters.

TACHYMETER: The tachymeter scale is for the measurement of speeds of a moving object (such as a vehicle, bicyclist, or pedestrian) over a known distance. On modern chronographs with tachometer scales, speeds from 60 to 1000 kph can generally be read.

TELEMETER: With the telemeter scale it's possible to measure the distance of a phenomenon which is both visible and audible. For example, during a thunderstorm the time that has elapsed between the flash of lightening and the sound of the thunder is registered on the chronograph scale allowing the distance to be determined. The telemeter scale is usually at the very outside of the dial.

PULSOMETER: Known as the "doctor's watch" the pulsometer scale, or pulse-register, is used for taking a patient's heart rate, and shows at a glance the number of pulse beats per minute.

ASTHMOMETER: For athletes and doctors it can be important to determine breathing rates. The asthmometer, or breath-register chronograph dial shows the number of respirations, or breathing rate, per minute.

PRODUCTION-COUNTING CHRONOGRAPH: Industrialization, which led to mass-production of products, required that planning and production times for a particular product be calculated. The production-counting scale is especially useful to large-scale manufacturers, as it enables them to determine the number of articles produced per hour.

SIMPLE CALENDAR: Beyond the normal time indication, a calendar indication on a watch is probably the most useful function. The simple calendar has only a date hand or date aperature.

FULL CALENDAR: A chronograph with a "full" calendar displays the date, the day of the week, and the month.

THE PERPETUAL CALENDAR: The highest degree of technical perfection is that of chronographs with a "perpetual calendar." This type of calendar requires a "four-year wheel" that takes into account the varying days of each month plus leap year. The moon phase is also controlled so that no correction is needed.

MOON PHASE: The moon phase dial is usually combined on a chronograph with the calendar dials. A moon face rotates throughout it's cycle and displays through a cutout often located within the hour-counter dial.

TIDE CHRONOGRAPH: This type of chronograph watch has two different indicators. The left auxiliary dial shows tides. This will show when high and low tides occur at given coastlines and harbors. The dial on the right is divided by color into six sectors of five minutes each. These dials are designed for yachting and yacht racing, and also to show solunar periods and tides.

CHRONOGRAPH WITH A DIRECTIONAL HAND (INDICATING NORTH): This type of chronograph has an additional "compass" hand bearing the letter "N" which completes one turn of the dial in 24 hours. Bearings may be taken by turning the watch, held horizontally, so that the hour hand points towards the sun, in which case the direction of North is shown by the indicator hand.

CHRONOGRAPH WITH COMPASS: On a cloudy day the system of orientation by using the directional hand (described above) would naturally be useless, because the north pointer could not be set when the sun was not visible. About 75 years ago a method was developed to integrate a small compass onto the face of a chronograph. Since the compass was on the dial it was now necessary to make all steel parts out of non-magnetic material so that the watch itself would not interfere with the compass readings.

CHRONOGRAPH WITH CALCULATOR: For numerous scales such as the telemeter, tachometer, production register, etc., a mathematical calculation was presupposed by appropriate gradations on the scale, and you would have to know the basis for the calculations. To help with this, a set of logarithmic graduations could be fixed onto the bezel of the case. Calculations could now be carried out easily on the watch. In the 1950s and 1960s, when the pocket calculator was not yet widely used, aviation watches for pilots were also equipped with these calculating rings.

CHRONOGRAPH WITH A MEMENTO DIAL: The dial of the chronograph is fitted with a special reminder dial for noting the time of any given event.


THE TELEPHONE-UNIT REGISTER: In the past it was customary for post offices to charge telephone fees for units of three minutes, especially for calls outside the country. The minute register of a chronograph was specially marked with a longer line for every third minute. Now that telephone fees are calculated a bit differently, this three minute marking is no longer incorporated into modern watch dials.

Fun Chronograph Facts


A Chronograph is an instrument which measures and registers time intervals. The word chronograph evolved from the name "Chronos" the greek god of time, and "Graph" meaning to write.

Chronos, the Greek god of time: There are several spellings to his name - Chronos, Khronos, Kronos, Kronus, and Cronus, all of which refer to the same god. Chronos was actually a Titan god - the beings that were in existence before the Greek gods. He was the god of all time and the universe.

Chronos was represented in Greco-Roman mosaic as Aion, "eternity" personified. He stands against the sky holding a wheel inscribed with the signs of the zodiac. Beneath his feet Gaia (Mother Earth) is usually seen reclining.

Another interesting factoid: Chronos still survives in New Year's celebrations as "Father Time" who is replaced by the "New Year's Baby" - a form of Zeus.

Chronograph Comments & Guestbook

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Wonderful information. Thanks a lot.

    • agoofyidea profile image


      6 years ago

      Good information on a very useful item. Nice lens.

    • McAllisters profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike and Karen 

      6 years ago from Southern California

      @dahlia369: Thank you !! :-)

    • dahlia369 profile image


      6 years ago

      Interesting topic, nicely done. Blessed! :)


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