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When most people think of chronograph watches, the first thing that often comes to mind is "Stop Watch". For a large majority of watches, this initial thought is true. However, there are many different types of chronograph watches made, all with different purposes and functions. This article is meant to be an introduction to these fantastic models and an explanation of the purpose of their specific measurement scales.
In an effort to provide an easy transition into this topic, we're beginning with a very popular chronograph scale - the "Tachymeter". The primary usage of the tachymeter is to measure speed over a fixed distance. The pusher is pushed once at a specific point and again once a second reference point is reached, such as the mile markers on a road or track. One of the most recognizable models with a tachymeter is the Rolex Daytona, which is featured in the photo below.
Another scale that has close relation to the tachyometer scale in chronograph watches is the "Decimal or Deci" scale. Although it is much less prevalent in watch designs, it is still used today. The decimal scale is a simple alteration of the standard timing scale used on a dial or bezel. Its intended use is for industrial and scientific measurement purposes rather than sporting, the dial is broken down into 10ths of a minute rather than 60ths. This allows the wearer to make more precise readings that are more applicable for precise timing in a controlled environment.There are many great examples of deci scale chronographs, including vintage models from Heuer and Gallet, as well as the current model from Fortuna, the Chronomaster (Model CM72411) pictured below:
Very often mistaken for a tachymeter, the telemeter was most prevalent in the early part of the 20th Century. The telemeter scale on a chronograph is a feature which allows the user to measure the approximate distance of an event that can be both seen and heard, such as lighting or an explosion, using the speed of sound.The first use of a telemeter was by soldiers to discover how far an enemy artillery gun was stationed. The telemeter works because, light is faster than sound. By starting the chronograph when you see an event (Muzzle flash of an artillery gun), waiting and stopping it when you hear a sound (Explosion). By reading off the dial you are able to know how far away the event was and by some simply math work, you can readjust your gun accurately to return fire.A great example of a telemeter chronograph is the The Longines Telemeter Chronograph (Model L2.7126.96.36.199):
Also known as a Pulsometer or Pulsograph, this scale was designed for use by medical professionals to aid them in taking the pulse of a patient. The standard method is to count the pulses for fifteen seconds and then multiply that number by four which gives you their average beats per minute. The pulsation scale attempted to make things easier by removing the need for multiplication.The scale works by counting out a specific number of pulses, usually 15, and then referring to the marked number on the scale to derive the pulse rate. The scales are usually marked with the number of pulses to count, as shown on the Carrera below by “Base 15”. The first watch with a scale I remember owning was a pulsometer – a non-chronograph Swatch, it nonetheless worked in the same way, by counting off 15 pulses when the second hand hit 60 and reading the result from the scale.A current model that features this style of chronograph scale is the Bell & Ross Sea Rescuer's chronograph (BR V2-94 GARDE-CÔTES), as shown below.
Now that we’ve provided you a brief summary of some of the more popular chronograph scales, we encourage you to go out into the market and find additional examples. The scales highlighted today are just a few of many variants that are available in current and vintage watch models, so get out there and explore the myriad of others. Happy hunting!