How to Use a Chronograph Watch

Omega Speedmaster Apollo Soyuz Meteorite Dial MoonWatch 311.

A chronograph is a helpful and versatile tool for many a lover of luxury timepieces. It’s more helpful than you might think to not only be able to tell time on your wrist, but also measure how long certain events take – from espresso shots to bike races with your kids.

A chronograph is a watch that has a built-in stopwatch outside of the normal hands and dial to keep track of the time. Whether you need to time your morning jog or the pasta on the stovetop, the options of this function will help you throughout your day.

First things first though, how do you use all the additional buttons to use this timer?


Rolex Daytona Grey Dial White Gold Ceramic Bezel Mens Watch 116519Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

While not all watches with chronographs are the same, most have two buttons, usually located on the right-hand side of the case on either side (top and bottom) of the crown. These are the buttons used to start, stop, and rest your timer. The timer aspect can be read on the dial or subdials, whichever is used to show the elapsed time on your model watch.

To start your timer, you want to use the top pusher, usually located around the 2 o’clock position when looking at the dial. With the simple chronograph, the second hand will start to sweep (or tick) around tracking the elapsed time.



Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ceramic Bezel Black Dial Mens Watch 116500Rolex Cosmograph Daytona ref. 116500

Using the same upper pusher, you can stop the timer when you’re finished.  To restart it, press the pusher again.


Reading the Time

IWC Pilot Top Gun Chronograph Green Ceramic Dial Mens Watch IW389106IWC Pilot Top Gun Chronograph ref. IW389106

The time of your timer is going to be read separately from that of the current time, otherwise what’s the point, right? How this is displayed will differ slightly with each model chronograph. Depending on your subdials, you may be able to measure up to 30 minutes of elapsed time or even 12 hours.

On average, if you have a three-subdial chronograph, one dial is tracking the seconds of the day (not the timer), one is tracking elapsed time up to 30 minutes, and the third would track the hours. The seconds for the purpose of your timer are tracked by the second hand on the large dial.



With only one button left to use, the bottom pusher resets the chronograph to zero. You’ll find this one below the crown around the 4 o’clock position. There are variations to how the reset pusher works.

Patek Philippe Aquanaut Flyback Chronograph 5968GPatek Philippe Aquanaut Flyback Chronograph ref. 5968G

A flyback reset pusher allows you to reset the chronograph without actually stopping the timer first.


Cartier Tortue Monopusher Chronograph White Gold Diamond Watch 2396GCartier Tortue Monopusher Chronograph ref. 2396G (left)

Monopusher. This type of chronograph uses one pusher for every function: start, stop, and reset.


IWC Rattrapante Chronograph Panda Dial Limited Edition German National Team Steel Mens Watch IW371803IWC Rattrapante Chronograph ref. IW371803

Split-seconds/rattrapante. This complicated chronograph is capable of timing two events at the same time.


Don’ts of using a chronograph

Omega Seamaster Chronograph Blue Dial Steel Mens Watch 2598.80.00Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Chronograph ref. 2598.80.00

1. You don’t need to worry about accidentally pressing the reset pusher while you’re running the timer. Unless you have a flyback chronograph, this won’t do anything to your timer.

2. While there’s nothing wrong with constantly running your timer, for whatever reason you must do so, it will drain your power reserve faster. Draining your power reserve means putting more strain on your mainspring to maintain power. This will put some more wear and tear on the components of your watch’s movement.

3. Don’t operate the pushers underwater (even if you have a dive watch) without checking with the manufacturer first. While the crown most likely locks down for waterproofing purposes, the pushers may only be locked in the normal position. Pushing them down underwater to track time may inadvertently let water into your case.


Chronograph Watches: Final Thoughts

Chronograph watches are a great tool to have at your disposal. Not only do they have a sporty aesthetic, they also have many practical uses. Almost every brand of luxury watch has a chronograph model, and we have a vast selection to choose from at

Omega Speedmaster Apollo Soyuz Meteorite Dial MoonWatch 311.

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