Is a Chronograph a good gift?

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If you’re thinking of buying a watch for a loved one, you might consider a a chronograph.

What is a Chronograph?

Jump to shopping for Chronographs

Derived from ‘chrono’ (the Greek word for time) and ‘graph’ (meaning charting or writing), the chronograph is a timepiece that can measure time.

But all watches measure time, surely? Well, kind of… A Chronograph offers stopwatch capabilities where the stopwatch component doesn’t interfere with the normal operation of the watch.  Hence, a chronograph will have additional, separate hands or dials to measure (typically) seconds, minutes, hours; and these hands / dials will operate independently of the watch’s normal timekeeping hands. You should also be able to reset the stopwatch back to zero and start timing again without affecting the normal timekeeping functions.

Where would I use a Chronograph?

The traditional market was race driver, pilots, scientists, and the like who had an essential need to measure lapsed time. But they can be useful for countless tasks: boiling eggs, timing the sausages on the barbecue, how long it took for a pizza delivery (in case you might get some money back!), checking your running times or other sporting endeavours, timing an experiment, making sure you properly use your hair-dye treatment, cookery, and for countless (pun intended) other tasks.

It’s a really useful thing to have. But beware that it is not like a digital alarm function – typically the chronograph is a stopwatch, not a countdown nor event reminder (that might need an an audible alarm). For example an alarm might be a better choice as a medication reminder.

What to look for in a Chronograph?

I recall owning a lovely but bulky watch but I noted that I removed it whenever I got into the car and when at work; it was a great-looking watch but just not practical for my daily use.

Some chronographs are bulky and heavy and have what appears to be an entire novel written onto the dials and face, so although a complex-mega-machine-design might look very cool, how easy will it be to read the dials? I find some of the really expensive chronographs put me off a little because their faces and dials are not easy to read – being too confusing or cluttered or the important dials are blended with the background design.

And for sporting uses like running  some may be too heavy with a slippy and uncomfortable metal strap. If the wearer is a keen swimmer or sportsperson, then obviously choose a watch that will withstand the target activity.

The strap is an important consideration. Leather is very comfortable and looks more professional with brown leather adding colour to the outfit perhaps. A steel band is cool for everyday wear and weekends out. For running a fabric strap is good, and for swimming I would prefer a synthetic strap (my old dive watch had a rubber strap which was perfect). Steel or leather would not be my choice for running or swimming.

Will the watch be used every day? If so a self-winding (‘automatic’) watch would be fine. If used less frequently, a battery/quartz movement might be better suited. Yes,  I know you can buy automatic watch winders which basically moves a self-winding watch to keep it going but that is an extra expense and you have to remember to use it.

So, my considerations are readability, intended primary usage, strap type, size and weight, brand, and the movement type.

Elegance vs ruggedness

As a dress watch, the chronograph would not be my first choice, mainly because of the additional size and weight. However, there are some nice chronographs that one could wear to that interview or for daily office use. This Pierre Lannier watch has a leather strap and it’s base is only 4.25cm in diameter and 1.1cm thick! For a ‘designer label’ gift, this Hugo BOSS chronograph is very nice. And for that extra special, but more expensive, gift this Bulova would be at the top end of my own gift list. The BOSS and Bulova watch both sport 5-bar water pressure resistance. We will be writing more on that topic later…

Shopping for Chronographs

See these selection of Chronographs from Amazon

Under £99
From £100 to £499
From £500 to £999
From £1,000 to £9,999
Over £10,000

In summary

Yes, a Chronograph is a good gift. In fact, it’s a great gift! A well-considered instrument can be with the lucky owner for life, with all the memories that will bring.

A Chronograph makes a terrific gift for a graduation, landmark birthday or retirement.

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