Chronograph Watch Glossary

Different watch functions can make your timepiece more than just a simple accessory. A chronograph watch has separate hands or subdials for measuring increments of time, like a stopwatch. Chronograph watches are available in attractive styles for both men and women, and knowing a bit about these types of watches can help you select the best chronograph for you. This glossary defines the common chronograph features and many extra features that are found on the best chronograph watches.

Chronograph Watch Terms:


The term “complication” refers to any watch function other than the basic timekeeping function, such as calendars, stopwatches, alarms, and other extras.

 Analog Chronograph

This chronograph watch displays both the time and the stopwatch functions with analog hands on a dial. The center hand will indicate the stopwatch functions while the seconds are displayed in a subdial. Quartz watches with analog chronograph function often display 1/10th seconds and 1/100th

Analog-Digital Chronograph

This watch style has an analog dial with hands and a separate digital display. The two displays usually operate independently of each other.

Countdown Timer

A countdown timer measures how much of a preset time period has passed. The yacht timer found on some watches will sound alarms during a countdown to a race start time.


A digital dial shows the time and other features in an LCD or LED display. This feature is useful for displaying detailed information on a multifunction or chronograph watch.

Double Chronograph

A double-chronograph watch features two independent stopwatches; the stopwatch functions can time two events simultaneously.

Flyback Hand

This is the extra hand that, along with the second hand, performs the splits-second function of measuring intervals.

Lap Timer

A lap timer measures the segments of a race; it can be stopped to show the time for each lap without losing track of the total race time.

Lap-Time Memory

Some sport watches have the ability to store lap times that can later be recalled by the user. A lap-time memory will be found in a quartz watch with digital display.


This is the French term for splits-second chronograph function.


Register is an alternative word for subdial.

Splits-Second Chronograph

This function allows two hands to measure specific amounts of time and the intervals. The hands move together, but one hand, called the flyback hand, can be stopped independently to note a point in time while the other hand continues to move. The flyback hand can then be started again and will “fly back” to catch up to the first hand. This function can be used as a lap timer.


The small dials set in the main dial of a watch face are called subdials.

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