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Antique French Chronograph Stopwatch c.1850

Antique French Chronograph Stopwatch c.1850

Price £325.00 Sale

A French pocket chronograph stopwatch, dating from c.1850. The Chronograph, the forerunner of the modern stopwatch, originated in France around the start of the 19th century. This particular stopwatch is similar to a design made by Adolphe Nicole c.1844, and known as the 'Improved Chronograph'. Chronographs would originally have been used for a variety of purposes: by the military to time artillery fire, for sporting events such as athletics meetings, and at horse racing events, where accurate timing and the establishment of records was becoming increasingly important.

The stopwatch has a brass case, blued hands, enamelled dial, and thick bevelled glass. The outer dial is calibrated from 0 to 60 seconds, with the subsiduary dial reading from 0 - 10 minutes. There is a lever at the loop to reset both dials to zero, and a sliding button at the side of the case to start and stop the watch. This button has markings at either side, 'M' (for 'Marche'- go) and 'A' ('Arrete'- stop). The watch is wound by a winder on the back of the case, with an engraved arrow showing the winding direction. .


The Chronograph: literally translated means “Time Writer” — a union of the Greek word “chronos” meaning time and “graph” meaning writing. While this often confuses people as to why it would have the word “writing” in it, the very first versions of the chronograph were operated by marking the dial with a small pen that was attached to the index, whereby the length of the pen mark indicated how much time had elapsed. Invented in 1815, Louis Moinet created what would become the first chronograph upon its completion in 1816. Moinet invented the chronograph solely as a tool for working with astronomical equipment, but, it was Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec who built the first chronograph to actually be offered in the marketplace. Commissioned by King Louis XVIII in 1821, Rieussec was a French watchmaker who gained respect from the King for being publicly known as not being a loyal follower of Napoleon. Thereafter he was known throughout France as the “Watchmaker to the King.” Rieussec was asked to develop his chronograph so the King could time horse races, a favorite pastime of his. The result would change the world of sports forever and be utilized in a variety of capacities the world over. Now, thanks to the chronograph, races of all types could be timed and records continually challenged and beaten. In early 1844 Adolphe Nicole created an improved version of Rieussec’s constantly moving chronograph which used a reset feature to allow successive measurements. At taround the time oif the First World War, the chronograph began to be incorporated into wristwatches, often used by aviators and the military.


In very good condition and full working order, having been professionally serviced in January 2020. The brass case is in good condition, with some wear to the original lacquered finish. The glass is in very good condition. The dial and hands are in very good condition.

Dimensions : 60mm diameter (80mm inc. loop), depth 20mm