Pretty much up till a few years ago, the chronograph’s history was rather clearly marked: invented by Nicolas Rieussec in 1822 as an elapsed time ticker with two pushers and discs that turned, onto which a drop of ink could be dipped to indicate the elapsed time. Recent discoveries, however, have revealed the actual inventor of the chronograph to be Louis Moinet.
Louis Moinet himself
An early pocket watch made by Moinet in 1816, the Compteur de Tierces, designed for uses in astronomy, emerged six years before Rieussec’s configuration. Here are a few things you didn’t know about the Compteur de Tierces.
It observed a similar format to the standard 3-6-9 three register counters of the modern chronograph.
Most modern three registers have a small seconds counter for the time, a central chronograph hand, 30-minute totaliser and 12-hour counter. The Louis Moinet Compteur de Tierces had a small chronograph elapsed seconds counter along with 60-minute totaliser and 24-hour display. That’s pretty impressive.
It had a 30 Hz movement.
Even before TAG Heuer had invented its high speed chronographs, which would come later, Moinet’s mechanical chronograph counted up to 60 semi-oscillations per second, meaning it was precise to 1/60th of a second. And this was the first chronograph.
Moinet considered the dangers of corrosion in a movement.
Today, watchmakers use a variety of techniques in order to protect a movement from corrosion and other damage, such as using German silver or PVD coating. Louis Moinet used gilding on the plates and bridges, which is a technique used even today in costume jewellery to prevent corrosion.
He conceived a movement with numerous innovations.
Starting with an automatic return-to-zero function, something that was a revolution and groundbreaking, and with sophisticated designs such as a fine adjustment on the movement, sapphire lining on the escapement to reduce wear and tear. These are all brilliant ideas.
The Compteur de Tierces still works today.
It’s been 200 years since the Compteur de Tierces was made and it still runs smoothly, at 30Hz. Few watches can claim that. If you don’t believe us, check out the video above.
The company founded in his name today introduced a chronograph-first timepiece last year, the Memoris. This year, to commemorate the inventor’s 200th anniversary of creating the chronograph, it presented a special edition of the watch. The timepiece bears a blue enamel subdial for the time, and the inner bezel ring is in a dark blue made of composite materials moulded into this form. Most interesting is the base plate in brass that’s painted translucent blue, and with little metallic engraved circles of various sizes meant to mimic the night sky. It’s a tribute to the astronomical origins which Moinet intended the Compteur de Tierces for.