What the Heck Are Those Little Dials on Your Watch? PLUS 15% Off for Primer Readers

What the Heck Are Those Little Dials on Your Watch? PLUS 15% Off for Primer Readers
Style and Function Unite in Vincero Collective Chronographs
What do those little dials on a watch do?

You’ve seen them: those little extra dials on many men’s watches today. They convey a sense of professionalism and technical proficiency but if you stop and think about it, exactly why they do is a bit of a mystery.

What are those little dials? What are they for? Why might you want a watch that has them?

These are all questions I had when first examining the boldly designed, many-dialed watches from Vincero Collective. They have the look and feel of a luxury watch from a european manufacturer, but what really intrigued me was a question I’d been asking for years without even realizing it; and the answer led me down a rabbit hole of horological discovery.

What is a Chronograph?

If you have a watch with two to three smaller dials on the face and one or more buttons extending from the case, you might think you’re wearing a watch. In fact, you’re wearing a chronograph.

Chronograph is a GRE word for a timer. Chronographs like Vincero’s Chrono S can be utilized as a stopwatch on several different time spans (more on that in a minute) without interfering with the timekeeping ability of the watch.

In watch-speak, chronographs fall under the umbrella of complications – watches that perform more than one function. Common complications are date-keeping, alarms, and chronographs. Luxury watches may add lunar phases and other, well, complicated stuff as flourishes.

Taken together, the third hand and the two-to-three sub-dials are a watch’s complications, and perform the stopwatch function that gives a chronograph its name.

The question is, where did chronographs come from? And what can their history tell us about why – visually and functionally – they’ve become so desirable?

The Complex Origins of a Simple Complication

While the origins of chronographs stretch back to the 1800s, it was the dawn of the aviation and automobile age – or as I like to call it, the Humans Going Much Faster Age – that brought chronographs to wider popularity.

Race car drivers used chronographs to time laps. Pilots used – and still use – chronographs to time their path over the ground and determine airspeed, among other things. For decades, the military has equipped ship captains and submariners with chronographs to use in navigation.

The list of functions a navigator can perform with a chronograph is remarkable, and feels rugged and self-reliant in an era of ubiquitous GPS: Rule-of-three and square root calculations, time, speed and distance calculations, fuel consumption rate, and turn rate, to name a few.

The most amazing story of chronographs in action has to be the ill-fated journey of Apollo 13 in 1970. With their onboard computers fried by an explosion, the astronauts used their chronographs to time a crucial booster burn and avert disaster. The Apollo story quickly became legend and chronographs have been a staple in modern watch history since.

Using Your Watch’s Chronograph Function

Take a look at the Vincero Chrono S in one of my favorite schemes, the black and silver face.

Depressing one button starts the timer. Seconds are counted down by the large hand. The three complications – or sub-dials – activate as well, each keeping a different time interval. Depress the other button to stop the chrono function.

The uppermost subdial counts minutes, while the leftmost dial marks hours elapsed. The lowermost counts seconds.

how to use a chronograph

Clockwise from the top: Minutes, Seconds, Hours. Vincero Chrono, 15% off with “PRIMER”

If you’re not a racecar driver, horse trainer, or pilot, why might you want such functions? At any point in your day you need to mark time, a chronograph comes in handy. From resetting your wireless router to getting your peak heart rate to boiling pasta, it’s a useful tool to have on your wrist.

Chronograph Style from Watch Industry Insiders

It’s the legacy of discovery, speed, and technical achievement that gives the chronograph its connotation of proficiency and expertise, but it’s the visual complexity and timeless design that give them their enduring appeal.

Vincero Collective watches hit this design note perfectly, and offer a high-quality piece at a previously impossible price point considering the features. Before starting Vincero Collective, its founders were all watch industry insiders who decided to strike out on their own and disrupt a comfortable, marketing-heavy industry by using superior materials and build quality in an affordable package.

Utilizing 316L Surgical Grade Stainless Steel for their cases, Vincero Collective utilizes the modern standard Citizen Miyota Quartz Movement for lifelong accuracy and sapphire coated mineral crystal glass for scratch resistance.

A Vincero Collective watch isn’t one you have to remove to wash your hands, either. With five atmospheres of water resistance, it’s safe to splash and immerse. Luminous hands add a day-and-night functionality not seen on some watches that are five times the cost.

On the wrist, Vincero Collective chronographs have a solid, confident feel without being too weighty. If subdials aren’t your flavor, consider the Kairos. It incorporates the burly case and technical features in a simple, elegant package.

Of course, you don’t have to take our impressions as gospel. Over 2500 buyer reviews with a 5-star average are a telling indicator.

All things considered, the Vincero Collective line offer a feature-packed timepiece (chronograph or not!) with notable design at an eye-catching price. And now you’ll have a reason to step forward and say, “I can time that for you.”

What do you think of chronographs? Let us know in the comments below!

Thanks to Vincero Collective for partnering with us on this post! Save 15% on any Vincero watch with code “PRIMER” making the Chronos shown here only $126!

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Stillman Brown is a writer and TV producer who has created prime time content for National Geographic, Discovery, Travel Channel and many others. His interests span science & the natural world, personal growth, and food. He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.