From now until the end of March, department store Harrods will be celebrating the chronograph – historically one of the most overlooked, yet widely used watch models in modern history. The dedicated exhibition 'Chronograph in Focus' will be held in the department store's Fine Watch Room, featuring a selection of key models, both vintage and contemporary, that exemplify the appeal of the chronograph.

Often confused with a chronometer, the chronograph is essentially a watch enabled with stopwatch capabilities, able to measure elapsed time in seconds, minutes and hours. Essential for everything from boiling an egg to deep sea diving, the chronograph has become a favourite of racing drivers and pilots who value the watch's ability to record time to a tenth of a second. The origins of the first chronograph can be traced to 1821 when Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec developed what was the first incarnation of the model for King Louis XVIII, who had requested a contraption to help him time the horse races he loved to attend. The watch Rieussec developed derived its name from the Greek words for time (chronos) and writing (graph) and used a pen-like needle to drag ink in a circular fashion to record the time elapsed.  

As the aviation industry boomed in the early part of the 20th century, demand for chronographs increased too, as pilots found the watches indispensable for precise timing and operating complicated machinery. Later on in 1970, chronographs earned their iconic status when President Eisenhower– a keen horologist– insisted that all astronauts on board the Apollo 13 mission wore Omega Speedmaster chronograph watches. Just 56 minutes after the mission launched, an explosion crippled the shuttle, confronting the astronauts with certain death. However, thanks to their chronographs the astronauts could time a critical engine burn and recalculate their reentry to earth, ensuring a safe landing. Where computers had failed, traditional complications had triumphed, and as a result to this day almost all pilots wear chronographs on the off chance their onboard computers malfunction.

Today chronographs continue to be a popular purchase for watch lovers globally, something Harrods will be celebrating in the wide selection of world-leading models available to view at the exhibition. Pictured above in order are: 

1. The Vacheron Constantin Harmony Monopusher Chronograph
2. Ceramic Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Edition
3. Bremont Jaguar MK11
4. Jaeger-LeCoultre Duometre
5. Zenith El Primero 

The Chronograph in Focus exhibition will run the the Fine Watch Room until the end of March. Visit harrods.com for more information.

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