Is It Bad To Run A Chronograph Complication All The Time?

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Rob S. from Murrieta, California USA asks:

I have several Chronograph watches (both quartz and automatics). Is there any caveats keeping the chronograph running 24/7? Thank you and love your site.

James L. says:

Excellent question! One I suspect many chronograph wearers don’t know the answer to, as it can easily slip under the radar.

In regards to mechanical timepieces (manual winding or automatic), all you need to know is that a chronograph function is a type of complication, which of course draws its power from the mainspring in the movement via an escapement. If you run the chronograph a lot, it will draw down the power reserve of your mainspring more quickly than if it isn’t engaged. On a manual winding watch, this is more noticeable outright, whereas the perpetual motion of your wrist on an automatic would be less so. However, if you leave a fully wound automatic piece with the chronograph engaged in a static position, you will notice a similar draw down in power more quickly than if the chronograph wasn’t running.

Wear-and-tear on the internal components would similarly be sped up – but unless you were truly running it ALL the time, I doubt it would make a huge difference in your normal service intervals. Best to check with the manufacturer of your timepieces to get the recommended service schedules if you haven’t already. Chronographs are, after all, tool watches, and provided they are quality timepieces to begin with, they are designed to be worn and used – so use them!

With regard to quartz, the answer is similar – there would be a similar draw-down on power from the battery, but probably negligible depending on the timepiece and grade of the battery. Moving components might also require more frequent lubrication if the chronograph function was perpetually engaged.

It is important to note that the above answer is intended for modern chronographs. Vintage watches can have age-related wear-and-tear issues which could affect the operation of the timepiece if it hasn’t been properly serviced and restored.