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How to Use Tachymeter on Watch: A Step-By-Step Guide

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how to use tachymeter on watch

The tachymeter, nestled on the bezel of chronograph watches, is a versatile speed and distance measurement tool. More than a decorative feature, this scale offers practical functionality. 

The knowledge of how to effectively use a tachymeter appeals mostly to individuals new to high-end watches and seasoned watch enthusiasts looking to utilize every aspect of their chronograph’s capabilities.

Discover how to use your watch’s tachymeter with our guide below.

What is a Tachymeter?

A tachymeter is a tool found on some watches that allows the user to compute speed based on travel time or measure distance based on speed. 

Its development dates back to the early 1900s and has been predominantly utilized in racing and aviation. 

People who need to measure speed or distance quickly often use the tachymeter function on their watch.

Types of Tachymeters

1. Fixed Tachymeter Bezel

Omega Speedmaster Snoopy ref. 310.

This is the most common type, where the tachymeter scale is printed or engraved on a fixed bezel around the watch dial. It’s used to measure speed based on a fixed distance. An example of a watch with it is the Omega Speedmaster Snoopy ref. 310.

2. Rotating Tachymeter Bezel

Tudor Black Bay Chrono Panda Fabric 79360N-0008

The Tudor Black Bay Chrono Panda Fabric 79360N-0008 features a unique tachymeter placement, with the scale on a rotating bezel. This allow the user to align the start point with the second hand, facilitating the measurement of multiple events or more complex calculations.

3. Tachymeter on the Dial

Patek Philippe Chronograph ref. 5170P-001

Some watches, such as the Patek Philippe Chronograph ref. 5170P-001, feature the tachymeter scale printed directly on the outer ring of the dial. This design can make the scale easier to read and give the watch a cleaner look.

4. Telemeter-Tachymeter Combination

Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 Vintage Chronograph

Some watches, such as the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 Vintage Chronographe PuristS 10th Edition, combine a tachymeter scale with a telemeter scale. The telemeter is used to measure distance based on the speed of sound, while the tachymeter measures speed. This combination is often found in military or pilot watches.

5. Pulsometer-Tachymeter Combination

Omega Speedmaster Chronoscope ref. 329.

The Omega Speedmaster Chronoscope ref. 329. combines a tachymeter scale with a pulsometer, which is used to measure heart rate. This combination is often found in watches designed for medical professionals or sports enthusiasts.

6. Sliderule Tachymeter

Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph ref. AB01396A1C1P1

Some watches, like the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph ref. AB01396A1C1P1, feature a slide rule bezel with a tachymeter function. This allows for various calculations, including speed, distance, fuel consumption, and more.

Steps in Using a Tachymeter 

Here’s a simple guide to help you learn how a tachymeter works:

1. Locate the Tachymeter: Find the tachymeter scale on the bezel or dial of your watch.

2. Understand Its Purpose: Recognize that it measures speed based on time or calculates distance based on speed.

3. Set the Chronograph: Activate the chronograph function on your watch by pressing the appropriate buttons.

4. Start Timing: Begin timing an event, such as a car traveling a known distance or duration. 

5. Stop Timing: Stop the chronograph once the event is complete.

6. Read the Scale: Note the position of the chronograph hand on the tachymeter scale to determine the speed or distance. 

7. Interpret Results: Use the tachymeter scale’s markings to calculate the desired measurement accurately.

8. Practice: Familiarize yourself with using the tachymeter scale through repeated practice for improved accuracy and efficiency.

For example, to measure the speed of a car, start the chronograph at one mile marker and stop it at the next; the number indicated is the car’s speed in mph. For tracking lap speed, record the time it takes for a lap; the tachymeter reading indicates the number of laps completed in an hour.

Practical Applications of a Tachymeter

Here are some practical situations in which a tachymeter can prove beneficial:

1. Measuring Speed: To measure the speed of an object over a fixed distance, one must start the chronograph at a particular point and stop it once the distance has been traversed. 

For instance, if you want to determine the speed of a car over a one-mile distance, you can initiate the timing as the car passes the starting marker and halt it at the one-mile mark. The chronograph hand will point to a value that reflects the speed in units per hour when referenced on the tachymeter scale. 

2. Calculating Distance: Conversely, if the speed is known and constant, you can calculate distance by timing how long it takes for something to move at that fixed speed. After running the chronograph for a known period, you can ascertain the distance traveled during that time by interpreting the reading from the tachymeter scale.

3. Fuel Consumption: A tachymeter can estimate fuel consumption rates by tracking the time taken to cover a distance and correlating it with the amount of fuel used.

4. Productivity Rates: You can gauge task completion rates in work environments, enabling efficiency assessments.

To ensure accurate measurements, you should:

  • Employ the chronograph function in conditions that allow for clear start and stop points.
  • Assure the object’s speed is relatively constant over the measurement distance.
  • Familiarize yourself with their specific watch’s tachymeter scaling, as it may begin at different markers (wikiHow outlines the starting points for various models).

Advanced Tachymeter Uses

In certain professions, using a tachymeter extends beyond basic speed calculations.

  • Pilots, for instance, utilize most tachymeter scales to measure distances during navigation. By starting the chronograph at a known location and stopping it at another, they can calculate the distance covered, assuming a constant speed.
  • Racing professionals often apply a tachymeter in a similar manner but may use it to calculate fuel consumption rates or estimate lap times. This particular application demands high precision and quick decision-making, attributes facilitated by the tachymeter’s presence on a wristwatch.
  • Another sophisticated application is in the field of industrial engineering where a tachymeter can help determine production speeds of conveyor belts or assembly lines. This application is valuable for optimizing workflow and identifying potential bottlenecks in production processes.

Tachymeters are sometimes paired with other complex watch complications to maximize their utility. One such feature is the telemeter, which assists in measuring the distance of an event that can be seen and heard, like lightning or artillery fire, by using the speed of sound.

Here’s a tabulated version for easier understanding:

Professional FieldTachymeter
AviationDistance calculation and navigation
RacingLap timing and fuel consumption estimation
EngineeringProduction line speed assessment and optimization

These advanced usages demonstrate the versatility and importance of the tachymeter function for professionals requiring precise elapsed time and speed measurements.

Choosing a Watch with a Tachymeter

breitling watch with tachymeter function

When shopping for a watch with a tachymeter, several key factors warrant consideration to ensure the best purchase: 

Watch style

It plays a crucial role, as it should align with your personal taste and daily wardrobe compatibility. The tachymeter function is valuable in specific contexts, making sporty and classic designs popular choices. The tachymeter scale must be clear and legible, as its primary purpose is to measure speed based on time traveled over a fixed distance.

Brand reputation

It can be an indicator of quality and reliability. Established brands renowned for precision craftsmanship often provide both the assurance of accuracy and a prestigious design. Conscious about your budget, but you seek a reliable watch? Reputable brands offer entry-level models that don’t compromise on functionality.

Recommended Watches With Tachymeter

  • If you’re on a limited budget but still desire quality, options such as Seiko provide durability and precise tachymetric calculations at an affordable price point.
  • If you’re a mid-range enthusiast, consider pieces from Tissot, which balance superior build quality with an approachable cost.
  • At the higher end, opt for brands like Omega, which offer advanced features in sophisticated packages, reflective of their storied history in horology.

A curated list of top tachymeter watches could include models catering to specific functionalities or aesthetic preferences, ensuring prospective buyers have the information necessary to choose a watch that suits their budget and meets their practical and stylistic needs.

Care and Maintenance

The following are several care tips to use for a watch with a tachymeter scale: 

  • Regular cleaning: Use a soft, damp cloth to wipe down the case and crystal gently. For the band, whether it’s metal, leather, or fabric, it’s essential to follow specific cleaning instructions as appropriate for the material.
  • Avoidance of extreme temperatures: Don’t leave your watch in hot cars or immerse it in freezing conditions, as these can affect the watch’s operation and potentially damage the tachymeter function.

As for common issues and maintenance pointers:

  • Moisture Accumulation: If condensation appears under the crystal, it’s vital to have the watch checked by a professional. Moisture can lead to mechanical issues, particularly within the tachymeter mechanism.
  • Battery Replacement: For quartz watches, ensure regular battery changes to prevent leakage that can corrode internal components.
  • Crown and Pusher Care: These should be checked to ensure they are secure and function correctly, as they’re integral to the chronograph and tachymeter functions.
Maintenance TipDescriptionFrequency
CleaningGently wipe with a damp clothWeekly or as needed
Check-UpProfessional servicing and checkEvery 4-5 years
BatteryReplace battery for quartz watchesAs per watch indication

Magnetic fields can affect the timekeeping of a watch. Hence, keeping watches away from electronic devices that can generate strong fields is advisable. A demagnetizing process may be required for mechanical watches if they are exposed to strong magnets.

To ensure accurate and consistent use of the tachymeter, you should adhere to these care guidelines, thus maintaining the watch’s reliability and longevity.

Tachymeter Myths and Misconceptions

types of tachymeters

Here are some common myths and misconceptions we’re going to debunk:


Myth 1: Tachymeters are only for professional use

Many believe that tachymeters are solely for professional racers or pilots. In reality, they’re quite practical for everyday activities, such as calculating the speed of a car or measuring the distance of a storm based on the time of thunder after lightning.

Myth 2: Tachymeters are highly complex to use

Though they may appear daunting at first, tachymeters are straightforward once understood. Brief instructions, like those above, can help you quickly grasp the basic functionality.

Myth 3: Tachymeters function independently of other watch features

In truth, tachymeters are a feature typically integrated into chronographs, requiring stopwatch functionality to measure time intervals.

Common Misconceptions

A tachymeter calculates instantaneous speed

A tachymeter actually measures average speed over a distance.

All tachymeters have the same scale

The scale can start at different points depending on the watch model. For example, some may begin at 7 seconds (500 units of speed), while others at 6 or 9 seconds with varying speed units.

Tachymeters are only found on expensive watches

They are available at various prices, making the feature accessible for different budgets.

You can better appreciate and utilize the tachymeter on your watch by dispelling these myths and misconceptions.

Final Word

A tachymeter is more than just a decorative detail on a timepiece; it’s a functional tool that measures speed over a known distance. Learning to accurately use it becomes a practical skill for anyone needing to gauge speeds, whether in sports, travel, or everyday tasks. 

Key Takeaways

  • A tachymeter measures average speed over a known distance.
  • Its utility extends beyond aesthetics, providing functional value.
  • Its mastery enhances the overall experience of owning a chronograph watch.

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