When you know how to operate a chronograph watch, its complex array of dials, subdials, scales, hands, and buttons becomes genuinely useful and makes perfect sense. However, this is not always the case; a subset of these stopwatch-equipped wristwatches have an odd trait. If you look attentively at their subdials, you’ll notice that some chronographs can clock up to a very particular number: 45 minutes. Why?
Because chronographs with 30 and 60 minute timers are common, one may suppose that the inclusion of a 45-minute counter serves a specific purpose. Far from being an exception or a rarity, these 45-minute chronographs were reasonably widespread for many decades because watchmakers don’t design and mass-produce features for no reason. Despite their spread, however, their purpose remains unknown.
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The majority of hypotheses are concerned with practical applications rather than technical gains. According to popular belief, it was designed to time soccer halves, and the former chairman of Audemars Piguet is reported to have liked the function for this purpose. (In this example, though, he merely marked a 30-minute timer with a 45-minute mark.)
That would be a plausible application for the 45-minute counter, but designing unique gears for that purpose seems wasteful when chronographs do the same thing by simply adding special dial marks to conventional 60-minute counters.
There are also other instances of timepieces with 45-minute counters that appear to have nothing to do with soccer going back many decades from a variety of manufacturers, such as Breitling’s iconic No. 100 Chronographe-Compteur or the Universal Geneve Compur. Another explanation is that watchmakers just wanted to give more than 30 minutes while keeping readability in mind: 60-minute counters with all those hash marks jammed onto a subdial can be difficult to see. Finally, it’s most likely a mix of circumstances.
Regardless of the initial intent, a few current manufacturers continue to go out of their way to provide the feature. When Tudor used Breitling’s in-house B01 movement in its Black Bay Chrono, it modified it in several ways, including swapping a 30-minute counter for a 45-minute counter and renaming the movement the MT5813.
Add the enigmatic 45-minute chronograph counter to the list of eccentric details that make timepieces intriguing and entertaining. You may cheerfully time activities and enjoy your chronograph without thinking twice, but if your watch includes this feature, timing a soccer half or other 45-minute activity seems like you’re getting the most out of it.