Tracking Distances Accurately - The Benefits of the Telemeter Complication

by Marc-Andre Schmid

A telemeter is a scale that is often found on the dial of a wristwatch. It is used to measure distance over time, making it a useful feature for military and scientific applications. The telemeter scale is typically calibrated in kilometers or miles, and is used in conjunction with the chronograph function of the watch.

Eterna-Matic-Ref.8508.41-Telemeter-Zurichberg

To use a telemeter, the user starts the chronograph function when they see a visible event, such as a lightning bolt or a fireworks display. The user then stops the chronograph function when they hear the sound of the event, such as thunder or the explosion of a firework. The telemeter scale on the watch can then be used to determine the distance between the observer and the event.

Omega-Speedmaster-Chronoscape-Telemeter-Zurichberg

For example, if a user sees a lightning bolt and then hears thunder 10 seconds later, they can use the telemeter scale on their watch to determine the distance between them and the lightning. If the telemeter scale shows 3, it means that the lightning was approximately 3 kilometers away from the observer.

Tissot-Telemeter-1938-Zurichberg

Telemeters were first introduced in the early 20th century and were primarily used for military applications, such as determining the distance of enemy artillery fire. They have since become a popular feature in many types of watches, including chronographs, military watches, and even dress watches. They are highly valued by watch collectors and enthusiasts for their practicality and historical significance.The complication also found wide use in the field of sports, as Tissot, for example, acted as a pioneer in one of its earliest forays as an official sports timekeeper for a series of ski races held at the Alpine resort of Villars-sur-Ollon in 1938.

Tissot-Telemeter-1938-Zurichberg-Promotion

Telemeters can be found in a wide range of watch styles and designs, from classic vintage models to modern military-inspired models. Some watches have telemeters that are incorporated into the dial of the watch, while others have a separate scale that is used for the telemeter function.


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