Sometime in the winter of 1859, the clockmakers at the American Watch Company in Waltham, Massachusetts, made a breakthrough. They created the first-ever mass-produced stopwatch – expressly to allow enthusiasts of a sport sweeping the nation – horseracing – to measure just how fast thoroughbreds could get from a start gate to a finish line. Not long after, the Kentucky Derby was born, a race that would in time be known as the most exciting two minutes in sports.

The chronodrometer (from the Greek roots: chrono for time, drom for running/race and meter for measure) to their line of conventional watches. The chronodrometer was the first mass-produced stopwatch.

The chronodrometer’s dial could mark quarter seconds, but it was unlike any other stopwatch in use then or now. A sweep hand in the center of the dial revolved once every four minutes; at the bottom of the dial, a small hand revolved once every four seconds. At the top was a conventional dial with numerals 1 through 12 and hour and minute hands for indicating the correct time of day. When the watch was used as a timer, the time train inconveniently stopped.

Between 1858 and 1861, the American Watch Company made about four hundred chronodrometers – not a huge number by mass-production standards. The stopwatch sold for $50, compared to $150 to $250 for a high-grade import. At that time, stopwatches of any kind were still rare.

Longines is now the official timer of the Kentucky Derby

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