Way back before keeping and recording time was as easy as tapping the screen of your iPhone, the struggle was real for people such as motorsport racers or pilots. Measuring lap times and flight times were understandably a royal pain, especially when precision calls for figures right down to the second.

And so the chronograph was born. A literal translation of “time writer”, its name came about when the first version in 1816 saw a pen attached to the index, which literally marked the dial to indicate the elapsed time. By 1821, French watchmaker Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec made this “technology” available to a larger marketplace, and was commissioned by King Louis XVIII to further develop this complication so he could time horse races. The result was one that would change the world of sports forever — races of all types could now be timed, and records could be continually challenged.

When the 20th century arrived, chronograph watches were a major hit and manufacturers included a fixed bezel that operated as a tachymeter, which measures speed or distance based on speed. TAG Heuer was the first to introduce the rotating bezel tachymeter in 1958. Then the Wright brothers introduced aviation to the world, and the chronograph was in more demand than ever.

By 1969, the first ever automatic chronograph was created and it wasn’t long before one (we’ve featured a distant predecessor below) made it to the moon. Clearly, chronograph watches had come a long way since their humble beginnings as “time writers”.

To prove that you needn’t empty your piggy for good chronograph watches, we’ve sussed out 5 under (with one just slightly above) S$15,000 for you to start your collection with.