Long before the Apple Watch measured your heart rate, pulsometers (or pulsographs) on watch dials helped users (mainly doctors) to measure a patient's pulse. Placed along the periphery of the dial, the pulsometer, like the tachymeter (which measured speed) and telemeter (measured distance) were the original utility apps that featured on mechanical watches as far back as a hundred years ago.
The pulsometer is generally seen on chronograph watches. The scale is used in conjunction with the watch’s chronograph function to provide this medical info. A pulsometer scale is usually calibrated to 15 or 30 heartbeats (or pulsations). Start the chronograph timer and count the beats until you get to the number the scale is calibrated for. Stop the time and you will read the heart rate in beats per minute. Not all watches with pulsometer scales were chronographs. A watch with an accurate central seconds hand that could run along the calibrated scale would also do the trick.
Pulsometer scales on watches are a curiosity now. No one really uses it anymore; hell, we are not even sure if doctors actually used them back in the 1920’s or 30’s or they were just a marketing spiel. And as the popularity of vintage revival models has soared over the last decade, the pulsometer has been spotted again on a few models. Here are some interesting examples.
Omega Speedmaster CK2998 Limited Edition
In 2018, Omega introduced the Speedmaster CK2998 limited edition based on a popular vintage Omega model. It was based on the original from 1959 but instead of the conventional all black dial, it had the popular panda dial configuration.
The CK 2998 was released in 1959 and is a much sought-after piece in the vintage market today. It came fitted with the characteristic Alpha hands and a dark bezel (the original Speedmaster sported a steel bezel) fitted on a symmetrical case. Unlike regular Speedmasters which featured a tachymeter scale on the bezel, this watch polished ceramic bezel with an enamel pulsometer scale. You can read more about this watch here.
Bell & Ross Vintage Garde-Côtes BR V2-94
The BR V2-94 Vintage Garde-Côtes is part of a set of two tool watches produced by Bell & Ross, the French brand with a penchant for producing military watches. The duo pays tribute to the French Coast Guard (Garde-Côtes in French), specifically the divers and helicopter pilots involved in sea-rescue missions.
The BR V2-94 uses a 41-mm brushed stainless steel case with screw-down chronograph pushers and is fitted with a steel bezel with anodized black aluminum ring with a pulsometer scale. Click through here to read more about this watch.
TAG Heuer Monza 40th Anniversary Chronograph
To mark the 40th anniversary of the Monza chronograph, TAG Heuer reissued a numbered edition in 2016. Inspired by the 1976 original, the new Monza has a Grade 5 titanium case with a black titanium carbide coating. The case is an upsized (42 mm) version of the 2000 Monza and just like in the original, the crown and chronograph pushers are in steel.
The matte black dial features a faux vintage lume and slender numerals that mark the pulsometer and tachymeter scales. The pulsometer scale is marked in red while the tachymeter scale in black. It is powered by Calibre 17, which is what the brand calls the ETA 2894-2 movement, fitted with a TAG Heuer rotor. You can read our review of this watch here.
Longines Asthmometer-Pulsograph Chronograph
Based on a vintage Longines wristwatch from 1963, it could measure not only time but also a patient’s heart rate (pulsometer) and respiration (asthmometer). The two scales — red for pulsometer and blue for asthmometer — are printed along the edge of the silvered dial.
The watch uses a 38.5 mm stainless steel case with beveled lugs. The hands, applied hour indexes and Arabic numeral “12” are all gold-plated. It is powered by Longines Caliber L652.2 (based on the ETA 2094 movement), a chronograph movement with a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock and a 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock, along with a small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock. The Longines Asthmometer-Pulsometer Chronograph retails for $2,475.
Montblanc Heritage Pulsograph
At the higher end of the spectrum sits the Montblanc Heritage Pulsograph, a stylish chronograph inspired by the kind of watches that Minerva made in the 1940’s. The watch has a 40 mm 18K rose gold case and a gorgeous tobacco brown dial. The pulsometer scale (called the pulsograph here) is placed along the edges of the dial and is graduated to 30 pulsations.
The watch is powered by the manufacture monopusher chronograph caliber MB M13.21 visible through the caseback. Paired with a matching tobacco-brown Sfumato alligator strap, it is priced at €36,000. Read more about this watch here.
A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Chronograph
In 2017, the German haute horology brand unveiled a black dial version of its white boutique edition 1815 Chronograph. This particular model, encased in 39.5 mm white gold, has a black dial with a pulsometer scale. It’s worth mentioning here that these models were originally launched in 2004 with a pulsometer scale, but that was dropped in 2010 but resurfaced again with the boutique edition.
A really handsome high-end chronograph, this watch runs the hand-cranked manufacture calibre L951.5, a 306-part movement with a power reserve of 60 hours and hand-finished in the finest haute horology traditions. The watch is priced at €49,000.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5170J Chronograph
In 2010, Patek Philippe introduced an in-house chronograph movement for the first time in the Ref. 5170 in yellow gold. It was an instant classic and featured a pulsometer scale on the dial. The pulsometer scale disappeared on later models and the Ref. 5170 was eventually discontinued in 2019, replaced by the Ref. 5172.
The Ref. 5170J used a 39.4 mm yellow gold case and was powered by the manual-winding CH 29-535 chronograph movement which replaced the Lemania-based chronographs used on its predecessor, the Ref. 5070. And although it has been discontinued, it remains a modern classic in the world of haute horology.