What is split or cumulative time on a stopwatch?

When looking for a stopwatch, there are features that can sometimes be confusing. This article will clarify what a lap / split time and cumulative time mean on a stopwatch. For most people who are not experts in stopwatches, it can be a roadblock to place an order to watch laps / interval verses cumulative time as a function of a stopwatch. If you do not know what the function is, how can you know if you need it. We will explain the difference in a simple way with clear examples.

Usually the lap / split time means the time between events. For example, if someone runs the mile on the track (4 laps), you start the stopwatch and each time you press the lap / split button, it will register each lap time. In this example, the runner will run the mile in 4 minutes with each run of 1 minute, lap 1 will display 1.00, lap 2 will display as 1.00, lap 3 will display as 1.00, lap 4 will display as 1.00. So in this example, the runner ran every lap at 1.00 so that’s how the intermediate time will be displayed on the stopwatch.

Cumulative time is the total time at each phase that an intermediate time is clicked on the stopwatch. In the same example of someone running a mile in 4 minutes with each lap running in 1 minute, you start the stopwatch and each time you press the lap / split button, it will show the accumulated time. Cumulative for the example above will show the total time so lap 1’s part will be displayed as 1.00, lap 2’s part will be displayed as 2.00. lap 3’s part will be displayed as 3.00 and lap 4’s part will be displayed as 4.00. So in this example, the total time will be displayed for each split.

Some stopwatches show both lap / intermediate time and cumulative time. I always think it’s better to have the option of both, but in some cases where you might have children or volunteers who use stopwatches, it’s better to keep it simple and just have the function you need.

Here are some examples of simple stopwatches with lap / split functions:

Oslo 2.0
Oslo 1000W
Robic SC501
Accuslit AX625

Here are some examples of simple stopwatches with cumulative shared features:

Ultrak 320
Ultrak 330
Ultrak 340
Oslo 2.0
Battery-charged S3CL
Oslo 1000W
Ultrak 420
Make 501

As you can see, some of the listed stopwatches are in both lists and this is because they can be set for either lap / part time or cumulative timing. Depending on what you take time for, you may need one type of timing over another.

Example one:

When you take time for a race with multiple runners that you need to get their finish time for each runner, you will only be looking at cumulative times.

Example two:

If you had a table mounted and you need to know how long it took to assemble each part of the table individually, you would need the lap / split time.

Example three:

If you take time for an individual runner who runs about a mile, you would want both laps and accumulated time so that the runner can see how they run each lap and their total time.

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