We propose a simple approach to measure earthquake magnitude M using the time difference (Top) between the body‐wave onset and the arrival time of the peak high‐frequency amplitude in an accelerogram. Measured in this manner, we find that Mw is proportional to 2logTop for earthquakes 5≤Mw≤7, which is the theoretical proportionality if Top is proportional to source dimension and stress drop is scale invariant. Using high‐frequency (>2 Hz) data, the root mean square (rms) residual between Mw and MTop (M estimated from Top) is approximately 0.5 magnitude units. The rms residuals of the high‐frequency data in passbands between 2 and 16 Hz are uniformly smaller than those obtained from the lower‐frequency data. Top depends weakly on epicentral distance, and this dependence can be ignored for distances <200 km. Retrospective application of this algorithm to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake produces a final magnitude estimate of M 9.0 at 120 s after the origin time. We conclude that Top of high‐frequency (>2 Hz) accelerograms has value in the context of earthquake early warning for extremely large events.