The club was initially formed by students from Mittweida as Chemnitzer SC Britannia on 2 December 1899.
On 8 August 1903, the club became a founding member of the Verband Chemnitzer Fußball-Vereine (VCFV). This local federation was included into the Verband Mitteldeutscher Fußball-Vereine (VMBV), the great regional federation of Central Germany, two years later.
Until 1933, Chemnitzer BC were a strong side of the VMBV leagues. They took part in the WMBV's final round fifteen times, reaching the final once in 1927. Despite a 0–4 defeat against VfB Leipzig, Chemnitz qualified for the 1927 German football championship as vice-champions, where they lost in the first round against eventual champions 1. FC Nuremberg, 1–5.
In 1933, Chemnitzer BC 1899 came into financial difficulties. Despite a merger with local rivals SC Sachsen 1909 Chemnitz, bankruptcy and liquidation could not be avoided. The side was then immediately re-formed under the name Chemnitzer BC 1933, which assumed the history of the old club. CBC 1933 were part of the Gauliga Saxony until the end of World War II.
In the aftermath of the conflict, most organizations in Germany, including sports and football clubs, were dissolved by the Allied occupation authorities. The side was re-established in 1945 as SG Chemnitz Nord before, as it was common in East German football at the time, undergoing a number of name changes, from BSG Fewa Chemnitz in 1948 to BSG Chemie Chemnitz in 1951. Upon the renaming of the city of Chemnitz to Karl-Marx-Stadt in 1953, the club followed suit and assumed the new city name as well. In 1956, the football club was attached to the larger centralized sports club SC Motor Karl-Marx-Stadt, which was in turn renamed SC Karl-Marx-Stadt in 1963. The football department was then once again separated from the sports club as FC Karl-Marx-Stadt in 1966, under a government plan to establish a number of football clubs as centres throughout the country intended to identify and develop talent in support of a strong national side. When the city re-claimed its original name in 1991, the team followed suit to become Chemnitzer FC.
After joining the DDR-Oberliga for the 1962–63 season, the club generally earned uninspiring results, most often finishing in the lower half of the league table. They managed a surprising East German championship win at the end of the 1966–67 season, and were runners-up in the East German Cup (FDGB Cup) in 1969, 1983 and 1989. The club enjoyed its best international turn in 1989, advancing through two preliminary rounds to the Round of 16 of the 1989–90 UEFA Cup before being knocked out against Juventus. In the same season the team finished as runners-up in the East German championship, second to Dynamo Dresden on goal differential.
After German reunification in 1990, Chemnitzer FC qualified for the 2. Bundesliga at the end of the 1990–91 NOFV-Oberliga. Beginning with the 1991–92 season, Chemnitz spent five years in the second tier of German football until being relegated to the then third-tier Regionalliga in 1996, and also advanced to the semifinal of the 1992–93 DFB-Pokal during this time. Since then, the importance of the club has faded. The following four years were evenly split between the Regionalliga and the 2. Bundesliga before eventually being relegated back to the Regionalliga (III) in 2001 and subsequently to the NOFV-Oberliga Süd (IV) in 2006. The last couple of years, however, saw the club slowly rising through the German league system once again with promotions to the now fourth-tier Regionalliga in 2008 and the 3. Liga in 2011 where it has been playing since.
Chemnitzer FC plays in the club-owned Stadion an der Gellertstraße which has a capacity of 16,061 spectators (~540 seats). Until 1990 the facility was officially known as "Dr. Kurt-Fischer-Stadion", or locally as the "Fischerwiese". During its 2. Bundesliga seasons the club also made use of the larger Chemnitzer Sportforum, which has a capacity of over 19,000.
The club's reserve team, Chemnitzer FC II, most recently played in the tier five NOFV-Oberliga Süd. It first played at this level from 1993 to 1998 with a runners-up finish in 1996 as its best result. After relegation and an absence of thirteen seasons the team returned to the Oberliga in 2010. The club announced that it would withdraw its reserve team at the end of the 2014–15 season.
The team also made a losing appearance in the 1996 Saxony Cup final.