Watch hands aren’t necessarily the rockstars of horological writing. With plethora watchmakers creating specialized movements and case designs over centuries of engineering, the design work of watch hands almost seems like an afterthought when talking shop on timekeeping. Therefore, it can be easy to gloss over the subtlety and elegance of a set of watch hands. Their importance to the aesthetics of a watch is no simple matter. Each style of watch hand has an architecture all its own—and these architectures deliver an often unconscious aura that surrounds the passing of each second, minute, and hour. So ahead, we’re going to do our best here at Times Ticking to sample the variety available in the realm of watch hands. There’s a design out there for all dials and cases—for all tastes and walks.
Dauphine and Alpha Hands
To kick things off we’ll discuss Dauphine hands, a subject we touched on recently regarding the Omega Constellation series. These hands tend to be polished more on one side to create a legible contrast—or are faceted for that same reason. They’re shaped like arrows and can be confused with Alpha hands, but Dauphines have a broader base (in comparison). Dauphine hands are some of the most commonly used hands in the watch industry. Their close relation, Alpha hands, narrow at their base but carry a tapering long arrow shape to their tip—and are just as common as Dauphine hands. They’re both sharp looks with their own unique ways of pointing out the time.
Cathedral and Fleur De Lys Hands
Cathedral hands are not shaped like actual cathedrals, to be sure. However, they retain a stained-glass look that has been highly popular on military watches for years. The military popularity of these watch hands has a lot to do with the stained-glass style sections on their wider set forms. Both the minute and hour hand have plenty of room on them to incorporate luminous materials, which makes them a hallmark for performance watch design. That being said, their stylistic sectioning adds flair to a variety of other styles of watch as well.
In terms of old world style, in the same vein as Cathedral hands, one can look to Fleur De Lys hands. Fleur De Lys shapes—meant to portray a lily—are tied to old world ceremony and heraldry. On watches the Fleur De Lys shape points to the time uniquely. As well, it embodies imagery from European history.
Lance, Arrow, and Syringe Hands
Just as sharp as Alpha and Dauphine hands are the Lance, Arrow, and Syringe hands. Their names are a little bit more on-the-nose, so we won’t hang out with them for too long. All three look just as they sound and embody real-life tools of sport, navigation, and medicine. At a glance the Lance, Arrow, and Syringe hands may appear somewhat similar—but the subtler angles of each gives them a flair that is meticulously implemented when putting together a timepiece.
Baton and Mercedes Watch Hands
These watch hands are often associated with Rolex. Baton hands are uniformly shaped and are similar to Stick hands (which are just slimmer in width). Once again, the name is pretty on-the-nose regarding shape with Baton hands. While Rolex implements Baton hands quite a bit, they also incorporate Mercedes hands as well. When Rolex designed the Mercedes hands, which feature a three pointed star shape similar to the Mercedes logo on the hour hand, they were not aiming for a collaboration. Instead, they were meant to function similarly to Cathedral hands—making room for luminous materials to be easily applied on both the minute and hour hand.
Breguet and Beyond
Rounding off our list of ten watch hand designs today is a brand-specific look. To avoid referencing the competition, some watch brands will refer to Breguet hands as “pomme” or “apple” hands—because of the round shapes near the tips of both the minute and hour hands. This watch hand style dates back to the late 1700s and has made a lasting impression on the world of watchmaking. Variations on this classic design appear on watch brands almost entirely across the board. Speaking on all watch brands, today’s list only scratches the surface of the variety of watch hands that are available on the market—or that have graced the history books with their elegance. Today’s ten, though, do cover a series of related shapes and styles. While some appear more often than others, each invokes the evolution of a new variation or style as watchmaking has moved forward. For today, we’ll hand it to the hands, and perhaps we’ll touch on this subject further after a few more trips around the dial.
Times Ticking has been in operation for more than 30 years, since 1982. We have performed watch repair for customers both locally and internationally. If it Ticks! We KNOW it! Our team of watch repair technicians have a combined experience in watchmaking of over 120 years.