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The Ultimate Guide To Types And Styles Of Watch Hands

Posted on May 21 2021

A guide to Affordable Watch Hands

There is one thing that all analogue watches need before you can tell the time. Hands.

A watch can have water resistance, glow in the dark for 25 years or even track the moon's cycle. But without hands, it can't do its most essential job.

Needless to say, watch manufacturers have created some beautiful hands over the years. Many watches have their own distinctive hands that are crucial to the design.

The Tudor Black Bay isn't the same watch without Snowflake hands. Add the wrong hands to a watch and it spoils the whole design.

How many of these hands can you name? How many do you recognise?

When you're watch shopping it's nice to know the small details. You can then narrow your search.

So let me walk you through the most common watch hands.

I'll illustrate each one with an example affordable watch.

A Guide to Types and Styles of Watch Hands


Alpha Watch Hands


Omega with Alpha Hands
You'll have seen Alpha type hands on some variations of Omega's Moon watch. These hands have a wide base and a narrow stem is attached to the watch.

Arrow Watch Hands


Omega Arrrow Watch Hands
Let's stick with the Omega examples. Arrow hands are straightforward. They're the hands-on an Omega Seamaster that look like arrows. They're very distinctive and often used on sports watches.

Baton Watch Hands


Rolex with Baton Hands
It's easy to see why Baton hands are often referred to as stick hands. They're straight, uniform and ideal for minimalist watches. There's no flamboyance, just very simple and functional straight lines.

Breguet Watch Hands


Breguet watch hands are more ornate.

Seagul with Breguet Hands
They're also more French. Sometimes called pomme hands, they were first used by French watchmaker, Abraham-Louis Breguet. These hands feature little circles - apples or pommes - and are suited more to elaborate and slightly fussy watch designs.

Cathedral Watch Hands


I'm running with the theory that Cathedral hands are named after the stained glass windows in Cathedrals. They have that design - the hands being divided into smaller sections.

The hour hand is short and stubby and contrast with a slim minute hand.

Seiko with cathedral hands

You'll see these hands on vintage-inspired models, particularly older military designs.

Dauphine Watch Hands


These hands, for whatever reason, take their name from the eldest son of a French king. They're common hands that you'll be familiar with.

Tissot Dauphine Hands

Diamond-shaped, and with a distinct line down the centre of each, they're mostly used on dress watches. But they are versatile and work on other designs too.

Fleur De Lys Watch Hands

Fleur De Lys Watch Hands
Fleur De Lys watch hands are on this list to make up the numbers. You'll rarely come across these, particularly on affordable watches. Like the Arrow hands, the name comes from the obvious styling. In this case, the ornate Lily shape on each hand.

Lance Watch Hands


Lance hand are a slimmer version of Alpha hands.

Leaf Watch Hands


Leaf hands also tend to be uncommon.

Montblanc with Leaf hands

They have a graceful appearance and are suited to classically styled watches. They're refined and ornate and only work with these very specific designs.

Mercedes Watch Hands


Mercedes hands are used on my favourite watch, the Rolex Explorer 1. They take their name from the hour hands resemblance to the Mercedes logo.

Rolex with Mercedes Hands

The design is versatile. As well as working on tool watches, Mercedes hands are also popular with dive watches. Rolex also uses Mercedes hands on the Submariner.

Plongeur Watch Hands


Plongeur hands are the bold orange hands that you'll have seen on Omega's iconic Ploprof dive watch. They feature a straight hour hand and a larger, sword shape minute hand.
Steeldive watch with Plongeur Hands

Like some of the hand styles on this list, the name is French. It simply means 'diver'.


Snowflake Watch Hands


Snowflake hands are instantly recognisable as a part of Tudor's DNA. It is suggested that they were first designed as very legible hands for French Navy watches.

Corgeut with Snowflake Hands
Outside of Tudor, you'll see these hands on more affordable homage dive watches. Usually, models inspired by Tudor designs.

Spade Watch Hands


Think of Spade hands as the suit in a pack of cards. It's another dated style that was more common among pocket watches than modern wristwatches.

But you will still see it on some contemporary watches.

Hamilton with Spade Watch hands

The origin of the name should be obvious. The hour hand resembles the spade shape from a card.

Sword Watch Hands


Once more, the French have their own name for this style of hand. They call them Glaive hands. I prefer the English, Sword hands.
MWC watch with Sword hands

The name is self-explanatory. They're shaped like the blade of a sword.

Syringe Watch Hands


You'll have seen Syringe hands on German-made Sinn watches among others.

Fossil with syringe hands

Again, they take their name from their resemblance to a specific object. They have a thicker body, with a thinner needle at the end.

Like a syringe.

Conclusion


Watch hands are fundamental to a watches design. But they have to be practical.

In practice that has allowed watch designers to come up with some beautiful ways of displaying the time. In some cases, that means ornate and graceful hands.

It can also mean bold, utilitarian designs that prioritise legibility.

When you're watch shopping it's good to know the difference. It's also handy to have an idea of the classic combinations. Why Tudor favour Snowflake hands and Rolex use Mercedes, for example.

I've listed the most common types of hands. If you've more to add, let me know in the comments below.

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