One Hand Watches And How They Work

When we talk about Analog watches, most of us will have in mind three hands watches or two hands watches. Three hands watches are those which have a hand to indicate the hour, another hand to indicate the minutes and another hand on top to indicate the second. This third hand is the quickest way to know the watch is working as it is always moving per second making a complete turn in 60 seconds.

On the other hand, a two hand watch is simply one which doesn’t have the hand to indicate the second. These are well known. However the dial on a watch face plays an important role. A watch face circumference is divided into twelve equal division by numbers or batons (markers) to indicate 12 hours and also by four small batons in between each numbers or main batons which is equal to 60 batons or minutes or seconds. Sometime there is the date window which replace the number three. These things are important to explain in order to fully understand how one hand watches works.

watch face

Normally watch manufacturers will put a movement into a watch according to the number of hands they want the watch to have. We can however remove the second hand from a three hands watch and make it two hands only. But we can’t add a second hand into a watch with a two hands movement, simply because the movement doesn’t have a wheel for the second hand and also two hands movements are meant for flatter watches.

Now that we know the all these, can we reduce a three or two hands watch to a one hand watch? The answer is yes, we can remove the minute and second hands and keep only the hour hand. So how does it work?

One hand watches

Consider having an hour hand on the watch face above.

one hand watches

The only thing which will differ is the way you will read the time. From the image above we can clearly read 2 o’clock because we normally read 2 o’clock when the hour hand is exactly on 2 and the minute hand on 12.  Now let’s go back to a normal 3/2 hands watch. Any analog movement, when working, the hour hands also moves, it doesn’t stay on 2 and then jump on 3 just when the minutes hand make a complete turn. So this is the trick, to read the time on one hand watches. For example:

one hand watches

We can read 2:30 o’clock on the two hands watch, and also notice that the hour hand is in the middle of 2 and 3. So, when it is exactly in the middle of two numbers or batons we don’t need the minutes hand to tell us that it is 2:30 o’clock, we simply know it. That make us understand we can have a watch with only one hand. However a small problem with this watch face, it has 4 small batons in between each two numbers which give us 5 divisions (perfect for the minutes hand but not for the hour hand). This will make each one small baton represent 12 minutes (i.e. 60/5) and it will be difficult for us to calculate the time. So a better design is one which have 4 divisions (i.e 15 minutes each) or 6 divisions (i.e. 10 minutes each).

Or, as the Komono Magnus suggest, 3 small batons with two more sub batons inside which give us a total of 12 divisions between each hour (i.e 5 minutes each). And also a long hour hand which is long enough to pass over the batons. This way we can tell the time more accurately.

one hand watches

This is pretty an easy concept by using only the hour hand from a 2 or 3 hands watch movement, leaving the other wheels free without hands.

24 hours dial

Another concept is a one hand watch having a face with a 24 hours dial. That’s right, 1 to 24 hours written on it. This way you get only one hand which will make a complete turn in 24 hours. This is pretty beautiful. The trick is a movement having a 24 hour hand (usually called a 4 hand watch movement) under the watch face. They use only the 24 hour hand, leaving the others move freely. For example the DETOMASO Classic Man One Hand 24 Hour Single Revolution Quartz Watch.


This is a very outstanding watch in concept and design. It has 6 divisions (i.e. each represents 10 minutes) between each hour and base on the image above, we can say that the watch time is 2:48 or 2:49 a.m. Pretty easy and with a little effort and some days of wearing such a watch, you will get used to it and won’t leave it.

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