You would be surprised to know that the watch parts that are responsible for keeping track of time are rich in designs, styles, and shapes. There are more than 30 different watch hands types widely used by the watchmaking industry and new concepts are added to the list continuously. This watch guide’s main intention is to dive into the watch hands types, find their origin and give an explanation to their etymology. Check the 18 most used watch hands types below.
Tudor Snowflake Watch Hands
This watch hand type was initially designed by Tudor, the sinister watch brand of Rolex. It is the brand’s flagship and they use it quite a lot mostly on their diver watches. The Tudor snowflake watch hands were introduced in 1969 when the brand introduced their Submariner reference 7016 and 7021. The diamond-shaped edges provided a more workable surface for the luminescent material to fit properly and thus increase legibility underwater. To this day, the snowflake watch hand type is a signature to Tudor only and is seen on Tudor Black Bay and Pelagos models.
Rolex Mercedes Watch Hands
The famous three-pointed star hour hand you will find on different watches from all around the globe first appeared on a Rolex model. The watch hands have nothing to do with Mercedes Benz directly as most watch connoisseurs come to the conclusion that Mercedes-cut hands are just a modernized version of Cathedral hands. Tag Heuer, Invicta, and other watch brands use the same watch hand type on most of their models. As for Rolex, the brand keeps using it on their GMT-Master II, Submariner, and Sea-Dweller. Same as with Tudor snowflake watch hands, the Mercedes watch hands provide a sustainable exterior for the luminescent material to fit it.
Breguet Watch Hands
The watch hands named after the watch manufacturer who designed them Abraham-Louis Breguet first appeared around 1783. Featuring a slim, sleek, and functional design, Breguet watch hands are to this day known for their charming and classic touch. The eccentric, hollow moon tip watch hands are proudly used by Breguet for their timepieces and from other watch brands like Omega, Rotary, Cartier, Tissot, and much more.
Sword-Cut Watch Hands
As already noticed by the name, this type of watch hands is quite war-inspired. Found on luxury watches like Omega Seamaster and Cartier Tank, sword watch hands come with a classic feel and a not so ready-for-war design. But still, it is a valuable part of a watch and is widely used by many watch manufacturers.
Stick Watch Hands
The simplest and uncomplicated watch hands you will ever encounter are the stick watch hands. As the name suggests, these watch hands style is straightforward and has no room for fancy designs. The positive thing is that it gives the dial more space and room to reflect its beauty. On the other hand, stick hands can not be treated with a luminous material therefore you will see them being used only on dress watches.
Syringe Watch Hands
As with the majority of watch hands that get their names after the objects they look like the most, syringe hands etymology needs little to no explanation. The design features a barrel shape that widens in the center with a needle-like tip to lend to more precise timekeeping. You will find syringe watch hands on entry-level watches as well as luxury dress timepieces like JLC Reverso or Patek Phillipe’s striking models.
Dauphine Style Watch Hands
Another perpetually traditional watch hands style is Dauphine. The design was initially developed in the 1940s when the watch hands entered the vocabulary of horology getting its name after the French word for the eldest son of the king. As with sword hands, and Mercedes watch hands, these ones are also used by a considerable number of watch brands. Mentioning here Carl F. Bucherer, Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and more.
Cathedral Watch Hands
A classical and more traditional form of timekeeping hands is the cathedral style. The watch hands radiate killing charm and will do nothing but adorn the watch they are fitted in so beautifully. The watchmakers used them initially on military watches but nowadays you will find these watch hands type on watch brands like Patek Phillipe, Montblanc, and Zenith. The style changes from a watch to another, however, the classic form is kept visible.
Baton Wach Hands
Uniform, long and perfect, as the name suggests baton watch hands are shaped like batons. They are thin and are also called stick hands. Expect to find baton hands on watches made with minimalism in mind. Dress and fashion watches are the main watch types that apply the simplicity of baton hands. Skagen Denmark, Piaget, Nomos, and Audemars Piguet are only some of the brands using baton hands on their watches.
Arrow Watch Hands
Easily distinguishable due to their shape, arrow watch hands feature a legible watch hands style that is commonly used on watches that require a high level of readability. Their relatively sizeable exterior paves the way for the luminescent material to fit in perfectly. Expect to find the arrow watch hands type on diver watches.
Fleur de Lys Watch Hands
A complex name for a more complex style. Fleur de Lys (in French Lily flower) is one of the most classic yet sophisticated watch hands types you can encounter on a watch. There is no clue on who was the first watchmaker to enter such an iconic decorative symbol on a watch but they started to show up centuries ago in European ceremonies and war flags. The hands are made of pure classicism, therefore, expect to find them on classic dress watches.
Skeleton Watch Hands
While there is no default shape of skeleton hands, they all have something in common. Skeleton watch hands all feature a partially see-through framework that makes a futuristic appeal whenever used. You will find skeleton hands-on watches of different price ranges. From Bulova Automatic skeleton watch with ref. 96A187 to Hublot Big Bang Tourbillon ref. 405.MX.0138.RX.
Leaf Cut Watch Hands
Judging by the name, you have already understood the appearance of leaf-cut watch hands. This watch hands style also known as Feuille (in French meaning leaf), mirrors the shape of a long and slender leaf. The minute, as well as the hour hand, are wide in the middle and narrow at ends, with the base and the point tapered.
Alpha Watch Hands
Alpha watch hands feature a long and straight design that many would say resemble the letter “A”. The shape of the watch comes with a wide base that tapers out to a point at the tip. As the name describes the style, Alpha hands reflect strength and a fearless accuracy. A. Lange & Sohne Datograph and Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra are only some of the watch models that have incorporated alpha hands on their timepieces.
Pencil Style Watch Hands
Another watch hand type whose name indicates the shape is pencil watch hands. As the name suggests, this style is similar, not to say identical with the form of a classic pencil. The hands are thin and long with a small point at the tip. To increase legibility, luminous material can be applied or not, depending on the watch model and the width of the hands.
Lance Watch Hands
Lance style is another watch hands type whose design gets the name by the early weapons of war. Once used by knights and horsemen as their deadliest weapon, lance now is used to adorn and keep track of time in dress watches. They are similar not to say identical with sword hands, however, a slender cut on lance hands makes the styles notable from each other.
Obelisque Watch Hands
Watch hands have always imitated nature or iconic objects to be used as a tool to measure time. The obelisque watch hands deliver a strong and steady feel as if they were made of Zeus’ lightning bold material. Obelisque watch hands are representational in both arrangement and structure, serving to keep track of time and ultimately finish the design of the watch. Oris Big Crown ProPilot and Blancpain Fifty Fathoms are only two timepieces that use obelisque hands.
Plongeur Divers watch hands
While a watch’s main purpose is accurate timekeeping, legibility can never be taken for granted. Especially underwater. Plongeur watch hands walk along with diver watches. This watch hands type (Plongeur French word for diver) ensures enough space for the luminescent material to fit in and increase the readability of time underwater. Some diver watches with Plongeur hands are Omega, Seiko, Tudor, and Vostok.
The world of watches has something to offer to everyone. New concepts, shapes, colors, and designs stay in perfect harmony with the classic watchmaking of the past. The watches use hands to keep track of time and as such, watchmakers give them the importance they deserve. The hands of watches are not only designed for stylistic purposes but also to increase legibility, define the nature of the watch, or simply to come up with a new concept like Tudor’s Snowflake, Rolex’s Mercedes, or Breguet watch hands.