Tip of the Week

Using a Watch as a Compass

watch compass

This week is a really basic way to find north using an analog wristwatch.

Obviously this is not as accurate as a compass and is easy to get wrong by making simple mistakes, so never go out with the intention of relying entirely on your watch for finding direction – this is meant as a fun activity to try out and possibly a very last option in an emergency. There really is no substitute for a good compass.

The way to do this is simply to point your hour hand directly at the sun whilst holding your watch flat.

photo 2 (2) - Copy

Obviously this is easier when the sun is visible, however you can still do this in cloudy conditions by sticking something in the ground and seeing where the shadow falls. The shadow will obviously fall away from the sun, so you can use this information to work out where the sun is and orientate your watch accordingly.


Once you have your hour hand pointing at the sun, the line directly between your hour hand and the twelve o’clock position will point south and from this you can work out the direction of north.


Can you do this from a digital watch, phone etc? Not directly, but you can use the time and create an analog watch face from rocks or drawing in mud/sand, marking on the 12 o’clock position and the hour hand position. The other option is to draw a watch face on a piece of paper. These improvised analog watch faces can then be used in the same way.

photo (2)


Also do bear in mind that this is the technique for the Northern Hemisphere only.


go out and give it a try.

– Graham

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