The style of hand-set on a watch can make or break it, but why? There's much, much more to this than just sticking some hands on! In a relatively short article only the main types can be covered, but hopefully, you'll get the gist on how they not only complement a watch but how they contribute to its function. Sometimes, a mixture of different hands are used to bring out certain features in a watch. There are no hard and fast rules, but it's quite obvious when a manufacturer gets it wrong!
Let's crack on.
Geckota Ocean-Scout - Credit Geckota
These come in quite a few different variations but the general shape is reminiscent of the blade of a sword. Some are solid, some are 'skeletonised' as on the Omega Seamaster 300m Professional, many are lumed and a few are polished or blued. The length of any hand-set should match the dial and this is sometimes overlooked by some manufacturers.
Let's take a look at the Geckota Ocean-Scout and how this handset fits in.
Geckota Ocean-Scout- Credit Geckota
Starting with the hour hand, the length just misses the hour batons but nestles inside the double batons at 12 o'clock. The minute hand extends past the hour batons but falls just shy of the minute track. This makes exact timing much easier to read. The seconds hand is of lollipop design, and so called because it looks like a lollipop on a stick. The track of the lumed 'lollipop' follows a path just inside the outer tips of the hour and minute hand. The tip of the seconds hand sits right on the very edge of the minute track markers. All this doesn't just happen, it has to be thought about. The Geckota Phalanx also sports a similar style of handset. They have the ability to take the watch back to the 1950s and 60s when matched to a dial/case/crown combination that hark back to the same period.
Geckota Chronotimer - Credit Geckota
The baton hand-set is a little more conventional and is often used on chronographs because of their slenderness. There's a lot going on with a chronograph and if the hour/minute hands are too wide they will obscure the sub-dials along with their respective hands during timing operations. The Geckota Chronotimer is an example of a watch that features a baton hour/minute hand combination.
A Combination of Styles
There are no rules laid down that say you can't mix & match!
Geckota Seahunter- Credit Geckota
This is less common on dress watches as the need to maintain a seamless style is often more important than being able to read accurate time. These mix & match combinations were originally a product of practicality; however, over the years others have used it more as a deviation from the 'normal'. Dive watches are a prime example of practicality, where the hour hand is, in real terms, unimportant. That's why you'll often see the hour hand on a diving watch being quite small and unobtrusive; the minute hand however, being quite the opposite! Divers are much more interested in the minutes, and with this in mind the minute hand on a dive watch is often big, bold and highly luminescent. Quite often you'll see the minute hand outlined in bright red, and although it looks quite impressive, red is the first colour to disappear underwater. In fact, 2m and it's almost gone, quickly followed by orange and yellow.
You'll often notice that the seconds hand on a dive watch has a little more luminosity, this is not to aid the timing process but to confirm that the watch is running!
Geckota Seahunter - Credit Geckota
The Geckota Sea Hunter sports a Mercedes style hour hand without the three pointed star along with an obelisque minute hand. If you compare the Ocean-Scout to the Sea Hunter you'll immediately notice the difference in hand length. On the Sea Hunter the hour and minute hands are, in my opinion, too long and this has a detrimental effect on the clarity. Nevertheless, this small point is nothing to write home about, but more to show how such a little change can alter the way in which information is transmitted. The Geckota Pioneer uses the same hand-set, but with a different dial design.
This is an odd one! As soon as someone says 'Lego hands' you immediately think of the Sinn U1. They may look strange, some would even say 'cartoonish', but from a timing perspective it's difficult to think of a system that transports timing information as well as this in reduced visibility.
Let's just take a quick look at what makes it so special.
Firstly, let's get rid of the hour hand. This has the same 'Lego' tip, but it's only like that in order to keep everything in balance. The magic is in the outer 'Lego' hour markers and the 'Lego' tips on the minute and seconds hand. You'll notice that the hour markers are identical in width to the minute and seconds hand. When the minute hand aligns with one of the hour markers, it blends seamlessly and appears as one. The end of the minute hand just brushes the minute track markers but doesn't obscure them in any way. Because of the width of the minute hand and the hour markers, any parallax error is instantly detectable by using the seconds hand. This is typically German; it's everything you need, and nothing you don't!
Geckota Pioneer - Credit Geckota
Syringe hands tend to take you back in time somewhat, and offer character to certain watches. One such watch is the Sinn 104, and they suit it perfectly. It's often been said that if you could only have one watch in your collection, it would be the Sinn 104. I did quite an in-depth review on this watch where it accompanied me on an adventure or two; it performed impeccably on every level, and that was due in no small part to the syringe hands. That said, it's not all about the hands themselves, the hour and minute track have to be correct in order for the system to work well. Sinn have got it exactly right on the 104 and timing to the second is an absolute piece of cake. Not only does it function perfectly, it also looks incredibly sharp. I'll end up with a 104 in the collection, I'm sure of it. The beauty of the 104 is that it will look just as well on a female, and in that lies my plan.
The Last Word
Geckota Pioneer - Credit Geckota
I've only covered a few here and really, it's not all about the hand-sets on a watch. The hand-set has to match the dial, the hour markers and the minute track. Not only that, the length has to be right otherwise the whole thing doesn't work. It's incredibly hard to explain in words but when you see an example that's right, it's immediately noticeable. Take a look at the Sinn 104, along with its variants and you'll see what I mean with a syringe hand-set. The Sinn 104 is not on its own by any stretch of the imagination, but for every one that is right there are a hundred that fall well short. Many watch companies fail to see the connection between the hand-set and the dial markings, and many a great watch has fallen by the wayside through this lack of understanding.
As usual, all comments are gratefully received and benefit not only the Geckota team but also the other readers.