Wristwatch as a Compass

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You can use an analog wristwatch to locate the direction of south during daylight hours. It is assumed that you live in the Northern Hemisphere, not too close to the Equator or the North Pole. (In the Southern Hemisphere, the same procedure locates north.)


Hold your watch horizontally and turn it so that the hour hand points in the direction of the Sun. South is then halfway between this direction and 12 o'clock, which you can mark with the red arrow in this Demonstration. In one day the Sun appears to travel around the Earth once, while the hour hand goes around the watch twice, which is the reason for halving.

To confirm your orienteering skills, you can refer to a compass by clicking the checkbox.

Adjust the time backward one hour if you are using daylight saving time.


Contributed by: S. M. Blinder (March 2011)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA



Snapshot 1: first point the hour hand in the direction of the Sun

Snapshot 2: then rotate the red arrow halfway between the hour hand and 12 o'clock; this should then point toward the south

Snapshot 3: confirm with compass

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