While many people only refer to the hour and second hands, those who appreciate the design of fine watches will have noticed the intricate designs of some watch hands and may be wondering how many different types of watch hands there are.
The type or style of hand used on a watch may appear to be a minor detail, but it plays an important role in a watch’s aesthetics. Some designs are so well-known that we automatically associate the hands with specific watch brands or models. Mercedes-style hands, for example, are used on many Rolex models, as are Snowflake hands on Tudor watches.
The most common types of watch hands, as well as some lesser-known ones, are discussed below, along with sample photos of each type.
Alpha Watch Hands
These watch hands narrow from a broad base in the centre of the dial to a narrow, pointed stem. The classic A. Lange & Söhne Datograph and the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Metrographe are both examples of Alpha watch hands. Some Omega Speedmaster models include Alpha-style hands.
Arrow Watch Hands
Arrow hands are self-explanatory given their name – the ends of the hands form a pointed arrow shape. The Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Automatic watch is an excellent example of the arrow design.
Other dive watches with arrow hands include the popular Seiko SKX series.
Baton Watch Hands
These watch hands are thin, straight, and of a consistent thickness. Consider the thin stick used by an orchestra conductor to direct the musicians, or the baton that relay racers pass to one another.
Baton-style watch hands are used in many classic, minimalist designs. Because of their thin profile, millennial watch brands, Danish watches, and other fashion watch brands such as MVMT frequently use them.
Breguet Watch Hands
These watch hands are named after the well-known French watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet and feature a hollow round hoop near the pointed end. Due to the resemblance of the loops to the round fruit, some watch enthusiasts refer to them colloquially as “Pomme” (apple in French) Hands.
However, most people agree that the proper name is to give credit to Breguet, who invented the shape as well as many other watchmaking parts that bear his name.
Some of the best examples of these watch hands can be found on classic Breguet designs, such as the Breguet Marine Mechanical.
Despite the fact that many low-cost brands continue to use this hand style.
Cathedral Watch Hands
These watch hands, which were most likely inspired by stained glass in European cathedrals, have a detailed segmented design on a wider hour hand and a slender minute hand. This style can be found on several Mont Blanc models, including the 1858. Some watch forums refer to these as “Squelette” (skeleton in French) because they resemble bones, but this is misleading because “Skeleton watch hands” have a portion of the hand hollowed out (“skeletonized”), as shown below.
Dauphine Watch Hands
These hands are shaped like a tapered diamond and have a distinct line down the middle. Dauphin was a title given to the eldest son of a French king from 1350 to 1830, indicating that they were the heir apparent to the French throne.
Fleur de Lys Watch Hands
The Fluer de Lys is a decorative design or motif that can be found in religious designs as well as many European family coats of arms, including those of the royal families. The stylized lily is frequently associated with the Catholic church, particularly with Saint Joseph. Czapek & Cie, a Swiss watchmaker that uses Fluer de Lys hands on several of their watches, is one that stands out.
Lance Watch Hands
Lance hands are very similar to Alpha hands, but they are more slender. Named after the long, slender shape of the hands, which resembles the long, pointed weapon used by jousting horsemen. From the centre, the lance hands gradually taper out to a narrow pointed end. Similar to sword hands, but with a much more slender profile, making them suitable for dress watches.
Leaf Watch Hands
The term “feuille” or “leaf” in French refers to these watch hands, which have a wide, flattened hour hand that mimics the natural, organic shape of a broad plant leaf. While not as common as many of the other hands on this list, the leaf gives a watch a very distinguished look.
Lollipop Watch Hands
The hands, like the candy, have large circles at the end of a stick. These are typically coated with a luminous surface material.
Lozenge Watch Hands
Lozenge hands are widest in the middle and then narrow again at the end, forming a diamond-like shape with a faceted face on the hand. Cartier’s example below is a hybrid, with the minute hour hand ending in a Breguet-like circle.
Mercedes Watch Hands
Although there is no direct link to the automobile manufacturer, the tri-sectioned circle at the end of the hour hand does resemble the logo of the car brand. Because of the surface area on the circle, these are sometimes used in the design of luminous watches.
Obelisque Watch Hands
With a pointed end and shaped like an obelisk. A good example is this Blancpain dive watch. Named after the narrow tapering monument that ends in a pyramid-like shape, such as the famous obelisk at the entrance to Egypt’s Luxor Temple.
Pencil Watch Hands
These are straight and end in a point, like a freshly sharpened pencil, just like the classic wooden writing tool used in schools around the world. The hands themselves can be “lumed,” or filled with a different colour, as can the pencil’s “tip.”
Plongeur Watch Hands
Plongeur is the French word for diver, and it refers to a more chunky and exaggerated sword shape.
Skeleton Watch Hands
Skeleton watch hands, like skeleton watches, have a portion of the hand hollowed out so that you can see through it, similar to how skeleton watches have a see-through portion of the watch face showing the interworkings of the gears and movements.
Snowflake Watch Hands
Snowflake hands are the angular hour hands that have become an iconic part of Tudor design over the last 50 years. This hand style is currently used on all Tudor Pelagos and Tudor Black Bay. To learn more about Tudor’s snowflake hands, go here.
Spade Watch Hands
These watch hands, like the digging tool and the suit on a deck of playing cards, are a classic style of hand that is commonly found on pocket watches and old german watches and clocks. This is a timeless style that never seems to go out of fashion.
Syringe Watch Hands
These watch hands resemble small medical syringes, as the name implies. The hands begin similarly to a baton in the centre, but with a narrow “needle” that finishes off the end of the hands.
Sword Watch Hands
Sword hands can be sleek, as seen on this Cartier watch, or much thicker and bolder, more akin to a Plongeur style. They can be solid or skeletonized in the middle on wider sword hands.