July 5, 2014
by Ariel Adams
I have a theory that I would like to test regarding the importance of watch hands in the world’s most popular watches. As many regular aBlogtoWatch readers know, I am particularly attentive to the design and construction of the hands on a watch’s face. I believe hands to be the most important element of a watch dial, and my theory is that if you were able to take the hands off the faces of the most popular and well-designed watches, you would still be able to recognize them with ease.
There are many very high quality watch designers that participate in the design of today’s new timepieces. Unfortunately, there are also many very poor designers. “Poor” in regard to their ability to design a proper watch dial that is both attractive and legible. The reason for this less than exemplary grade has much do with how they prioritize the design of watch hands. I posit that now and forever the design of a “good” watch dial begins with the hands.
You might find it interesting that many novice and fresh watch design talent does not approach the formulation of new dials with this general maxim. Instead of beginning a watch dial design with the hands, they end with the hands. This terrible oversight is perhaps the result of a lack of formal “watch design” training, and without assessing blame, I would simply like to state to the watch design world, please begin all dials with the hands. This, in my opinion, will prevent considerable abuse of legibility and improve the overall consideration of proportions.
To test my theory that the world’s most popular watches are recognizable by just their hands, we have taken images of these watches and removed everything but the hands. The results are less than surprising to me, but I find that even seasoned watch lovers are stricken by just how important the design of the hands are. There is a considerable lesson here to brands looking to improve the “identifiability” of their watches. And that lesson is to produce unique or distinctive hands that consumers either consciously or subconsciously associate with your brand and watch models.
This article contains the hands of mostly very popular watches along with some lesser known brands and models that nevertheless have distinctive hands which allow them to identified despite the relative volume of the watches they produce. Some, of course, are more recognizable than others but it is interesting to see these hands taken off the of the dials we often see them on.
What do we notice by seeing just the hands from each of these dials that you can’t see? In most all instances, the hands are properly sized and proportioned. That means that they extend as far as they need to on the dial, and the minute hand is either distinct from the hour hand or easily identified. So it isn’t just the hands that matter, but also their relative design in relation to one another.
I find it interesting that the seconds hand is often much less important than the minute and hour hands. Some of these dials don’t have seconds hands or we haven’t included them because we don’t think they are necessary. In another instances, the seconds hands are crucial to preserving the overall character of the hand set.
So are you able to identify all of the watches from just their hands? There might be one or two that is difficult to spot but you’ll quickly feel silly for not knowing them at first glance if you look at our answer guide below. I think it is a testament to both big brand and boutique company design to see that a range of different watch companies are represented in this collection. While I would love to spend more time analyzing the hands and why they are distinct, I think the pictures speak louder than the words. What do you think? Are hands as important as we claim that they are? Are there models that should be in this list? What are some of your favorite watch hands?
Answer Guide: The watch hands in order of moving from the top of the article down are, 1) Alain Silberstein typical hands, 2) F.P. Journe hands, 3) Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean hands, 4) Rolex Milgauss hands, 5) Breguet pomme-style hands, 6) Panerai Luminor-style hands, 7) Rolex Submariner hands, 8) Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M hands, 9) Hublot Big Bang hands, 10) IWC Big Pilot’s Watch hands, 11) Zenith El Primero hands, 12) Patek Philippe Nautilus hands, 13) Urwerk UR-203 hands, 14) Swatch typical hands, 15) A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 hands, 16) Audemars Piguet Royal Oak hands, 17) Mickey Mouse hands.