Finding North Using a Watch

This method is not as useful as it once was; due to the fact, so many people wear digital watches.  My watch is self-winding with an old-fashioned face.  This means no batteries to worry about and I can use it for finding direction as well as telling time.

An ordinary watch with hour and minute hands will help you find true north.  In the northern hemisphere, point the hour hand to the sun.  The north south line will be found midway between the hour hand and twelve noon.

.If it is a cloudy day, stand a stick over the center of the watch.  Hold it so that the shadow falls along a line with the hour hand.  North is halfway between the hour hand and 12 noon.  See the following diagram:

In the southern hemisphere, point the 12 at the sun and north will be halfway between it and the hour hand.  If in any doubt as to which end of the line is north, remember that the sun rises in the east, sets in the west.  The sun is in the east before noon and in the west after noon.

This is a simple way of finding north as long as there is enough sun to cast a shadow.  But it does have its limitations, one it only works during the day, second it is not real exact, but does show you the general direction of north.  However if you have a rough map in your head and know your area, this should help you to find a known landmark.  In the near future I will post information on finding north using the stars and other methods.

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1 thought on “Finding North Using a Watch”

  1. This is the expedient method I was taught at the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Basic School in 1968. So far asI know, it is still taught. However, I keep a Suunto button compass on my watchband as a backup to hand-held GPS. I have also returned to my old military-issue Benrus Mil-W-46374, because it requires no batteries. I check it against WWV every morning and it is still accurate enough for navigation, though I don’t fly anymore.

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