How to use an analogue watch as a compass to find direction

If you ever lose your way and need a helping hand, forget sat navs and smart phones, you can easily get back on track with the help of your trusty wrist watch. If you have an analogue watch, no matter how basic, it can be transformed as a make shift compass if you need pointing in the right direction during daylight hours.

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 To put this Boy Scout trick into action, you first of all need to consider which Hemisphere you are in as the method varies for the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Northern Hemisphere

  1. Hold the watch horizontal with the watch face flat.
  2. You can use the watch to determine the general direction by pointing the hour hand at the sun.
  3. Take note of where the hour hand is and draw a midway point between here and 12 0’clock.
  4. The line points in two directions with the direction furthest from the sun being north and the closest south.
  5. Don’t forget about Daylight Saving- subtract an hour if it is that time of the year.

Southern Hemisphere

Similar to finding your direction in the Northern Hemisphere, the difference is where you point the watch towards the sun.

  1. Hold the watch horizontal with the watch face flat.
  2. You can use a watch to determine the general direction by pointing the 12 o’clock position at the sun.
  3. Take note of where 12 0’clock and the hour hand is and draw a midway point.
  4. North will be the closest side to the sun and south the furthest.

You can still use this method even when it is foggy, which is useful to know in unpredictable British climates. The sun should still cast a shadow even if you can’t see the sun easily. Do keep in mind that the shadow points the opposite way from the sun.

Remember that the accuracy of this method isn’t always guaranteed and will diminish depending on your distance from the equator- the further away you are from it, the more likely it will be accurate.

So whether you are lost in the woods and know little more than that you need to head north, or you’re disorientated in the hustle and bustle of a city and need to be north of Soho ASAP, look no further than your wrist and be on your way.


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