The history of watch hands is an interesting one. The first monastery and church clocks appeared in the 14thcentury and only had one hand for the hours. Obviously, there were no trains to catch back then! It wasn’t until the 16thcentury that the minute hand started to appear on the dial. Minutes were first introduced at the request of astronomers who needed greater precision for their stargazing calculations. The minute hand became longer and thinner than the hour hand so that it could precisely indicate its position on a 60-minute scale. The hour hand was made subsequently shorter as it was less important.
And since then, the two-hand clock configuration hasn’t changed much. The digital display did give hands a run their money in the 1970s, but now we happily read both analogue and digital watches without even realizing we are doing it.
But why have two hands? Why not something else? This is a question that many watchmakers have asked themselves, challenging the way we have done things for centuries. New ways of reading the time are not only an exercise in creativity, they also challenge the way the watch functions, which make them even more interesting.
Here is a selection of some of our favorites.
HYT H1.0 indicates the time using liquid, actually it is two liquids, one colored and one transparent, with the time being indicated on the line between the two. HYT’s philosophy is that time is fluid so why limit its measurement to indicating the exact present moment with hands or a digital display? Just let it flow.
Price: CHF 49’000
Urwerk was one of the first contemporary brands to rethink the way we read time and has a number of innovative ways of indicating the time, from rotating cubes, satellites and tubes. If you like futuristic objects, you are going to love this UR-105 TA Racing Gold.
Price: CHF 72’159
Based in Israel’s Old City of Jaffa, Itay Noy is an independent watchmaker who loves nothing more than to find new concepts for displaying the time. One of our favorite creations is the Time Tone, where each owner can choose which colored petal is the hour hand.
Price: CHF 5’600
It is not only the boys who get unique ways to read the time, Christophe Claret’s Marguerite, in purple or red, displays the hours and minutes using two beautiful butterflies that flutter around a flower in the center of the dial.
Price: CHF 70’000 and CHF 89’390
The Azimuth Mr. Roboto Bronzo has eyes that indicate the hours and a second time zone, with the minutes displayed like teeth in his mouth. He is a cheeky little fellow that just makes you want to smile.
Price upon request
A relatively new brand to the watch scene, Lytt Labs rethinks its display of the time with rotating disks in a choice of different colors. It doesn’t have hands as such, but cool looking arrows that point to the hours, minutes and seconds.
Price: CHF 815
Van Cleef & Arpels
Another gorgeous timepiece for women is the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux, which indicates the time with two figurines – a female figurine for the hours and a male figurine for the minutes. At midday and midnight, they kiss in the middle of the bridge. Now, how romantic is that?
Price: CHF 124’000
Watchmaking doesn’t get funkier than the MB&F HM6 Final Edition with its four animated spheres, winking eye and beating heart in the middle. This horological creation couldn’t be further from your tradition watch face.
Price: CHF 226’170
The Hysek Colossal has so many cool functions that are all indicated in unusual ways, without a hand in sight. The time and date are the main focus of the watch and are displayed on rollers like an old desk calendar, but there is also a 24-hour display, a day/night indication, a leap year display, second time zone and a power reserve indicator.
Price upon request
The MP-05 LaFerrari Titanium looks like it has stepped out of the future with its unique case shape and mechanics that look more like…well a Ferrari…than a watch! The hours and minutes can be read on aluminium cylinders with yellow luminescent markings.