pocket watch hands

I talked about pocket watch dials in another article, but the hands are also a very important part of a watch's design.

Moreover, it is also the most visible part of the watch, as it is impossible to tell the time, which is the original role of a watch, unless you look at the hands.

In addition to the design, various designs and ideas have been put into consideration to make it easier to read the time.

Typical needle design

Here we will introduce some typical items often found in antique pocket watches.

1. spade

spade needle

A needle with a spade-shaped tip. It's quite common and seen a lot.
In most pocket watches, only the hour hand is spade-shaped.

double spade needle

For watches with half-hunter (demi-hunter) cases, there are two spades (double spades) so that it is easy to distinguish between the hour hand and the long hand through the small window even when the lid is closed.

2. breguet
breguet hand

This hand was invented by the legendary genius watchmaker Breguet.
This needle is very easy to read due to the donut-shaped disc at the tip of the needle.
This is also a hand often seen on antique pocket watches.

3. Louis
louis needle

This is a gorgeous needle with a very elaborate design.
Antique items are hand carved one by one rather than die cut.
There are Louis XIV needles, Louis XV needles, Louis XVI needles, etc. with different detailed designs.

4. Dolphin/Alpha
dolphin needle

Dolphin: A needle shaped like a diamond with one side stretched out. Also called dauphin.
Alpha...A needle shaped like a dolphin with a tapered base.

5. cathedral
cathedral needle

This needle has the name "Cathedral" on it.
There is also a type with a diamond-shaped tip and a hole.

6. butterfly
butterfly needle

This needle has a very stylish design in the shape of a butterfly.

7. morning glory
morning glory needle

The needle is designed like a gas lamp.

8. cobra
cobra needle

It is so called because the tip of the hour hand looks like a cobra's head.
Used for military watches, old dress watches, etc.

Trivia about needles

About the color of the needle

Antique pocket watches are often gold, blue, or black.
Blue hands are called ``blue-hardened'', which is a type of metal that is hardened to create an oxide film on the surface that makes it appear blue, and because it takes time to create, it is used in high-end watches.

How to attach the needle

There are some exceptions, such as old watches made before the 19th century, but in most cases there is only a slight point on the center shaft.
It will not be fixed if it is not connected with adhesive or welding, and the shaft and hole sizes do not match exactly.

needle replacement

The hands are very delicate and moving parts, so they are often replaced in older watches.
However, as explained in "How to install hands", the hands are fixed by the exquisite fit between the shaft and the hole, so in the case of an antique watch with few replacement parts left, it is possible to replace the hands with a perfect design. It is unlikely that you will find a suitable needle.
In some cases, the hole is made into a slightly oval shape, or if it is a rough one, it is forcibly attached with adhesive.
It is common for the hour hand, minute hand, and second hand to be of different colors or designs, or of different sizes.
There are no markings on the hands, so it is very difficult to determine if they are original.


The watch expresses various faces by combining the dial and hands.
The hands of a clock are very important parts, but they are delicate and easily broken.
When setting the time, etc., be careful not to turn it too quickly.