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How To Use Your Watch As A Compass? An Easy Way

how to use your watch as a compass

Watches are considered not just as a part of the fashion statement but also as a part of certain specialized features. Watches can do more than time telling. Modern GPS units are now included in the watches in order to make it act as a compass. Analog watches used outdoors can be made into a compass.

Some watches even have a compass bezel included with them which makes the process easier. Any analog watch which has a 12-hour scale will act as a great compass. This kind of watch may not be perfect, but it will do the job greatly and satisfactorily. These types of watches are greatly used for adventure loving people and travelers.

Converting watch to a compass

In order to convert or make the watch into a compass, two situations are considered. The person is made to stand in the Northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere in order to get accurate readings. Here are some watches with a compass on amazon.

Considering Northern Hemisphere

When you are in the Northern hemisphere, you need to choose an area that has a clear view of the sun. Now you need to take off your watch and hold it in a direction that is horizontal in order to place the twelve o’clock mark towards the left. Now you should point the hour hand towards the direction of the sun.

This is the method to get the true south direction. This should be located approximately between the hour hand and the marker defining 12 o’clock. It is also necessary to measure the clockwise from the hour hand before noon. In the afternoon you should measure in the anticlockwise direction from the hour hand of the watch. 

Let us take an example to explain it easier. Let the time be 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Then you will need to point the hour hand of your watch towards the sun when you are in the Northern hemisphere and then you should locate the south at the 2 o’clock market of the watch. Whenever it is noontime, it is sure that the hour hand of your watch will be pointing towards the true south only.

Considering Southern Hemisphere

The process done in the northern hemisphere is just inverted for the southern hemisphere. Take out your watch for a clear view of the sun. This is repeatedly said in order to obtain accurate values as you are converting your watch into a compass. Now you will need to hold your watch horizontally and put the twelve o’clock mark of the watch towards the direction of the Sun. Now the direction of true north will be at the midpoint on the watch between the hour hand and the 12 o’clock marker of the watch.

How to gain more accuracy for such created watch compass

Every compass needs accuracy even if it is made from the watch. The US Army rangers handbook recommends an easy method to improve the accuracy of such a created compass. You will need to place a small stick firmly on the ground giving a clear and definite shadow. Now instead of pointing the hour hand or the twelve o’clock marker of the watch towards the direction of the sun, it is recommended to point it towards along with the stick shadow. This is a time-consuming process but it will produce the correct accuracy for your compass. You can practice this method to make sure that your watch turned compass is completely accurate in its performance.

Points to remember 

Please make sure whatever methods you are opting for, you are only doing it under the daylight whenever the sun is completely visible. Never do any kind of process in the dark as this will create an error and compromise the accuracy of the compass. Also, you should remember that this process will only work in the temperate zone. Temperate zone means the zone near the equator. You will need to get closer to the equator so that you will get the visibility of the sun greatly.

You should also be aware about the daylight savings time. You can well enough practice it in the summer months by setting the hour hand back to one hour or using the midway point between hour hand and 1 o’clock.

Using the watch to determine direction within the tropics 

As mentioned above, it is easy to convert your watch into a compass in the temperate zone rather than in the tropic zone. This is because there are two solar maxima in the tropic zone. The position of the sun may be either North or South or even at the midway, depending upon the month and the year and therefore it will be difficult to conduct the process.

The watch when it is converted to a compass is an approximate guide to the direction. Shadows that occur around midday can be used to find the direction. We have already observed how to measure the direction by looking at the shadow when there is the proper sun. Always remember the fact that the shortest shadow cast by any object will always point towards the true north.

Finding Sun on a Cloudy Day

It is necessary to find the Sun even if it is a summer day or a cloudy day for turning the watch into a perfect compass. It is recommended to follow the below method to find the sun on a  cloudy day. You will need to hold a stick or even a pencil for the operation. Hold the stick upright over a light piece of paper. Remember that the paper should not have any kind of thickness. Now you will get the shadow of the stick or the pencil whatever you are using on. Thus you will obtain the position of the Sun and do the rest of the process accordingly.



So this is how to use your watch as a compass. It is very necessary to convert the watch into a compass if you are an adventure traveler. Whenever you are lost in the wilderness, you will know which direction you are traveling and this will help you to reach your destination. Read How To Remove Condensation From Watch