Why is seconds hand farthest from the face?
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  1. #1
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    Why is seconds hand farthest from the face?

    Are you bothered by parallax issues enough when reading the seconds that you move your wrist to look more straight on the watch face?

    I've not worn an analog watch for as long as I can remember until now, and I find it inconvenient to get a decent seconds reading for timing things without moving my wrist to line up the watch to my eyes.

    If the seconds hand is closer to the watch face, then it would decrease my problem. So, it seems from an accurate reading point, the hands should go second-minute-hour from the face. It also would mean the longer hand doesn't cover the shorter one.

    But all analog watches I see (and clocks, but parallax aren't usually a problem because I don't think people need very accurate reading there) have the second hand farthest. I'm wondering what is the reason ?

  2. #2
    Member pithy's Avatar
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    Re: Why is seconds hand farthest from the face?

    On sub seconds designs - it isn't.
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    Member mleok's Avatar
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    Re: Why is seconds hand farthest from the face?

    I suspect it's because the seconds hand is typically the lightest, so it should be suspended by the thinnest tube in the canon pinion, and so it has to be furthest from the dial.
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    Re: Why is seconds hand farthest from the face?

    Because you don't want the parallax on the hours/minutes hands? If you put the hours/minutes hand as furthest from the face the parallax would mean an error of minutes instead of maximum 2-3 seconds.
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    Re: Why is seconds hand farthest from the face?

    Quote Originally Posted by AussieLoads View Post
    Because you don't want the parallax on the hours/minutes hands? If you put the hours/minutes hand as furthest from the face the parallax would mean an error of minutes instead of maximum 2-3 seconds.

    Shouldn't the minute hand's order not change (it'll still be in the middle)? So wouldn't its parallax issues not be affected by swapping the second and hour hand?

    Since the hour hand is moved farther from the face (if swapped with the second hand), its parallax issues would increase. But would the large distance between each hour marker make parallax not much of a concern? And you always have the minute to help decide when the hour hand is so very close to its marker (or is this inconvenient?)

    I guess I've never seen a watch with the hands in the reverse order, so I don't know how hard it is to easily read it accurately.

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    Member little big feather's Avatar
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    Re: Why is seconds hand farthest from the face?

    I'll bring this up at the next meeting...........



    Of course, this means,all watches must be changed.
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  8. #7
    THS
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    Re: Why is seconds hand farthest from the face?

    On Omega's Marine Chronometer this problem is somewhat mitigated by raising the minutes/seconds markers up from the rest of the dial, minimizing the distance.
    Omega Marine Chronometer cal 1516
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    Re: Why is seconds hand farthest from the face?

    Quote Originally Posted by mleok View Post
    I suspect it's because the seconds hand is typically the lightest, so it should be suspended by the thinnest tube in the canon pinion, and so it has to be furthest from the dial.
    I have a feeling that you are on the right track; I feel that it may have something to do with technical design issues. Maybe a tradition set long ago even. But I know next to nothing about the internals of watches and clocks.

  10. #9
    Member Likestheshiny's Avatar
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    Re: Why is seconds hand farthest from the face?

    Because it's the hand where the ability to read it accurately matters most -- if you're using the second hand at all, you're probably timing something down to the second. Therefore, it needs to be closest to the numbers ringing the dial so that visually you can see most easily where it falls. Minute hands are almost as long because accuracy is next most important -- you're probably not timing anything and you rarely need to know the exact minute (why many watches have markers in five-minute intervals), but still important. It would be hard to tell exactly which minute a stumpy minute-hand points to. Hour hands can be short because there are only 12 units on the dial, and it's easy to tell where even a short hand falls in relation to them.

    Note that in chronographs, the regular seconds hand isn't important for timing things, and so gets "demoted" to a small seconds subdial -- legibility is irrelevant. In its place is the chrono hand, whose only purpose is timing things, and which is much easier to read accurately when it's the long, sweep second hand (instead of on a subdial). This is also a reason that a small seconds (on non-chrono watches) is generally more associated with a formal, rather than sporty, watch -- you're not supposed to be timing anything with a dress watch.

    And, yeah, plenty of modern watches don't have seconds-markers at all, so the legibility of a long seconds hand is compromised. But, at this point its just the standard convention.

  11. #10
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    Re: Why is seconds hand farthest from the face?

    Quote Originally Posted by Likestheshiny View Post
    Because it's the hand where the ability to read it accurately matters most -- if you're using the second hand at all, you're probably timing something down to the second. Therefore, it needs to be closest to the numbers ringing the dial so that visually you can see most easily where it falls. Minute hands are almost as long because accuracy is next most important -- you're probably not timing anything and you rarely need to know the exact minute (why many watches have markers in five-minute intervals), but still important. It would be hard to tell exactly which minute a stumpy minute-hand points to. Hour hands can be short because there are only 12 units on the dial, and it's easy to tell where even a short hand falls in relation to them.

    Note that in chronographs, the regular seconds hand isn't important for timing things, and so gets "demoted" to a small seconds subdial -- legibility is irrelevant. In its place is the chrono hand, whose only purpose is timing things, and which is much easier to read accurately when it's the long, sweep second hand (instead of on a subdial). This is also a reason that a small seconds (on non-chrono watches) is generally more associated with a formal, rather than sporty, watch -- you're not supposed to be timing anything with a dress watch.

    And, yeah, plenty of modern watches don't have seconds-markers at all, so the legibility of a long seconds hand is compromised. But, at this point its just the standard convention.
    I think you misunderstood his question, he's not talking about the length of the hands but their distance (height) from the dial face and accompanying issues of parallax .
    Omega Marine Chronometer cal 1516
    Omega Speedmaster Professional cal 861 (ca 1970)
    Kemmner Flieger type A
    Citizen Nighthawk (black)
    Citizen ana-digi Promaster ca 1987 (beater)

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