Another Reason To Wear a Wristwatch: Use it as a Compass

I quit wearing a wristwatch on Labor Day, 1977. I’ve never worn one since.  There’s a long and moderately sordid story behind this, but the only pertinent part is that on Labor Day, 1977, I told time to go to hell. I saw no point in constantly checking minutes and hours. I got hungry around noon. I got tired around 11 pm.  In between, I guesstimated time by the sun.

And, if I really had to be someplace at a specific moment, I relied on the tried and true method of accosting strangers and asking, “Hey buddy . . . what time is it?”

On the other hand, I recommend wearing a watch if you’re headed into the backwoods. You don’t really need to know the time, but a watch can function as a rudimentary compass if you’re lost.

Materials Needed
• A wristwatch or pocket watch with hour and minute hands

1:  Buy a cheap, wind-up, mechanical wristwatch from the Dollar Store. Like most things at the Dollar Store, it will cost more than a dollar (but it will likely be under $5, which is still a great deal).

2:  This should go without saying, but the watch needs a working hour and minute hand. Digital watches with blinking numbers will not help you determine north and south. They’ll only irritate you when you’re trying to figure which way is up.

3:  If lost, and you need to determine an approximate direction, take off the watch and hold it parallel to the ground.

4:  Keeping the watch parallel to the ground, turn it until the hour hand points at the sun. In the morning hours, south is located halfway between the hour hand and 12 (measuring clockwise)

5:  Repeat the same process if it’s afternoon, but measure counterclockwise between the hour hand and 12. Halfway between the two is south.

Just one bit of clarification. This only works in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern, point the 12:00 mark at the sun (not the hour hand) and rotate the watch. In the morning, measuring clockwise, north (not south) will be halfway between the hour hand and 12:00. Measure counterclockwise in the afternoon to find north.

By: Ron Marr