How to use a watch as a compass

How to use a watch as a compass.

The watch method for navigation is useful for finding the cardinal directions of, north, south, east and west.  While not being hundred percent accurate, it is handy for crude navigation for bushcraft and survival. In this article we will cover how to use a watch as a compass.

watch method for navigation

There are two basic ways on how to tell the direction using a watch, depending on which hemisphere you are in.

  1.   North of the equator.

If you are in the northern hemisphere, this technique will help find south.

  1. Hold the watch flat. Point the hour hand of the watch towards the sun. (Not the long minute hand.)
  2. Draw an imaginary line, halfway between the hour hand and the 12 o’clock symbol on the watch.
  3. The halfway imaginary line will point to south.

How to use watch as a compass

4. Once you have found south, the other cardinal points of north, east and west can be established.

  1.   South of the equator method.

The second method can be used in the southern hemisphere, to help you find north without a compass.

  1. Hold the watch flat. Point the 12 o’clock symbol of the watch towards the sun.
  2. Draw an imaginary line, halfway between the 12 o’clock symbol and the hour hand.
  3. The halfway imaginary line will point to north.
  4. Once you have established north, the other cardinal directions of south, east and west can be visualised.

How to use watch as a compass to find north

Tips for the watch method of navigation.

If you don’t have an analog watch, you can still apply the watch compass method. You can use a digital watch, radio time announcement or mobile phone. (Obviously phone apps, like compass apps, and map / GPS apps etc., can be used as well.) Once you have the time, just draw an imaginary watch face on the back of your hand. Or draw a clock on paper, or in the dirt with sticks.

Your watch should be on the correct time. Daylight savings time can affect the results, so adjust the time for that.

They are some drawbacks with this method, like different time zones and the closer to the equator, the less accurate this method is.

Also, as an example when it is 6 o’clock, it might be hard to work out direction is which. Use the knowledge that the sun rises in the east and sets (Goes down.) in the west, to also help establish direction. (To remember this, a saying like, “Movie sets in the west.” can help.)

Summary – How to use a watch as a compass.

The watch compass method is an approximate guide to direction. It can give a general bearing, but not pin point accuracy. But is easy to do and takes little time. (As opposed to the shadow stick technique for navigation. Which can take up to twenty minutes, although possible more accurate for finding north without a compass.)

If you are aware of its limits, of using a watch as a compass, it is another technique to put in your bushcraft and survival skill tool kit.



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