Why is the Hour Hand Always Shorter?

Despite the rise of digital watches and smartwatch technology, the analog watch still has a sacred place in the horology world, and a lot of that has to do with the design of the dial.

That classic three-hand dial is almost synonymous with time itself at this point, however, a question that’s always hounded watch-lovers is why is the hour hand always shorter?

Watch hands are different sizes for an obvious reason: if they were all the same size, telling the time would be confusing if not impossible.

However, the hour hand is always shorter and most of the time wider than the minute hand for very specific purposes.

The hour hand is shorter because the hand doesn’t have to point directly and specifically to the marker for people to know what time it is, for example, if an hour hand is pointing in between the 4 or and 5 o’clock markers, any person capable of telling time will tell you that it’s four o’clock.

However, when it comes to the minutes, more precision is needed. The minute hand must always point at the precise marker to give an accurate reading of the time.

Pointing in between markers works great for the hour hand, but telling time would be almost impossible if the minute hand got the same treatment.

Therefore, the minute hand always extends further and is usually thinner than hour hand so that it can point directly at the marker, making it much easier and much more convenient to for users to read the time accurately.

Saying that a lot of thought was put into designing clock faces to make sure reading the time accurately will be easy for most people is an understatement, and the thought process behind the hands on a watch is a testament to that.

So next time you check your watch, take a minute to appreciate the attention to detail that watchmakers have paid over the course of centuries.