More Notable Watch Hands and Their Nicknames
Last month, we kicked off an in-depth look at the intricacies of watch hands. This stylistic and functional element of the watch might be something you overlook at first glance. However, there are dozens of different types of watch hands, each painstakingly designed with a unique purpose and aesthetic. Here, we’re rounding out our exploration with Part II of watch hands and their nicknames.
Alpha hands have a wide base connected by a narrow stem at the center of the dial. Then, they taper out to a point at the tip. One could say their shape resembles the letter “A.” Their bold, long, straight design exudes strength, like the implication of the alpha name itself. You can find this style on models like the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph.
One of the most ornate styles of hands is cathedral. Watchmakers have classically used the design in military watches. As the name suggests, cathedral hands feature elaborate geometric details that mimic the stained glass commonly found in church windows. Cathedral hands often consist of a larger hour hand and more slender minute hand. The oversized hour hand typically features a distinctive orb and needle-like tip. Overall, this style adds more visual interest than functionality. The Oris Big Crown Original Pointer Date and Zenith Pilot are two examples of models showcasing this unique style.
Fleur de Lys
Fleur de lys hands are also true to their name. The iconic decorative symbol appears at the pointed end of the hands, toward the tip. The fleur de lys is a relatively common symbol among the French and other European flags and coats of arms. However, it is rarer that you’ll find it incorporated into stylistic elements of the watch, like the hands.
Leaf (or Feuille)
Leaf hands or feuille hands, the French word for leaf, are another style whose name indicates the shape. They’re wide in the middle and narrow at each end, tapering at the base and the point. The design mirrors the shape of a long, slender leaf. This style is simple, sleek, and understated.
Lozenge hands are somewhat similar to sword-shaped hands. However, they’re a bit more symmetrical and elegant. They feature an elongated diamond-like shape that extends for the full length of the watch hands. The surface area provides a perfect opportunity for watchmakers to apply lume, if desired. Models like the Pasha de Cartier showcase this sophisticated design.
Obelisque hands resemble alpha hands to a certain degree. They have a wide base and narrow toward a small point at the tip. However, they’re not connected by a short point at the center of the dial. Instead, the wide base extends to the point at which the hour and minute hands meet.
Pencil hands are yet another style whose name informs the shape. Like a classic wooden pencil, these hands are long, thin, and straight with a small point at the tip. Depending on the width of the hands, they may be solid or filled and applied with lume.
It might not be obvious to English speakers. However, plonguer hands draw their nickname from a French word that corresponds to the type of watch showcasing this design. Plonguer means diver in French, and you’ll find this style on dive watches, like the OMEGA Seamaster and Ploprof. The hour and minute hands feature a design with a specific combination: a simple, straight hour hand and a more prominent sword-shaped minute hand that’s often in a bold color, like orange.
Like a skeleton dial on a watch, skeleton hands feature an open-worked construction. Some skeleton hands will showcase a single see-through element. However, others may feature an intricate design or pattern with several small openings. Audemars Piguet and OMEGA are two examples of brands who employ this style of hands.
Similar to Breguet hands, snowflake hands are specific to one watch brand: Tudor. The brand developed the design for the French Navy. They were looking for something to make their dive watches highly legible, and the snowflake hands were born. The result was a set of incredibly unique, oversized hands. Most notably, the hour hand features a distinctive square pattern at the tip. These robust hands are hefty enough for a good coat of lume for maximum visibility. You can find them on models like the Pelagos.
Spade hands are true to the symbol you find on the playing card suit. The design features a long, tapered hand with a spade shape functioning as a pointer at the tip. Sometimes, you’ll only see a spade style hand on the hour hand paired with a simple, slim minute hand. Other times, you’ll find the design on both. The Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur is just one example of a model featuring this style.
Sword hands look like plonguer hands to some extent. As the name indicates, they bear resemblance to a sword blade. Unlike plongeur hands, they don’t have a stem at the base. Dive and military watches are the most common styles to feature sword hands. However, they’re also in a variety of other models. One interesting example is the Cartier Drive.
Last but not least are syringe hands. Just like the medical instrument itself, this style features a similar design. They’re comprised of barrel shape that gradually widens from the center with a needle-like tip. The design of these hands lends itself to precise timekeeping and dressier styles.