Thursday, July 21, 2011

How To Use Your Watch & The Sun As A Compass

If you ever find yourself stranded somewhere with no compass for direction, then look no further than your wrist. If you happen to be wearing an analog watch then there is an easy way you can find your direction in a matter of minutes. To perform this trick you will have to make sure that your watch is set on standard time. This trick will not work if you are currently in a time zone whose time has been adjusted for Daylight Savings Time. Daylight Savings Time is an adjustment made in the summer season to adjust the actual time an hour ahead, therefore you will need to set your watch backwards one hour if this is the case. This method is also best to be used sometime between 7:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. in order to ensure proper accuracy. First lay your watch on a smooth flat surface and point the hour hand directly towards the sun. If the weather is heavy overcast and makes it difficult to find the sun, then use the shadows to help triangulate it. The sun will point directly opposite to the direction the shadow falls. A quick look around or a small stick stuck in the ground will help you pinpoint the suns exact coordinates. Then find the midpoint located right between the hour hand pointing towards the sun and the 12 o-clock marking on the watch. This location will represent your South heading. If you draw an imaginary line from the middle of the watch out to this midpoint then that will be your line or orientation. The end of the line in the center of the watch will point North and the end of the line on the outer edge of the watch will point South. This will vary however according to which hemisphere you are currently positioned in. The line will point South if you are located within the Northern Hemisphere and it will point North if you are within the Southern Hemisphere. The picture located above shows the correct directions for someone located within the United States which resides in the Northern Hemisphere. The opposite directions would be labeled for example if you were attempting this while in South America which is located in the Southern Hemisphere. Once the directions are noted, you can draw a quick picture in the sand or dirt to help make a more permanent mark or use sticks and stones to mock up a temporary compass.
If you have a digital watch, clock on your phone, clock on a vehicle, or any other device that has the current time, then you can still use that device to help locate your North and South poles. Simply draw a clock on a piece of paper, cardboard, clothing, etc… or anything else that can be moved and turned around for orientation. Use something round to draw and trace the clocks outline or draw a circle to the best of your ability. Then make your 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock markings followed by the additional hour markings. Try to keep the clock picture as accurate as possible with the same amount of space between all hour markings. Next, take the time that is displayed by your digital clock and transpose that time to your clock that you have drawn. Now point the hour hand towards the sun and use the same directions listed above to complete the rest of the process.


  1. Neat trick...I had heard of this but had never seen it fully explained. Thanks!

  2. No problem Kevin. Thanks for checking out the site!