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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Authored by Isthmus

If you own a watch with a compass ring and were wondering how to use it for telling directions, here is a wonderful illustrated article from the fine folks at Watch Crazy which should show you exactly how to do it:


Thanks to fellow member Dialed In for the recommendation.

Also attached, please find a PDF copy of the user manual for the Seiko MapMeter, which also includes a section on how to use a compass bezel. I extracted those pages and combined them into the following image (the Seiko instructions are not exactly the clearest so I would go with the ones linked above):

Lastly, don't forget that any analog watch can be used as a rudimentary compass. Here are instructions on how to do that from the fine folks at


In the era of GPS devices and mobile phones it is reasonable to assume that you don't need to carry a compass around in your pocket. However if you do lose your bearings there is a very simple way to use the time as a compass described below.

STEP 1: Adjust for daylight savings time

If the time zone that you are in is currently on daylight savings time you must adjust this to standard time. Daylight savings time in the summer half of the year is always an hour ahead so you must take off an hour.

So for example, if you are in the USA in July your clock has been put forward (Spring forward) so you must take off an hour to get standard time. In winter months you need not adjust the clock.

STEP 2: Get the clock face

If you are using a digital clock or watch to assertain the current time, draw an analogue clock on a piece of paper (or something that you can move around) which shows a clock face telling your standard time (the time that you may have adjusted in Step 1 above).

STEP 3: Align the clock with the sun

Point the hour hand towards the sun. If it is overcast you can often get the sun's direction from shadows (it is in the opposite direction to the sun's shadow).

STEP 4: Find North and South

Take a line between the standard hour (which you have lined up to the sun) and the 12 o'clock position on the clock face.

This line is now pointing South if you are in the Northern Hemisphere, North if you are in the Southern Hemisphere.

Don't forget any directions you get from a compass bezel will be at best approximate and are only good for sight to sight dead reckoning.

Enjoy the read.

1,558 Posts
One addition:
The note on daylight saving time gives a pointer to a potential problem; local time zone versus solar time.
When you cross a time zone the sun does not jump an hour ahead or back. Also countries may decide that there are important reasons to be flexible with time zones.
In Europe per example half of the continent is almost an hour óf CET yet maintains CET.
Where I live the local solar time is 1 hour 5 minuts ahead of the sun. I live west of GMT yet we have CET.
This is nót an exceptional situation. Think about the time zones in the US and Russia and where you are in them. That can be half an hour off.
Even for aproximate dead reckoning you nééd to know the local solar time.
If you know and have some experience, you can navigate pretty accurately through back country with it and obviously an independant (non slave) GMT hand set to the local solar time will be of great help since that will simply be alligned with the line you want.

1 Posts
Here’s how to use a compass bezel:
  1. Hold the watch horizontally
  2. Align the hour hand of the watch with the suns direction. The central point between the 12 o’clock position the hour hand approximately indicates South.
  3. Rotate the compass bezel so that its south indicator matches this will allow you to read other compass directions.
Electronic compasses use digits that show 1-360 degrees. They are easier to use but need to be calibrated fro accuracy, especially if it has come into close proximity to an electromagnetic field. We recommend that you calibrate your compass watch only according to the manual the comes with the watch. The compass feature is not always active to save battery life. Just press the compass button when it stops to reactivate it.
Source: Best 10 Compass Watches [Buyer's Guide] (Jul. 2020)
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