Why Is The Winder At 3 O’clock
The Logical Theory

Posted by Lars Lange on October 18, 1997 at 23:04:47:

Hi Zoners,

Why is it the all watches (except one brand) has the crown at the 3 o’clock position? I mean it would be better protected if it was at 6 o’clock, and when you adjust/winds the watch it’s off the wrist anyway. Any comments?

Regards L. Lange

Posted by M. Grosby on October 18, 1997 at 23:42:02:

In Reply to:
The crown is always at 3 o’clock, why?

It’s the logical place to put it.

Posted by Tibor on October 19, 1997 at 1:00:45:

In Reply to: The crown is always at 3 o’clock, why?

Hallo Lars,

The crown is at the 3 o’clock position for setting time while wearing the watch (only works if you wear your watch at the left wrist). But, there are some watches like the Seiko auto5 (5 o’clock) and the Citizen Promaster diver (8 o’clock) with other crown positions.


To Tibor and M.G.

Posted by Lars Lange on October 19, 1997 at 2:24:54:

Yes it is logical to put the crown at 3 o’clock if you wind and adjust the watch while wearing it. But since we all takes the watch off for winding and adjustments wouldn’t it be an idear to put it at 6 o’clock where it is safer? Am I just TOO wIs on this one?


Posted by M. Grosby on October 19, 1997 at 12:14:27:

In Reply to: To Tibor and M.G.

I don’t know what wls means Lars, but I think the logic argument holds even if you are removing the watch to wind and set it. It’s still logical to have the winder at 3 o’clock for right handed people.

I think your question is quite reasonable – we should question all the assumptions about watches but I think the position of the crown is set by the same criteria that determine where a car’s steering wheel is placed. Is it a matter of aethetics? Does that little knob of metal on the side disturb the elegant sweep of the case?

Quite a few quartz watches have eliminated the crown and there was the famous Harwood watch from the late 20’s that had no crown. It had an automatic movement and the time was set with a rotating bezel.

– MG

Ok, next stupid question :-)

Posted by Lars Lange on October 19, 1997 at 17:07:42:

It was an “I” not a “l” so wIs=watch IDIOT savant :-) You are probably right about the 3 o’clock position for the ease of winding for right handed people. Personaly I don’t mind the little knob, in fact I think something is missing when I see a JLC Future-Matic.

Regarding the steering wheel stuff, some countries have the wheel in the wrong side (right:-) So now we got the crown thing strait. My next stupid question is: Why is the hands sweeping clock wise round the dial. Is there an logical explanation for that as well?


Expert opinion needed – horology history

Posted by M. Grosby on October 19, 1997 at 18:18:45:

I don’t know, but I can suggest 4 reasons for this:

1) The *clockwise* direction is a left to right movement in the upper half of the watch face. This mimics the movement of writing in western culture (where the mechanical watch was developed), ie top of the page, left to right. Hence it makes sense to *read* the time the same way.

2) Prior to the development of the mechanical movement the most common form of time keeping was the sun dial. In the northern hemisphere (this is stretching my antipodean brain a bit – I could be wrong) the shadow cast by the sun dial probably moved from left to right (or *clockwise*) as the earth turned.

3) Some technical reason due to the mechanics of watch making.

4) The only other mechanical movement that I can think of that would have been similar to the movent of a clocks hands would have to be the movement of a wheel. A point on a wheel when it is moving forward would move in a *clockwise* direction. Time would move *forward* as does a wheel.

ANOTHER QUESTION has just occurred to me: Why do watches and clocks only show a 12 hour cycle when the day is 24 hours long. I know of only one watch that offers a 24 hour cycle (one of the Fortis Pilot’s autos). No doubt there are others. But why not ALL watches?


Posted by James M. Dowling on October 19, 1997 at 18:16:04:

Hi Lars;

Before watches were clocks and before clocks were Sundials. The sundial was the first method of telling time that used a dial (as we know it). Before the sundial was the clypstera (sp?); this was a vertical tube of water with a small hole at the bottom; as the water ran out a float at the top marked the passage of hours via graduations on the outside.

So if sundials had never been invented we would have vertical dials; because people would think that was the *logical* way to display time. As to why they go *clockwise*; that also comes from sundials. However if the device had been invented in the southern hemisphere would it run counter-clockwise down there??

Good luck



Posted by Lars Lange on October 19, 1997 at 19:15:20:

Hi James

Your sundial explanation for the clockwise motion of the hands, is probably the right one, no actually I would go so far to say that it must be the explanation. But this explanation makes the *logic* of using a 12 hours division of the dial very strange as the sun dial has a 24 hours division. Maybe it all goes back to the *inventors* of the *time*.

The division with 12 points towards Egypt or Babylon which used 12 as base number in their number-system. Furthermore, the closer you get to equator, the closer the length of the day is to 12 hours, and Egypt/Babylon is not so far from equator! So a sundial near Equator only shows 12 hours (shadow in west to east) opposite to a sundial at the North Pole showing showing all 24 hours (at the longest day).

And James, I actually looked in FAQ before asking these questions as they were so *basic* I thought:-)


Re: Because…………

Posted by M. Grosby on October 19, 1997 at 18:28:10:


I see that while I was scratching my head you have popped in with the authoritative answer. Thanks, but is there some authority or historical reference for the sundial explanation? Also, any thoughts on why the 12 hour dial and not a 24 hour one. Thanks,

– MG

12 vs. 24 hour dials…

Posted by Walt Odets on October 20, 1997 at 4:13:28:

The 12 hour dial is simply easier to read because the divisions are larger (half as many in the same linear space). It is presumed that the individual will know if it is day or night by looking out the window! This excludes, of course, the disoriented and the cruelly imprisoned, neither of which, in all liklihood, would be wearing a watch or care much about what time it was.

Re: Because…………(part 2)

Posted by James on October 19, 1997 at 19:47:43:

Hi Guys,

The reason the sundial used 12 hr and not 24 hrs on the dial is that usually there is no sunlight at night. Seriously though folks; Lars is right the Babylonians used a base 12 system and it is from them we get 12 hrs. Good luck


Flogging a dead horse

Posted by M. Grosby on October 19, 1997 at 20:22:47:

But is this Sundial explanation fact or folklore? Compelling though it is. Is there some historical reference or diary note or other evidence to prove that the *clockwise* movement was thus decided. Any comment appreciated.


Re: Flogging a dead horse Part 2

Posted by James on October 20, 1997 at 1:24:31:

Hi Marshall,

No I do not have hard fact, or a historical reference although you might want to follow the attached link. What is much more important is that both sundials and early clocks existed concurrently for several centuries; therefore it made sense to use a display style people were familiar with rather than inventing a new one.

Hope this helps.

Good luck James