How to use your watch as a compass. Featuring the Franck Muller Vanguard Yachting (V 45 CC DT 5N BL)

A quick read this week featuring the breath taking Franck Muller Vanguard Yachting (V 45 CC DT 5N BL) and a useful tip that you can use with any analogue watch, be it automatic or mechanical! Our TWS top tip for today is how to use your analogue watch as a compass.

If you are in the Northern hemisphere:

Step 1:

Take your watch off your wrist and lay it face up in the palm of your hand. This trick can be done with the watch on your wrist but it’s a bit trickier!

Step 2:

Point the hour hand of your watch directly towards the sun. It doesn’t matter what time it is as long as your watch is accurate and correct to the ‘true’ local time, that means no adjustments for daylight savings etc. Another way of finding the sun if it is so bright you can’t tell exactly where it is or perhaps it is somewhat overcast, is to put a thin stick in the ground and see in which direction the shadow is cast, aligning the hour hand of the watch with the shadow cast can give a more precise orientation of the watch relative to the sun, and the more accurate the alignment with the sun the more accurate the resulting compass bearings will be.

Step 3:

Read the distance between the hour hand and 12 O’clock, if it is past half past the hour, read the distance clockwise, and if it is before half past the hour read the distance counter clockwise.

Step 4:

Bisect the angle between the hour hand and 12 O’clock. This can be done by counting the minute markers in the angle between the hour hand and 12, then dividing it by two, or by pulling out the crown and adjusting the minute hand as it is easier to visually locate the mid point and then you have an arrow pointing South. (NOTE: be mindful of the hour hand moving when adjusting the minute hand! You should be bisecting the angle where the hour hand was before being adjusted, make a mental note of this using the minute track on the dial. ALSO, do not adjust the minute hand on the watch unless you have a way of resetting the watch back to the correct and accurate local time or the watch cannot be used as a compass again as it will be incorrect and therefore will lead to an inaccurate compass heading. This trick is less to do with the watch itself more to with knowing the time). The line going forward from this half way point between the hour hand and 12 O’clock will point due South, so following the same line backwards will point due North.

Step 4

If you have a rotating timing bezel, rotate the bezel to align the 30 seconds marker with the angle bisect pointing South, then, the quarter hour markers will point due East and West as a result of the exact 90° angle of the quarter hour bezel markings.

WATCH COMPASSSome Breitling watches have rotating bezels marked with compass bearings for this exact purpose. The above diagram shows how the technique is performed in the Northern Hemisphere.

In my mind, the most accurate way of going about this technique, is laying your watch on the floor, using a thin stick to cast a shadow so the hour hand can be pointed precisely towards the sun. Then setting the 30 seconds marker of your rotating bezel to the mid way point between the hour hand and 12 O’clock. Then your watch is precisely aligned with compass bearings and you can walk around it to be orientated North. With the watch in your hand, you have to keep the watch in the same position for it to be accurate, which can be tricky if you are trying to follow the line backwards to find North. Putting the watch on the ground will mean the watch is stable, and can be more easily orientated with the compass headings, and then you can move around the watch to find the exact compass heading required.

In the Southern Hemisphere:

In the Southern hemisphere, you would instead align the 12 O’clock marker with the sun. Then, again bisecting the smallest angle between the 12 O’clock marker and hour hand. Here, the angle going forwards from the bisect points North and the angle going backwards points South. Essentially, the opposite to in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Franck Muller Vanguard Yachting features an internal compass track that can be used for the same purposes. Instead, rotating the whole watch to align it to north as the internal compass is not adjustable.


While this trick shouldn’t be prioritised over conventional methods of navigation, it is useful in an emergency where other means aren’t available, or simply to impress your peers with your knowledge of navigation!

We will be having a full review of the Franck Muller Vanguard Yachting in the coming weeks. In the meantime, try this technique out and be sure to share this article with your friends too, especially if you hadn’t heard of this trick before! you might just be saving a life in an emergency situation!

Don’t forget to follow The Watch Source blog for instant email notifications when we publish new releases! Alternatively, like our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to be the first to know about updates from The Watch Source blog and the recently revived Watch Source YouTube channel.










Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s