Your One-Stop Guide to Types of Watch Hands 


Types of watch hands explained. How do you tell a snowflake from a sword?

No matter how good the movement inside a watch is, it means nothing without a set of hands. And with so many types available, the terminology can get confusing.  

Over the years, as wristwatches have grown in popularity, so too has the diversity of their dials. One of the most (if not the most) crucial parts of a watch dial is its hands.

They can impact the overall look of a timepiece greatly, so it makes sense to find your preference.

In this article, we’re going to run through some of the most recognized watch hand styles. We’ll also touch on the rarer ones. 

Hopefully, by the time you’ve finished reading this guide, you’ll know exactly which style you prefer most.

Different Types of Watch Hands

Over the years, luxury watch manufacturers have created some remarkable styles of watch hands. They can determine whether a watch becomes an icon or goes unnoticed altogether. 

Let’s face it, would a Tudor Black Bay watch be the same without its snowflake hands? And where do you think the famous Breguet hand came from?  

Come with us as we delve into this guide to different types of watch hands.

A chart featuring various types of watch hands.A chart featuring various types of watch hands.

How many do you recognize? How many can you name?

Cathedral Hands

We’re kicking off this guide to the most used watch hands with the cathedral type. You might have noticed cathedral hands-on Oris watches. 

The brand has used them in its Big Crown series. They’re great for distinguishing the hour hand from the minutes hand.

Oris Waldenburgerbahn

Cathedral hands also have an ornate, almost gothic-like look to them. In fact, they couldn’t look further apart from the common baton hand if they tried. 

Reminiscent of antique pocket watches, they look great on vintage-inspired timepieces.  

Dauphine Hands

Dauphine hands taper to give a sense of depth. Brands like Grand Seiko, Piaget, Patek Philippe, and Jaeger-LeCoultre use this style of watch hand the most. 

The wide base and the narrowing tip of a dauphine hand are often seen in a dress watch. Whether brushed or polished, dauphine hands promise superb legibility.

Sword Hands

Aside from standard, straight stick hands, sword-shaped hands are one of the most common styles of all. Echoing the profile of a French sword, popular brands like Cartier and Patek Philippe use this style frequently.

Cartier Louis Tank

While some believe sword hands belong on an Omega Seamaster, others prefer them on the classic Cartier Tank Solo.

Either way, you won’t struggle to find a watch with sword-shaped hands. Some even showcase a beautiful deep blue steel finish. 

Alpha Hands

By mentioning alpha hands, we have to talk about lance hands, too, because they’re so similar in design. They both taper to a point, but where lance hands remain a similar width throughout, alpha hands have wider bases.

A. Lange & Sohne Datograph Up/Down

Alpha hands often feature in sports watches and look like the long tip of a spear. I think that the Datograph watch by A. Lange & Söhne is the best example of a watch dial with alpha hands.

Leaf Hands

It may come as no surprise that leaf hands are exactly what they say they are. Hands shaped into the profile of a leaf. IWC Schaffhausen refers to them as Feuille hands. (“Feuille” is French for “leaf”.)

Similar to dauphine hands, these also taper to a slender point. Their svelte silhouettes add a graceful and flowing aesthetic to dress watches and pilot’s watches, especially the vintage kind.

Mercedes Hands  

Most will think of Rolex when I mention Mercedes hands. Yet, there is no historical evidence to suggest that the design came from Rolex. Nor do they have anything to do with the famous car manufacturer. 

Moreover, they are reminiscent of the Mercedes car logo and allow for a generous application of Super-LumiNova on their surfaces. Mercedes’s hands have played an important role in telling iconic Rolex watches apart.

Spade Hands  

It’s not one of the most popular types of watch hand, but just as equally striking, the spade hand curves with distinction. 

It appears mostly on vintage-inspired watches, taking on a three-dimensional look of their own.  

Snowflake Hands

It’s difficult to mention Snowflake’s hands without thinking of the Tudor Black Bay watch. The iconic dive watch has featured this distinctive, oversized shape for many years.

Tudor Black Bay

Great for legibility, snowflake hands are the perfect addition to dive watches and sports watches. Tudor experts treat these hands with lashings of luminous material for timekeeping at night or when underwater.

Arrow Hands  

Arrow hands need no introduction. They are mostly featured in dive watches and pilot’s watches

They bear a confident and bold presence across the dial and are great for legibility. It’s one of the reasons why manufacturers fill them with plenty of luminous material.

Syringe Hands

The word syringe doesn’t conjure up the best images. But in watch terms, the syringe hand donates quite an elegant touch to a dial. 

Patek Philippe Complications

Often found in Patek Philippe watches, these hands are elegant and noticeable. Syringe hands are also featured in Sinn watches since they complement field, pilots, and military watches perfectly. 

A barrel-shaped body transitions into a need-fine point, pointing to the exact marker on the minute scale of a traditional timepiece. So, no excuses for being late if you own a watch with syringe hands!  

Skeleton Hands

Skeleton hands, as their name would suggest, have a hollow center that forms a skeletonized aesthetic. Sometimes accompanied by a skeletonized dial, other times not, they reveal the underlying dial beneath them.

The Omega Seamaster Diver 300MThe Omega Seamaster Diver 300M
Omega Seamaster

Despite not being the most common kind of watch hand, they play an integral role in some of the most iconic watches. Indeed, the Omega Seamaster Professional 300M would not be what it is today without them.

Lollipop Hands  

Lollipop hands mostly feature in retro dive watches and feature on the second hand. 

The distinctive use of a lollipop hand is traditional for luxury watch manufacturers like Omega with its iconic Seamaster watch. Also, Tudor with its discontinued Submariner models.

Breguet Hands  

The last style of hands we need to mention is the Breguet type. For over two centuries, Breguet watches have displayed a hollow, eccentric moon-tip hand. The company founder designed the hand in 1783.

Image: Breguet’s Signature Hand Design

Source: Breguet

This age-old design is the most timeless of all. It has an almost ornate presence, soon becoming a common watchmaker’s term. In fact, several watchmakers who adopted the Breguet hand have propelled its popularity even further over the years. 


Having looked at so many watch hand styles in this guide, one thing is for sure, they play a fundamental role in the dial. Through experimenting with the many styles out there, the industry has seen the evolution of some incredibly beautiful watches.

Hopefully, after reading this guide to the different types of watch hands, you know more about them than you did before. 

But of course, I couldn’t cover them all. Have I missed a favorite style of yours? Let me know in the comments below!


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