How to Tell Time on a Watch – Updated Guide 2024

Wondering How to Tell Time on a Watch in 2024 then this updated guide will help you read the time this main watch faces.

Have you come across cliches like “time is money,” or “time is of the essence?” Well, that is because time is super important.

And as you grow up and take on more responsibilities, you will want to be able to tell the time without sweating it.

Good for you, today’s article is written specially to brush up your knowledge of time telling.

And if you’re new to time telling, you’ll learn a thing or two about time-telling in today’s post.

Read our guide to learn the basics of time-telling.

Learning the basics of time telling

Time telling is a skill everyone must be familiar with if they are to get the best out of their watches.

But for many newbies, time telling can be quite tricky, especially if you have an analog watch with a complicated dial.

Good for you, we have put together some insightful basics to get you started on time-telling.

Without further ado, here are some basics anyone serious about telling the time should get familiar with.

Get a wall clock to observe: Telling the time can be super easy with a wall clock hanging on your wall.

Once you have one, you’ll want to pay special attention to the numbers and the three arrows referred to as hands.

If you pay close attention, you should notice these things:

  • A very tiny hand that is engineered to move very fast. It is referred to as the seconds hand.
  • There is a slightly much thicker hand than the seconds hand. It is just as long as the seconds hand. This guy is called the minute hand. Every time the minute hand moves one little tick, it is an indication that a minute has elapsed.
  • The last hand is just as thick as the minute hand. The only difference is that it is smaller than the minute hand, and is referred to as the hour hand. Every time this hand executes a big tick, it means an hour has elapsed. Each time the hour hand completes 24 movements, it means a day has passed.

Knowing the relationship between all hands: From the seconds to the minutes to the hour hands, all these features you’ll find in a typical analog watch or clock are designed to measure the same thing: Time.

While they differ in function, they all measure the same thing.

Let’s break it down so you understand what we mean exactly:

  • The seconds hand ticks for 60 seconds to achieve one minute. What this means is that it takes the seconds hand exactly 60 minutes or 1 minute to travel from the 12 o’clock position back to 12.
  • The minute hand makes exactly the same move as the seconds hand, only that it takes exactly 60 minutes or one hour for the hand to travel from 12 and back to its starting point.
  • Like we mentioned earlier, every 24 hours makes up a full day. Like other hands, it takes 24 hours for the hour hand to move from the 12 positions and back again to 12. And then circle one more time to complete its course.

Pay close attention to the numbers on the clock: If you’ve seen a clock before, you’ll notice that it features lots of numbers all nicely laid out.

To make your job easy, these numbers have been nicely arranged in ascending order.

What this means is that the number gets bigger as the hands circle the clock.

And to be precise, this number travels from 1 to 12.

All watches ‘ hands travel in the same direction: Every watch is designed to move in one direction.

For those new to this, it is called the clockwise direction.

What this means is that the hands travel in the order of the numbers, i.e from 1 to 12.

Every watch hand should work this way if they are in good working condition.

Hours: How to tell

Telling hours isn’t as complicated as you imagine it to be.

To get this spot on, you’ll want to pay special attention to the shortest hand.

Pay attention to what number it is sitting at, or just past.

While at this, keep in mind that every hand is designed to travel from the smaller numbers to the larger ones, except when they make it to twelve and have to start from 1 all over again.

Let’s say, for instance, the short-hand is at 8 or just slightly past the 8 position, it means that we are in or within the 8th hour.

Minutes: How to tell

After talking about hours, it’s time to bring you up to speed on how to tell minutes too as it is crucial to time telling.

To read the minute hand effectively, we switch our attention to the second-longest hand.

Though it is just as thick as the hour hand, still, it appears longer.

When reading the minutes, we don’t read the numbers just the way we did with the hour hand, instead, we will pay special attention to the small tick marks on the clock.

We start from the tick mark just after 12 o’clock.

The first tick mark represents 1 minute and the tick continues round the clock to make up 60 ticks.

So, to read for minutes, we only have to look at what tick the minute hand is at or just passed.

Seconds: How to tell

Just like we have looked at other hands, telling the time on an analog clock isn’t complete without a close look at the seconds hand.

Like other hands, the seconds hand is super important when it comes to time-telling.

Reading the seconds hand is almost the same as reading the minute hand.

And that’s because the seconds hand uses the same tick marks used by the minute hand when traveling round the clock.

To get the exact time from the seconds hand perspective, we will need to focus on the number that the seconds hand sits at or just passed.

Let’s say this hand is at tick mark 33, it means that the clock is at 33 seconds in time.

As a rule of thumb, when telling the time using an analog watch or clock, keep in mind that the time isn’t complete.

And that’s because an analog clock only displays 12 hours.

To this end, you’ll need to find out if the time it is displaying is for the first half of the day or the second half of the day.

Important terms you should know about time telling

Yes, it’s cool to be able to look at the watch or clock and tell exactly what time it is.

That said, many people will mostly tell time from a general perspective.

So in case, you don’t have a wristwatch on your wrist but looking to know the time by asking anyone you come across, you may get responses that are not number-based but generic.

This is why familiarizing yourself with specific terms when it comes to time-telling is super important.

Here are a couple of generic words you may come across when learning to tell time.


When you hear the word noon, it means that the time is 12:00 p.m.

in the afternoon.

For many people, it is their way of describing the very beginning of the afternoon.


Another common word you’ll come across in relation to generic time telling is the word midday.

For starters, this word means the same thing as noon.

And that’s because noon is in the middle of the day.

Again, midday can mean anytime between 11 am and 2 pm.

This is mostly the time people start and finish their lunch.


The word afternoon means “after noon passes.” And just so you know, the word can be versatile.

To give you a hint of what it means, afternoon refers to any time between noon i.e 12 pm, and before the sun sets, which is usually around 6 pm.

For people who don’t live on the equator, the time of their sunset is always determined by the seasons.

While sunset might be around 4 pm in the winter, the sunset during winter is at 9 pm.


The word twilight is extremely popular, thanks to the book and the popular series that many people have come to love.

But outside the book and the Hollywood series, the word twilight, is actually a specific time when the sun is barely lighting up the sky.

To be precise, twilight occurs right before the sun rises or just after the sunsets.

The best way to keep this in remembrance is to think of it as the time in-between when one day wraps off and the other begins.

Sunset and Sunrise

When the sun is going down or going up, you can call these times sunset and sunrise, respectively.

Sunset happens right before twilight and during this time, the sky turns pink or orange.

On the flip side, Sunrise sets in when the sun begins to come up in the morning, just after twilight.

Like sunset, sunrise has the same orange and pink colors.

How to read a digital watch

Reading a digital watch is a lot easier, and more fun than reading an analog watch.

While most adults can easily tell the time by looking at their digital watch, kids may need a little bit of guidance to bring them up to speed.

To tell the time using a digital watch, you need to pay close attention to the numbers displayed on the screen.

Also, keep in mind that just like analog clocks or watches, a digital watch also uses numbers to tell time.

Let’s say your digital watch is displaying, 7:30 PM.

Keep in mind that the first number indicates hours, the second number shows the minutes, while the AM/PM shows whether we are in the first half or second half of the day.

Frequently asked questions

What do you call the smallest hand on a watch called?

The smallest hand on a clock is called the hour hand.

Like other watch hands, the smallest hand is crucial.

This hand shows the hours on the clock.

For starters, the hour hand completes its course around the clock every 12 hours, half a day.

To make up for 24 hours, it means it has to travel twice.

Without this hand in a watch or wall clock, telling the time will be a futile attempt.

How can you correctly count minutes on a watch?

Knowing the minutes on a watch isn’t rocket science and that’s because the process is super easy.

Thanks to the ticks just after the 12-hour mark all the way round the clock, you can tell the minutes on a watch by just taking a glance at the dial.

To tell the minutes on a watch, you only have to look at the 5 tick marks that sit in between every number on the clock.

Also, always remember that each tick signifies one minute.

Let’s say for instance the minute hand is pointing at 3, it means it is 15 minutes past whatever the hour hand is pointing at.

How many minutes make an hour?

For starters, there are exactly 60 minutes in an hour.

To complete an hour, the minute hand must travel from 12 and back to 12.

Every time it completes this course, it means that 60 minutes or an hour has elapsed.


Telling the time on a wall clock, or a watch isn’t as difficult as it seems.

By understanding the basics and paying keen attention to what is happening on the dial, you should be able to tell the time by just taking a glance.

If you’re finding it hard to tell the time, you can read the tips listed in today’s post to get the hang of time telling.