Single-handed watches are an intriguing sub-category of timepiece that use only one hand to display both hours and minutes. In fact, it’s stricter than that because by definition, there is only one hand present on the dial, meaning there’s no room for any other time indications such as small seconds or a chronograph. In the world of single-hand wristwatches, one name tends to dominate the conversation, MeisterSinger, but they’re by no means the only brand out there producing these watches. With that in mind, here are five of the coolest single-hand watches around.
But first, a brief rundown on how a single-hand watch works and why they’re important to horological history. A single-hand watch essentially works like the hour hand on a regular timepiece, rotating once every 12-hours. Instead of having a secondary minute display, the hour hand also shows the progress of minutes between the hour markers – typically in intervals of roughly 5-10 minutes depending on the graduation of the scale.
As such, only one hand is needed to tell both the hours and minutes and you do so by looking at the exact position of the hand on the scale. This method of timekeeping is basically as old as horology itself (if you count sun dials as horology) and was commonly used in clocks right up to the 18th century. They hark back to a time when all you needed to know was when to start work, finish work and go to church, hence some of the most famous examples are church tower clocks like Westminster Abbey. But that’s enough of the history, let’s look at some single-hand watches.
Botta Design UNO 24 Anniversary Edition
Botta Design approach watch design in a unique way, constantly seeking new ways to represent the time in dynamic ways. There’s a fun irony in presenting the most traditional form of timekeeping as something hyper modern and cutting edge – at least in comparison to some of the more traditional watches presented here. The UNO 24 Anniversary Edition goes further by adding a 24-hour display to the mix, following the concept that, in the words of the studio’s Anke Botta, “an Earth day has 24 hours, not just 12, a truly sun-synchronous clock would also have to display 24 hours.”
The sun finds representation on the dial of the anniversary edition through the new orange semicircle depicting the daylight hours. The anniversary that it’s celebrating, if you’re curious, is the 15th anniversary of the original UNO 24 proving that Botta Design have been a significant player in single-hands for a long time. In fact, they’ve been producing single-handed watches since 1986.
Price and Specs:
More details at Botta.
MeisterSinger Stratoscope Gold
MeisterSinger are without question the most prolific producer of single-hand watches in the industry, with designs that span the entire range of styles from classical to modern this, the new Stratoscope – Gold. It’s a new variant of the 2021 Stratoscope with a white moon, except that now it has a golden moon and matching golden hour markers.
A moonphase is one of the few complications along with date windows that work on a single-hand watch by dint of the fact that they don’t rely on hands. So their inclusion doesn’t technically invalidate the definition of a single-hand watch despite offering alternative forms of timekeeping. It also allows the 43mm steel watch to display a lot more information across its gradient blue-black dial. It’s powered by the MS Luna calibre, which is base Sellita SW 220 with 38-hour power reserve.
Price and Specs:
More details at MeisterSinger.
Ciga Design Series U Blue Planet Gilding
At first impression the Ciga Design Series U Blue Planet doesn’t look like a single hand watch, in fact it doesn’t look like it has any hands at all. However, take a closer look at the 3D engraved globe and you’ll see that not only does the entire thing rotate once every 12-hours but it also has a retro compass symbol which acts as the time indicator. The entire thing is a massive single-hand.
However, it’s also more than just a hyper-decorative interpretation of the complication because it also introduces a rotating minute scale that rotates at a rate of 390 degrees every hour. What this means is that in true single-hand fashion you read the hours and minutes from the same point on the display but you have a precise reading for the minutes instead of an approximation. It’s a genuinely innovative iteration on the single-hand design, which is why it won an award at the GPHG in 2021.
Price and Specs:
More details at Ciga Design.
Schaumburg Gnomonik Black & White & Red
Schaumburg’s absolutely insane masterpieces, from collections like the Unikatorium and others, are what make headlines for the brand. However, the more subtle Gnomonik range explores individual watchmaking concepts distilled to their purest form. The Gnomonik Black & White & Red is a single-hand watch with a pitch-black dial, a vibrant red hand and white numerals and scales.
It gives the heritage clockmaking concept a modern twist through a limited colour palette and minimalist aesthetic, showcasing a completely other side to the brand that’s really attractive. It also provides a helpful minute scale between each hour marker showing intervals of five minutes. Specs-wise it has a 42mm steel case with black coating and is powered by the SW-30A movement. Ironically despite its modern aesthetic, this is probably the most traditional single-hand watch we’ve looked at so far.
Price and Specs:
More details at Schaumburg Watch.
Gustave & Cie. Automatic 24h Jules
The Gustave & Cie. Automatic 24h Jules is another single-hand watch that pushes the limits of how much information you can display with a single hand. It features two 24-hour scales, a static one in the centre of the dial for local time and one on the rotating chapter ring around the edge. In this manner, the watch serves as a GMT display despite having only one hand. It houses the ETA 2893-2 with 42-hour power reserve.
The name Jules is a tribute to Jules Verne, the famous French adventure novelist (Gustave are themselves a French brand), which is why the 24h Jules has a subtle maritime aesthetic and 200m water resistance. Additionally, the letter N at midnight is a compass indication – unfortunately because it’s a 24-hour display our instructions on how to use your watch as a compass don’t apply, fortunately it’s very simple. Just point the single-hand at the sun and wherever the N is pointing is north.
Price and Specs:
More details at Gustave.