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24-hour analog dial: Wikis


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A Vostok 24-hour watch reading 09:54
Shepherd Gate clock outside the Royal Observatory, Greenwich
The clock at Ottery St Mary, England, showing nearly noon, using the 12-hour time system on a 24-hour analog dial.
The 24 hour tower clock in Venice that uses Double-XII system

Clocks and watches with a 24-hour analog dial have an hour hand that makes one complete revolution, 360°, in a day (24 hours per revolution). The more familiar 12-hour analog dial has an hour hand that makes two complete revolutions in a day (12 hours per revolution).

Twenty-four-hour analog clocks and watches are used today by pilots, scientists, and the military, and are sometimes preferred because of the unambiguous representation of a whole day at a time. Note that this definition refers to the use of a complete circular dial to represent a 24-hour day. Using the numbers from 0 to 23 (or 1 to 24) to mark the day is the 24-hour clock system.

Nearly all sundials are inherently 24-hour analog dials—the "hour hand" shadow travels a path that approximately repeats once per day. However, most sundials are marked with the Double-XII system—in particular "XI" is marked near sunrise and repeated near sunset—using the 12-hour clock system.

Modern 24-hour analog dials—other than sundials—are almost always marked with 24 numbers or hour marks around the edge, using the 24-hour clock system. These dials do not need to indicate AM or PM.



The ancient Egyptians divided the day into 24 hours. There are diagrams of circles divided into 24 sections in the astronomical ceiling in the tomb of Senemut.

Sundial with 24-hour analog dial

Sundials use some or all of the 24 hour dial, because they measure the position of the sun in the sky. Sometimes, for aesthetic rather than practical reasons, all the 24 hour marks are shown.

Medieval clocks often used the 24-hour analog dial, influenced by the widespread example of the astrolabe. In Northern Europe, the Double-XII system was preferred: two sets of the Roman numerals I to XII were used, one on the left side for the night and morning hours, and another set on the right side of the dial to represent the afternoon and evening hours. In Italy, the numbers from 1 to 24 (I to XXIIII in Roman numerals) were used, leading to the widespread use of the 24 hour system in that country. On Italian clocks, though, the I was often shown at the right side of the dial, rather than the top. This probably reflects the influence of the Italian timekeeping system, which started counting the hours of the day at sunset or twilight.

In northern Europe, the Double XII system was gradually superseded during the 14th and 15th centuries by the single XII (12-hour system), leading to the widespread adoption of the 12-hour dial for popular use. The 24-hour analog dial continued to be used, but primarily by technicians, astronomers, scientists, and clockmakers. John Harrison, Thomas Tompion, and Mudge built a number of clocks with 24 hour analog dials, particularly when building astronomical and nautical instruments. The famous Big Ben clock in London has a 24 hour dial as part of the mechanism, although it is not visible from the outside.

In the 20th century, the 24 hour analog dial was adopted by radio amateurs, pilots, submariners, and for military use.


24-hour analog watches and clocks are still being manufactured today, and are sought after by collectors and enthusiasts. A famous brand is the Glycine Airman watch. Other manufacturers who make 24-hour analog watches include Breitling, Raketa, Vostok, Fortis, Poljot, Swatch, and many others.


The major variation in the design of 24-hour analog dials is the location of midnight and noon. Although always opposite each other, 180° apart, noon is sometimes at the top, sometimes at the bottom. A few rare variants place noon and midnight at the right and left sides. There is no ambiguity if the 24-hour numbering is used.

In the United States, the government and military commonly use 24-hour clocks having noon at the bottom - the variant with noon at the top is far less common.


World time

A common use for the 24-hour analog method of representing time is for showing the way the time of day depends on one's location. A rotating globe, map, or disk can be used. Globes will often have a small disk at one of the poles that can be used for this.

The World Time clock in Alexanderplatz, Berlin, Germany

In fiction

George Orwell uses the 12-hour and 24-hour dials to symbolize the old and new worlds in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. The 12-hour dial is a relic of pre-revolutionary society, used to represent the desirable past; the 24-hour dial and time system is the compulsory standard imposed by the Party, and represents both conformity and the undesirable nature of the new world. Orwell may not have been familiar with the long history of the 24-hour time system and dial in England, seeing it as a mainly continental convention.

Winston noticed that the furniture was still arranged as though the room were meant to be lived in. There was a strip of carpet on the floor, a picture or two on the walls, and a deep, slatternly arm-chair drawn up to the fireplace. An old-fashioned glass clock with a twelve-hour face was ticking away on the mantelpiece. Under the window, and occupying nearly a quarter of the room, was an enormous bed with the mattress still on it.

... In the fender was a battered tin oilstove, a saucepan, and two cups, provided by Mr Charrington. Winston lit the burner and set a pan of water to boil. He had brought an envelope full of Victory Coffee and some saccharine tablets. The clock’s hands said seven-twenty: it was nineteen-twenty really. She was coming at nineteen-thirty.

... With one hand in her pocket and a piece of bread and jam in the other, Julia wandered about the room, glancing indifferently at the bookcase, pointing out the best way of repairing the gateleg table, plumping herself down in the ragged arm-chair to see if it was comfortable, and examining the absurd twelve-hour clock with a sort of tolerant amusement.

The opening line is:

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

In the 1927 film Metropolis, the opening scene shows both a 24-hour analog clock and a 10-hour analog clock, one above the other. Both are used to convey the impression of an alien and highly efficient society.

See also


  • Bruton, Eric (2002). The History of Clocks and Watches. ISBN 1-84013-505-0.  

External links


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