It’s no huge secret that smartphones and digital watches are threatening to make analog methods of telling time obsolete. However, odds are you still come face-to-face with an old-fashioned clock at least once a day. In addition to their aesthetic charm, analog clocks are impressive machines, with an intricate mechanical system at work to deliver the right time, every time. However, there’s one question about these tried-and-true time-telling devices that plagues Rolex collectors and cuckoo clock enthusiasts alike: why is the minute hand longer than the hour hand?
It’s obvious that, in order for people to be able to tell the time accurately, clock hands have to be slightly different sizes so that one doesn’t obscure the other. The fact that the minute hand is always longer, and often thinner, than the hour hand, serves a very specific purpose, though. The hour hand doesn’t have to point specifically at the hour number it relates to for a person to know what time it is. For example, if the hour hand is pointing anywhere between two and three, anyone capable of telling time will take this to mean it’s two o’clock.
However, minutes must be more precisely indicated to give an accurate time reading; simply pointing somewhere between numbers won’t work. Therefore, the minute hand extends farther than its counterpart so as to provide an exact accounting of the time. The differing measurements of clock hands also serves a purpose for those who create and maintain timepieces, as well.
“This dates back to old winding wall clocks,” says one antique clock repairperson. “If the clock stopped or you had to reset the time for whatever reason, you logically move the minute hand because the hour hand will follow suit. If the minute hand were shorter, you would always run into the hour hand when adjusting the time. With the minute hand being longer, you smoothly travel over the hour hand without it getting in the way.”
So, the next time you’re staring at the clock, counting down the minutes until the workday is over, take a second to appreciate all the consideration that went into such a tiny piece of ticking plastic. And when you want your own stylish means of telling time, treat yourself to one of these 7 Must-Have New Vintage-Inspired Watches.
Related: 25 Insanely Cool Watches [Provided by Men’s Health]