How Do You Read a 24 Hour Analog Watch?

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Analog watches are very popular, and many people prefer them over digital watches. Yes, you have to know how to tell time before you get an analog watch, but since most adults already know how to do this, it is usually not a problem.

That being said, if you choose to get a 24-hour analog watch, also called a watch that shows military time, it may take a little getting used to for many people, particularly those people who have never been a part of the armed forces. But don’t worry, because reading a 24-hour watch is much easier than you think, especially once you get used to the basics.

What Is Military Time?

Military time describes time in 24 hours instead of 12, and even the way you read the time is different. For instance, instead of saying “9:00 a.m.,” you would say “0900 hours.” When it gets to 1:00 p.m., that is 1300 hours, and so forth. So if you have something planned at 1800 hours, that would be 6:00 p.m. Of course, when you look at a 24-hour watch, it gets a little more confusing. The watch is indeed separated into 24 different times, so the 6:00 mark will say “12,” since that is right in the middle of the day. The 9:00 mark will say “18,” and so forth.

And this is where it gets confusing for some people. Why does the 9:00 position say “18” when 1800 hours is 6:00 p.m.? You have to keep in mind that up until 12 noon, the times are the same for both regular and military time: 1000 hours is 10:00 a.m., 1100 hours is 11:00 a.m., etc. But starting at one minute after 12 noon, the times are stated differently, with 1:00 p.m. being 1300 hours, 3:00 p.m. being 1500 hours, etc. If you look at the number “18” on a 24-hour watch, it will seem as though it might have something to do with the number 9, since the number “18” is located where the number 9 is on a 12-hour watch, but don’t let this confuse you. 1800 hours is always going to be 6:00 p.m., regardless of where the numbers are located on the watch you’re wearing.

Who Uses 24-Hour Analog Watches?

Many military and ex-military personnel who are used to telling military time enjoy wearing 24-hour analog watches, but they aren’t the only ones. Certain businesses prefer the unambiguous nature of a 24-hour clock, especially when they deal with clients all over the world. A few of the people who often prefer these watches include scientists, pilots, and even healthcare professionals as well as travel agencies, bankers, brokers, and hotel professionals. Even industries such as mining, construction, and transportation often use 24-hour watches, in part because it is easier than constantly signaling whether a certain event will happen at 6:00 a.m. or 6:00 p.m.

To be sure, as long as the people and industries communicating with one another know how to read a 24-hour watch, it can lead to much less confusion overall. When you tell someone that something will happen at 1600 hours, that person always knows that you’re talking about 4:00 p.m. They never have to wonder if you’re talking about 4:00 a.m. or 4:00 p.m. This makes it especially convenient when you’re dealing with shift workers or people in time zones different than your own.

Do 24-Hour Watches Have Any Drawbacks?

The main drawback with a 24-hour watch is the fact that many people won’t be familiar with the way it works and can easily get confused. In fact, even people who are familiar with military time and how it works often have to stop a think for a second in order to know exactly what time it is, especially in the beginning. A watch that uses the 24-hour time clock can be confusing to look at, but again, if you look at the numbers and not the locations of those numbers on the watch itself, it becomes a lot easier.

Until you get used to a 24-hour watch, it can indeed be confusing, but it won’t be for long because the more you use the watch, the more natural it will become. A 24-hour watch can seem like a mysterious object at first, and the learning curve is quite high for some people. But don’t panic because the more you use this type of watch, the easier it will become for you. Many people end up finding it easier to use than a 12-hour watch and even a little fun to use, too. In fact, many people wear 24-hour watches just to show off that they know how to read military time!


Analog watches that use military or 24-hour time can be confusing at first, but if you remember that after 12:00 noon comes 1300 hours (1:00 p.m.), 1400 hours (2:00 p.m.), and so forth, it’ll make more sense to you and be easier to learn. Also keep in mind that the hour hand on a 12-hour watch will circle the watch twice during a 24-hour period, whereas it will only circle the watch once every 24 hours if it is a 24-hour watch.

That may look funny to some people, but the longer you wear the watch, the easier it will be to know exactly what time it is at any given moment. Reading a 24-hour watch isn’t difficult, it’s just different, and it’s like anything else in life: the more you practice it, the easier it becomes.