Finding North with sun and watch

At sunrise and sunset, in the northern hemisphere, you can quickly determine the cardinal points. The sun sets in the east and goes down in the west. In the Northern Hemisphere, between 11:30 and 12:30, local “winter time”, the sun in the south (S).

With this you have another way to determine a wind region with the help of the sun: With a watch, if it is not too cloudy, you can determine where the South is. Keep the watch as flat as possible. Point the little pointer to the sun and divide the angle between the small pointer and the 12 in half. This imaginary line points south. Opposite is north To avoid confusion, “the south” is often referred to as an S. A Z on its side is too easily confused with an N with all the consequences that entails.


  • Make sure your watch is on winter time.
  • Point the small hand towards the sun.
  • The middle of the “smallest” angle between the large and small hand now points to the south.
  • The middle of the “largest” angle between the large and small hand now points north.

Finding north with sun and shade

Place a stick in the ground and mark the end of the shadow. Do this with a pebble, for example.

Wait some time now. The longer you wait, the more accurate the outcome will be. And place a second pebble. Again at the end of the shadow

Now when you draw a line between the 2 marks you have a line that runs from West to East (E). If you draw another line at right angles, the end of the line that ends closest to the baton will point towards the South (S) and the end the farthest of the baton will point to the north.


  • The shade method is not recommended in the polar regions, above 60° north or south latitude.
  • The watch method is not recommended near the equator, in particular under 20° north or south width.
  • Due to standardized time zones, the sun can reach its highest point between 11:00 am and 13:00, depending on your place in the world. Some time zones are wider than an hour.
Example: Amsterdam is 5° east of the zero meridian, so that the Sun reaches its highest point 20 minutes before London. Since Amsterdam is one timezone further, it is 12:40pm winter time or 13:40 pm daylight saving time.