How To Look At Your Watch Without Anyone Noticing Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

How To Look At Your Watch Without Anyone Noticing

6 Conversations

We've all been there. Stuck in the meeting that wouldn't end, with someone yabbering on and on. You want to look at your watch, but feel this would be considered rude.

You need to be able to tell the time without making it obvious that you are looking at your watch. But how?

The Wall

This is the simplest time check of all. While nodding politely at what is being said, you slowly crane your head around the room looking for the clock. This works great, assuming;

  1. There is a clock.

  2. It is accurate.

  3. It isn't behind you.

If any of these three criteria is not met, you're in trouble. But don't panic.

Softly, Softly, Catchee Monkey

Now this one sounds simple, but needs practice. If you are like most people, your sleeve will be over your watch, thus preventing you from simply reading it. This can be overcome. There are several methods. In order of difficulty, they are:

  1. Pull the sleeve back, (done very slowly).

  2. Folding the arms together while surreptitiously pulling the sleeve back.

  3. Moving the arm to reach for an item on the table, while pinning the elbow down - thus drawing the sleeve back.

This needs to be timed very precisely with a glance at the watch, and during a moment when no-one is looking directly at you. If done correctly, you will know the time and know that no-one else knows that you know. You can now lean back with a smug smile on your face and revel in your own superiority.

You can make this method even more sucessful by wearing your watch with its face on the inside of your wrist, thus allaying suspicion that you are reading the time1. It has the disadvantage of being uncomfortable and also increases the risk of damage to the watch itself, such as when the arms are placed on a table.

Of course, another good way to get your sleeves out of the way is just to roll them both up, as if you are getting warm2. Then you can glance at your watch very easily, but this may be a more obvious method, especially if your office is notoriously chilly.

The Stretch

This method is very similar to the above, except that it is executed at much higher speed. It also requires practice to do correctly, but is simple in its theory.

Simply reach for something on the table, while applying pressure to the elbow. This will draw the sleeve back, exposing your watch. If you are quick, you will now know the time. The main disadvantage is that this method requires you to be able to read your watch very quickly.

The Scratch

This is a variant of the stretch, and relatively easy to execute. Simply fake an itch an inch to the left of your watch (or right if you are left handed), move the sleeve back and scratch, while reading the watch, of course.

The Hanky

This is another variant of the stretch. Simply pull a hanky out of your pocket to blow your nose and you should be able to read your watch.

Is That A Compass In Your Pocket Or Are You Checking The Time?

This method is a little trickier, and requires preparation. Let's assume you are wearing your watch on your left arm3.

The Method:

  1. Prior to the meeting you will need to have put a cumbersome object into your right hand trouser pocket, or right hand jacket pocket if you are feeling adventurous.

  2. During the meeting, with your right hand, reach into your right hand pocket and try to remove the object, let's say it's a large mobile phone. Struggle a little, but slowly and quietly, as if you don't want to disrupt the meeting.

  3. With your left hand, reach over and use both hands to remove the mobile phone.

  4. If this is done correctly, your watch will be exposed and you can read it at your leisure.

The Alarm

If your watch is digital and has an alarm function, there is another option available to you. Set an alarm for a set time into the meeting, say an hour. When it goes off, apologise and silence it. You now know what the time is without even looking at your watch.

Hourly Chime

A variant of this is the hourly chime. A quiet chime every hour from your watch will let you know what the time is. Although only every hour.

Mobile Phone

Many mobile phones have alarm functions in them. By setting an alarm, and selecting the silent mode with vibrate, you will be notified in secrecy when the alarm goes off.

Church Bells

Another method is by counting the bell tolls of a nearby church or town hall clock. However there is always the problem of counting to a large number, like 11 or 12, and being interrupted with a difficult question, such as 'What do you think?'

The 'Australian'

If you notice that someone else at the meeting has their watch exposed, you could try reading it. This can introduce a few problems.

  • Reading time upside down is hard.

  • Particularly analogue watches.

  • Leaning over someone's shoulder tends to draw attention.


If you know others at the meeting who feel the same way, you could try teamwork. This works best if there is a clock that only one of you can see. You will need:

  • A signal to indicate you want to know the time.

  • A signal to tell your partner what the time is.

Suitable signalling schemes are semaphore, Morse4 and a baseball pitchers' variant.


The simplest is to use both hands to indicate the time, for example three fingers on the left hand and two on the left means that between 3 hours and 20 minutes and 3 hours and 30 minutes have elapsed, ie close to three and a half hours.

Left Hand (Fingers)MeaningRight Hand (Fingers)Meaning
00 hours0Less than 10 minutes
11 hours1Less than 20 minutes
22 hours2Less than 30 minutes
33 hours3Less than 40 minutes
44 hours4Less than 50 minutes
55 hours5Less than 60 minutes

With these signals you will be able to communicate to each other how much time has passed since the meeting started5.

The Cheater's Method

Some people, rare and gifted, have highly accurate internal clocks and can tell the time without a watch6.

Kirk: 'How long have we been in here?'
Spock: '1 hour, 37 minutes and 43 seconds, Captain.'

The Techno-Geek

Use items that have clocks in them. Remember those pens that have a digital clock in the end? Did you really think they were invented as just another Christmas stocking filler or as a cheap novelty of taking an existing product and putting a clock in it?

The pen-clock is the greatest gadget to own in an office. You can take notes and look at the time. You can doodle and look at the time. You can chew your pen and look at the time7.

Further Exercises

Now there are obviously times when no-one is going to mind you looking at your watch. In an exam, in a meeting at work close to 4:59pm8, etc.

There are many other methods available to you. The best approach is to have two or three in your repertoire and to practice them. And of course, like all things in life, don't overdo it.

Further Reading

1Some bridge cheats use this method to count the seconds between their bids.2Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fans call this the 'Miles O'Brien' technique, as that particular character was often seen rolling up his uniform sleeves in a distinctive manner.3If you are wearing your watch on your right arm, please reverse these directions4A good example would be clicking your pen.5If the meeting has lasted longer than these signals provide for, it is not recommended to remove one's shoes and socks in order to utilise the toes.6Or by looking at the sun, if they are Australian: wear a hat with crocodile teeth in it, have a name the sounds like a reptile infested city, and ensure they can actually see the sun.7At least until the moisture gets to the battery and interferes with the electrical connection8Assuming this is when you finish work.

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Edited Entry


Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Categorised In:

Written by

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more