A clock face, or dial, is the part of an analog clock (or watch) that displays the time through the use of a fixed-numbered dial or dials and moving hands. In its most basic form, recognized throughout the world, the periphery of the dial is numbered 1 through 12 indicating the hours in a 12-hour cycle, and a short hour hand makes two revolutions in a day. A long minute hand makes one revolution every hour. The face may also include a second hand, which makes one revolution per minute. The term is less commonly used for the time display on digital clocks and watches.
A second type of clock face is the 24-hour analog dial, widely used in military and other organizations that use 24-hour time. This is similar to the 12-hour dial above, except it has hours numbered 1–24 around the outside, and the hour hand makes only one revolution per day. Some special-purpose clocks, such as timers and sporting event clocks, are designed for measuring periods less than one hour. Clocks can indicate the hour with Roman numerals or Hindu–Arabic numerals, or with non-numeric indicator marks. The two numbering systems have also been used in combination, with the prior indicating the hour and the latter the minute. Longcase clocks (grandfather clocks) typically use Roman numerals for the hours. Clocks using only Arabic numerals first began to appear in the mid-18th century.
The clock face is so familiar that the numbers are often omitted and replaced with applied indices (undifferentiated hour marks), particularly in the case of watches. Occasionally, markings of any sort are dispensed with, and the time is read by the angles of the hands
Most modern clocks have the numbers 1 through 12 printed at equally spaced intervals around the periphery of the face with the 12 at the top, indicating the hour, and on many models, sixty dots or lines evenly spaced in a ring around the outside of the dial, indicating minutes and seconds. The time is read by observing the placement of several “hands”, which emanate from the centre of the dial:
A short, thick “hour” hand;
A long, thinner “minute” hand;
On some models, a very thin “second” or “sweep” hand
All the hands continuously rotate around the dial in a clockwise direction – in the direction of increasing numbers.
The second, or sweep, hand moves relatively quickly, taking a full minute (sixty seconds) to make a complete rotation from 12 to 12. For every rotation of the second hand, the minute hand will move from one minute mark to the next.
The minute hand rotates more slowly around the dial. It takes one hour (sixty minutes) to make a complete rotation from 12 to 12. For every rotation of the minute hand, the hour hand will move from one hour mark to the next.
The hour hand moves slowest of all, taking twelve hours (half a day) to make a complete rotation. It starts from “12” at midnight, makes one rotation until it is pointing at “12” again at noon, and then makes another rotation until it is pointing at “12” again at midnight of the next morning.