Small seconds

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Nomos Tangente
with the most common variant of the small second indication at 6 o'clock
© Nomos

A watch with small seconds positions the seconds indication in a subdial on the watch dial, typically at the 6:00 position.

In contrast to the now-standard central seconds position, a watch with small seconds is now considered more traditional, and this is often regarded as a complication. But this dial arrangement is actually simpler, with fewer components used. It fell out of favor as dials grew smaller with the rise of wristwatches and as doctors and other professionals wanted to read precise seconds from the dial. A tiny subdial in a small watch face is harder to read than a large sweep seconds display.

This traditional dial arrangement was so typical that the naming of the gear train wheels still reflects it: The second or minute wheel is still called the "center wheel" even today, since it was located at the center of a small seconds movement. Today, the "center wheel" is almost always located off-axis at the side of the movement, with the center occupied by the gear train driving the hands.

Small seconds are to be found mostly on pocket watches or manual winding wristwatches. This construction feature comes from the time when the wheels in the gear train of a watch were in a way that the second wheel was not in the center. If a second indication on the dial was desired, the stud of the second wheel was extended through the dial and a hand was attached. The position of the small second depends on the movement construction, but mostly it is located at 6 o'clock.

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