The Watch Riddle

Jun Cowan
Oct 24, 2012

If you've met me, you know that I like to use analogies and parables to explain complex ideas so that they can be easily understood by people from various backgrounds.

Most of the time, my analogies are not geological. This is because when I start explaining structural geology, people’s eyes start to glaze over, so I need to get them to think of something much simpler first, but at the same time challenge them in a way that can be related back to geological concepts.
Believe it or not, the following riddle is related to what we do at Orefind for a living – a combination of structural geology and geological modelling. I think it teaches us a fundamental concept about geological modelling and is worth sharing with you before I discuss more complex geological ideas in future posts.

The figure below shows a pair of women’s watches that feature a large curved face. The watch follows the contours of the wearer’s wrist, thus making it more like a fashionable bracelet than a normal flat-faced watch.

But if you have a keen eye, you may notice something odd about these watches.

Can you spot it?
(No, it’s not that holes are lacking in the band.)

The answer will be revealed in a future blog, where I will also explain why understanding this riddle helps you understand one of the most overlooked features of geological models that are constructed for various purposes in the mining and exploration industry.

If you're registered with, why not write your guesses below in the comments area? Go on, be brave...  You can be totally anonymous!


  1. 1 chris lee 26 Oct
    Don't know if this is what you're after, but I don't get how the hour and minute hands can sweep out the full 12 hours on a curved face without tilting their pivot axis. I think the image is doctored...
  2. 2 Jun Cowan 26 Oct
    Chris Lee, my man, you are absolutely right.

    The problem is that the hour and minute hands are too long and they would interfere with the operation of the watch when they sweep the curved face of the watch with time.  The hands would have to be straight at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions, but they have to be curved at the 12 and 6 o’clock positions, which would be impossible if the watch hands are made of stiff metallic material.

    So the image is indeed doctored.

    Thanks Chris for your contribution, and I'll write up the follow-up post tonight so that I can explain what this means in terms of geological modelling.


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