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Are There Watch-Wearing Style Rules?

Zen L. from Shanghai, China asks:

Is there any conventional wisdom, style guidelines, or style taboos about wearing a watch?? It seems a lot of people are wearing watches below the wrist bone, which I do with a steel bracelet, but not with a leather strap. My dad and people in old photographs sometimes wore them on the underside of the wrist, which seems to work for smaller, thinner watches. Am secretly I being mocked by fashionistas for wearing a steel watch at the same time as a brass belt buckle?? These are silly questions. So silly answers are not inappropriate.

There really isn’t an answer to this because as is the case with all things, personal style and what you want to communicate coincides with how you dress and carry yourself. We shared an Esquire article back in 2008 that discussed what they felt wearing your watch in certain ways said about you. It was just one take on the matter, of course. When it comes down to it, you will look your best when you wear what you like, comfortably.

Having said that, we have some rules that we feel most watch lovers tend to abide by. First of all, sizing your watch is important. It doesn’t need to but ultra tight and fitted if you like a slightly loose fit, but don’t just take it out of the box and strap it on. The watch shouldn’t fall off your wrist (or look like it is about to). Also, while some people seem to prefer it, it is sort of a ‘no no’ to wear your watch on the underside of your wrist. It not only defeats the purpose of allowing people to see it, but in a lot of instances it can make it easier to scratch up your watch. Where you wear your watch on your wrist (high or low) is really up to you.

We can also mention that from a size perspective the lugs shouldn’t extend much or at all past the edge of your wrist (then it is too large), and watches that appear too small are usually considered feminine on a man. When it comes to colors and how to match a watch with your wardrobe, conventional wisdom is best. You should match your watch strap color with your shoes and belt, and it possible it looks nice to compliment your clothing colors with your watch… or for some people compliment your watch with clothing colors.

Because we’ve seen it before (a lot) we’d also like to stress that wearing a quartz watch with a dead battery makes one look like a fool.

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  • Dan A

    Wearing a watch on the inside of the wrist helps prevent scratching it if you’re in the habit of bumping into things.  It also prevents light from glaring off the watch and giving away your position, which 99.99% of the time is not going to be an issue, but habits picked up during military service are sometimes hard to break.

  • ZL

    On wearing the watch ‘upside down,’ that is, on the underside of the wrist: There aren’t many choices in how to wear a watch. Personally, although I’m happy if people notice my watch, I don’t wear it primarily for other people’s benefit, since the vast majority won’t notice anyway. In certain professions, wearing it on the underside of the wrist may be more practical and maybe even prevent scratches (the underside of the arm is softer than the hairy side presumably because the outside gets bumped and weathered more). Also, for me there is something nostalgic about it since people seem to have worn watches like that a lot more in the old days. There is also something geeky about it, which one can maybe work with stylistically. Could also be seen as similar to a backwards or sideways hat perhaps (?). It could be seen as unique. I’ve tried it with a classic looking thin 37mm black faced automatic watch on a leather band and I thought it looked cool, but actually found it bumping too much on desks or tables. 
    Who would have thought someone would have so much to say about wearing a watch on the bottom of the wrist? I probably think too much about watches to begin with, but man, I really went overboard this time…. Back to work!

  • ZL

    If I wear a watch on my right wrist, will people think I’m gay?

  • mcv1973a

    When I served in the military, most soldiers I served with (myself included), wore our watches to the inside. A lot of them said it was to eliminate the possibility of light reflecting from the crystal, but I found that it was easier to maintain mission timings with a weapon at the ready. With a pistol or rifle in that position, all you need to do is just glance at your wrist. Since the watch is positioned to the inside, you can read it without having to move your hand.

  • DG Cayse

    Rules?….we don’t need no stinkin’ rules!  But a few common sense items might well apply.

    1. The security reasons for wearing a watch flipped over are real for some situations. With the bright lume of some marques it can be seen at great distances – especially with amplified optics. Also, if one is in a rather shady or questionable area (unsafe) it can help cut down on the “bling factor” which might help to avoid unwanted attention.
    2. Above the wrist bone or below – your choice. I usually wear above – I do not like crowns digging into the top of my hand.
    4. Unless you are obviously wealthy – no gold. Even worse – no fake gold.
    5. How tight? No floppy watches. This is not the 80’s and Miami Vice is no longer a fashion statement. (sorry Don)
    6. Does Your watch match your belt buckles?  No  one cares. If they tell you it’s important – delete their #, un”friend” them and don’t answer when they call/text.
    Wear what you like. If its old and beat-up…says its your “beater” watch…your vintage every day wear. (You should have a beater and a “nice” (not necessarily expensive) one for formal or dress-up wear.
    But really, don’t let fashionistas dominate your watch wearing. 
    Buy for the reasons you are comfortable with – not someone elses opinion. There are a lot of choices – Be Happy!

  • RufusRoughcut

    Nice article, but have you considered an editor to fix grammar and sentence mistakes?

  • DG Cayse

    One should not wear a white watch after Labor Day.

    It just isn’t done.

  • Macau

    Wearing your watch on the inside of your wrist is a “no-no”? Well that’s a load of baloney.

  • Luke brazel

    I am gay and wear it upside down so I can be individual. My straight friends wear theirs right side up.

  • Luke brazel

    Do you not want people up think you’re gay?