When it comes to fashion and clothing, there are a lot of ”official” and unofficial rules and recommendations regarding how you should style your outfit to make it look as good as possible. There are considerations to how clothes should fit, what colors to match, which materials go well together, which types of shoes you should wear on which occasions, and so on…

Something that a lot of people don’t think about too often, or even consider is that the same thing also applies to watches.

Just like with clothing, it’s important to point out that these are always just guidelines and recommendations, they are not requirements. And just like you’re free to wear whichever clothes you like, however you like, you’re free to wear whichever watch you like, however you please.

But if you’re looking for advice on how to wear a wristwatch to make it look as good as possible according to established recommendations, you have come to the right place.

In this article, we’re taking a look at the most important watch-wearing etiquette tips on how to wear a watch correctly to make sure your wrist but also your overall outfit looks as good as it possibly can. There are a lot of things to keep in mind, so let’s get started. You’re of course free to choose which of these guidelines you want to follow, and which you prefer to freestyle a bit.

Watch-wearing etiquette – how to wear a watch correctly.

1. The left wrist is the ”correct wrist”

The question of which watch you should wear on your wrist is a constant debate. But the ”official” and widely accepted wrist for wearing the watch on. Now, a lot of people simply prefer to wear their watch on their right wrist, and that’s fine too, but if you want to follow the standard, traditional watch etiquette, the left wrist is the wrist to go for.

We have discussed in detail the reasons and benefits of wearing a watch on the left wrist in this article, but let’s summarize the key points:

The left wrist has been the industry-accepted wrist for a very long time and is traditionally seen as the correct wrist.

If you’re right-handed (which most people are), the watch will not come in the way, and you minimize wear and tear

By wearing your watch on the left wrist, you stay true to tradition, and it will give a greater impression (amongst some people) that you ”know what you’re doing”.

2. The right watch for the right occasion

There are two key aspects of making sure you wear the correct type of watch for each dedicated occasion. The first is that it looks better, shows a greater style-consciousness, and ensures that your wristwatch is ideal for the outfit and situation you’re in. The second aspect is that not all watches are built for all and any occasion. For example, you simply wouldn’t take a dress watch diving because it’s not durable enough nor water-resistant enough to withstand the conditions you will subject it to. Nor would you take a delicate chronograph if you’re going hiking in harsh climates.

But most importantly, there are watches made for all kinds of different occasions, and this is something that you should strive to follow. Even though there are a lot of watches that are really versatile and work for many different occasions. For example, it has been proven time and time again that the Rolex Submariner works superbly well with a tuxedo or a suit for a masculine yet elegant look. This is despite the fact that the Rolex Submariner is a professional dive watch. So even I there are some exceptions where certain watches can work on multiple occasions, your starting point should be to find a watch that is made specifically for the occasion.

If you’re wearing a tuxedo on formal occasions, opt for a dress watch. If you’re going hiking, wear a sports/field watch. If you’re going diving, wear a dive watch. Just like you wouldn’t wear a suit or a tuxedo when you’re going hiking, you shouldn’t wear a dress watch when you’re doing the same.

3. Wear darker watches in the evening and light watches during the day

This is another general watch etiquette rule that is advised that you follow, even if there will always be exceptions. This rule is not as commonly followed today considering the fact that most watches that are being produced and sold have black dials. But it’s still something that has lived on, that you should opt for a darker dial in the evening and during the night, and a brighter dial during the day. And this idea is certainly not bad.

4. Wear your watch above the ulna

On the wrist, we have a bone that sticks out, known as the ulna. An important watch etiquette rule is that a wristwatch should always be worn above the ulna. To make a wide generalization, the further back in time we go, the farther up on the wrist people wore their watches. In the early 1900s, a lot of people actually work their wristwatches far up on the arm.

Some people prefer to wear their watch below the ulna, directly where the wrist bends, but if you want your watch to look as good as possible, above the ulna is the best place to wear it. In addition to looks, wearing the watch right on the wrist is not very comfortable, either. It will make it difficult to bend the wrist but it will also make the crown of the watch dig into the wrist.

5. Opt for timeless designs and styles

Within the fashion industry as well as the watch industry, there are timeless designs that simply never go out of style. And the watch market has a ton of them. Perhaps the most iconic and well-known example is the Rolex Submariner which is a watch that has changed surprisingly little over the many decades that it has been in production. This is the ultimate timeless watch whose design remains just as relevant today 

Instead of falling for various temporary fashion trends that will pass faster than they arrived, it’s better to look for watches with timeless, classic styles. This is particularly true when you’re spending a large amount on a luxury watch. You don’t want to spend tens of thousands on a luxury watch, just to have it look outdated within a few years. The risk is that when you spend that kind of money on a trendy watch, you’ll continue to wear it for years to come even if it looks a bit out of style. Therefore, always opt for a timeless, classic watch that will remain in style for decades and perhaps even centuries to come.

6. Make sure it doesn’t sit too tight or too loose

Just like how your clothes fit affect how they look, the same goes for your watch. One of the things that can negatively affect how the watch looks on your wrist is if it sits either too tight or too loose. Not only will this look bad but it will also be uncomfortable. A general rule is that you should be able to get your pointer finger under the clasp when the watch is on your wrist. That way, it is not so tight that it strangles the wrist, nor too loose that it can spin around your wrist and look completely out of place.

7. Match colors and metals

In fashion, color coordination is an important aspect of a great outfit. It shows that the person knows what they are doing and overall, it will just look more visually pleasing.

A piece of general fashion advice is that you should match the accents of your outfit in the same color, and your watch is one of them.

First, we have the color of the metal. Watches mainly come in steel, yellow gold, or rose gold, even though many brands have experimented with new manufacturing techniques and materials like PVD coating and carbon fiber. As a starting point, always match the metal of your watch with any other metal accessories you have such as your cufflinks, jewelry, and rings. Matching the metal of your watch with your other accessories creates a subtle yet important consistent theme that will enhance your overall appearance.

Then, of course, we have perhaps the most important details which is the color of the dial, which is what people see most. If you have a black or a white dial, you don’t have to pay too much attention to this as these colors go together with everything. But if you have a dial in a more striking color such as blue, red, or green, it is a wise idea to try to match the color of the dial with other parts of your outfit such as your shoes, your belt, and a pocket square. Most people first choose their outfit and then their watch. This is why it’s useful to have multiple watches in a few different styles and colors so you can choose the most appropriate timepiece for the occasion and the outfit.

When color-coordinating, it’s advised that you don’t overdo it as it will make it look ”too much” or that you’re trying too hard. For example, having a red-dial watch with a red strap, red bracelets, a red belt, a red pocket square, and red shoes will likely not result in the stylish look that you imagine.

The three things you want to pay attention to when color-coordinating are the metal of the watch, the strap, and the color of the dial.

8. Be mindful about when you are looking at the watch

There are also some etiquette rules to consider when you are looking at your watch to know the time. There are two occasions where it is not advised that you look at the time. Namely, when you are talking to someone, or when you are in a meeting, or a similar situation.

Looking at your watch when you’re supposed to listen (or speak) is considered very disrespectful and is not a good look. It gives the impression that you either don’t care about what the person has to say, that you’re uninterested and want to leave, or that you’re just a disrespectful person, even I that is not your intention.

Therefore, be thoughtful when you look at your watch on these occasions. Fortunately, it’s possible to glance at your wrist discreetly, for example, in a meeting. You just have to find the right time. The good news is that it’s much more respectful than looking at the time on your phone, which is one of the reasons why a lot of business people opt for a wristwatch.

9. Have a few different watches to choose from

This point elaborates on what we discussed earlier but having a collection of multiple watches in different styles is something that is advised for all men. And there are several good reasons for this.

The first is that you wouldn’t (at least if you’re style-conscious and want to look as good and stylish as possible) for example, wear the same jacket every single day year after year. Changing things up a bit shows that you are conscious of your style and look. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, is that no watch will work perfectly for any occasion. Even if many versatile watches will work great on many different occasions, there are likely better and more appropriate occasions in some cases. Having a selection to choose from ensures that you can choose the perfect watch for each occasion for a perfectly completed look.

And lastly, wearing the same watch day in and day out will cause immense wear and tear on your watch and cause premature wear. By having a few watches to choose from, you can let the watches rest in between and ensure that they last longer.

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