How to Wear a Watch Like a Gentleman (Following Etiquette Rules)

The wristwatch can be dated to the year 1916 when publications like the New York Times were reporting on how Europeans were migrating from the pocket watch to having time on their wrist. During World War I the trend cemented itself as soldiers were required to follow suit to make sure checking the hour was more practical. 

There is a deep-rooted history of watch wearing –– as well as watchmaking and watch wearing has some strict etiquette rules ranging from how to wear a watch to how frequently you should check it. 

Wear on Your Non-dominant Wrist

Most people wear watches on their left wrist because the majority of people are right-handed. This traditional rule means you’ll be freer and more able to complete tasks with your dominant hand without your wristwatch getting in the way. Doing this helps you and your watch as you’ll be less likely to scuff a soft leather strap or scratch metal hardware. 

Although modern-day men (and women) don’t feel the need to follow this rule strictly, if you want to wear a watch correctly, you should pick your least dominant side.

Accessorise Accordingly 

Watches have a helpful function, but we should still treat them as an accessory. This means colour coding your watch with your outfit and wearing specific types of watches for certain occasions. 

For example, watches with dark dials such as the Arnold & Son HM Perpetual Moon and the Backes & Strauss Berkeley 40 Black Night are more suited to evening occasions as they perfectly coordinate with dress suits and tuxedos. Brown leather-strapped wristwatches such as the Arnold & Son HMS1 Guilloché Rose Gold and the U-Boat Classico U-47 AS 2 are more suitable for smart daytime activities with a linen suit or smart casual wear. 

As such, you should have various timepieces in your collection that allow you to distinguish between day and night just as you would suits, shoes and any other wardrobe staple. The only occasion you don’t need to prepare for is a black-tie event where watches are somewhat forbidden. At a black-tie event, you shouldn’t be checking the time — more on that in the next paragraph. 

Check Your Watch Sparingly 

Just as important as how you wear your watch is how you use it. It’s good social etiquette to limit the number of times you check your watch — if any — at social occasions. This is especially important if you’re listening to a speech, watching a play or having a one-to-one conversation with another person. 

Checking the time can be interpreted as being rude and a sign that a person is experiencing boredom or thinking of other commitments. It might also infer you think the person, social group or activity is of little importance or less important than your next appointment. 

These days many of us fidget on our phones, which has much the same effect. To be a polite guest, you should limit yourself to glancing at your watch and making no exaggerated gestures to keep track of time. 

Pick a Proportionate Watch 

Wearing a watch that is too big for the wrist or a timepiece with an oversized appearance has become a recent trend that most gentlemen didn’t adopt. The classic way to wear a watch is to pick a clockface that compliments the proportions of the wrist, fitting the arm and the inners of a suit jacket. 

Overly large watches can be confused with boasting as can a slack watch strap. 

Classic watches always incorporate function as well as fashion with the strap relatively tight on the wrist (leaving a gap big enough for one index finger) and the clockface sitting flush to the top of the wrist. This way, to tell the time you need only hitch the sleeve of your shirt, blazer or jacket.

Variety Is Key 

Most watch lovers are proud of their timepieces and want to catch any opportunity to discuss the craftsmanship of their Franck Muller or the custom design of their Blaken. However, sometimes modesty is required. 

Business meetings call for a less understated timepiece. If you’re meeting with an important stakeholder, client or senior, you shouldn’t wear a watch that’s more expensive than theirs out of respect. And, if you’re really old-fashioned the same could be said for a family gathering where your in-law might be present. 

The practical steps to wear a watch correctly might require you to take into account the physical placement of the watch and its size. Yet, some of the most important etiquette rules revolve around what your watch has to say about your social status, attitude and class. 

So, put your watch on your non-dominant wrist, remember to scale down its size and most importantly, branch out, so you’re prepared for every eventuality. 

Browse our watch collection for luxury watches suitable for day and night. We sell timepieces from distinguished brands, creative designers and Swiss legacies working with companies such as Blaken, U-Boat, Franck Muller and more.

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