Although wearing a watch can be as simple as throwing on our reliable old Casio, there is a tangle of “rules” regarding watches that dictate when we wear them. Some of these rules are merely relics, and others we would be wise to remember.
One rule we can ignore governs which arm to wear our watch on. Traditionally, watches are worn on our non-dominant hand. Most people are right-handed, so most watches are designed to be worn on the left wrist. This is evident when we look at the “crown” (the knob used to wind the watch and set the time), which is almost always positioned to the right of the face. This is to make it easier to adjust the watch while wearing it. Although left-handed watches are available that position the crown left of the face, they are not the norm.
Watch bands are typically available in four different materials: metal, leather, plastic resin, and woven fabric. Metal bands are usually silver- or gold-colored and can be made out of precious metals like gold, silver, or platinum, or — more commonly — stainless steel.
If we’re going with a metal band, there are two “rules” to consider. The first one we should generally follow: match our metals. If our accessories are gold, our band should be gold; likewise for silver. The big exception to this rule is a wedding band, but even if we’re not married our watches should not be slaves to our belt buckles, or vice versa. Take a look in the mirror and make a judgment call. If our tie bar, cufflinks, and belt buckle are all gold, we should probably avoid wearing a silver watch. The other rule is more of a relic lately: Wear gold in the day, wear silver at night. [This rule is a bit archaic and is rarely followed.]
With leather bands we want to follow the same suggestion: Match our colors. If our belt and our shoes are black, our leather band should be black as well. Rubber and woven bands, while generally more informal, should follow this rule as well. We can use the watch band to highlight another part of our outfit by matching it with our tie or belt, or using a complementary color like an orange band with a predominantly blue outfit.
It’s important we don’t stop our consideration of color at the strap. Leather-strapped watches can have cases that are gold, silver, or any other color. The face of the watch is often a different color, as is the bezel (the ring surrounding and securing the crystal). All of these can be used to coordinate and accent our outfit.
Finally, we should consider the function of the watch. Some watches are for work, and some watches are for play. Most horophiles (watch lovers) will tell us not to wear our sport or casual watches in a professional or formal setting. For the most part, they’re right. Unless we’re James Bond*, there are some good reasons to follow this piece of advice. Most sport watches are thicker than their formal counterparts, which means they can get caught up in the cuffs of our sleeves. Sport watches also tend to have more complications (additional functionality, typically displayed on the face, such as a chronograph or altimeter) that can clash with formal or professional attire. Formal watches, on the other hand, are not made to endure the extremes that a sports watch would be subjected to.
As always, it comes down to what we like and what we’re comfortable with. We could break every rule in this article and as long as we do it with confidence, it wouldn’t matter. We’d still look good. *Maybe that’s how James Bond gets away with wearing a dive watch with a tuxedo?
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