How To Wear Your Watch With Almost Anything

There's an art to pairing your personal style to your timepiece.

How To Wear A Watch

The first rule of watch club is you always talk about watch club. Misleading Brad Pitt lines aside, today we are talking about something rather important: watch etiquette. So you’ve finally scored that elusive timepiece you’ve been banking on for years. Or perhaps it’s your very first encounter with a luxury watch (every man’s been there). Whichever your reason it’s important for any man to know how to properly wear a watch once he’s attained it.

Rolex Submariner, an IWC Pilot’s Watch, an OMEGA Speedmaster, a TAG Heuer Monaco, whatever your choice of wrist candy, there are ideal ways to wear it. Today we’re running you through the drills on how to wear a watch and how to avoid the most common oversights.

Which Wrist To Wear A Watch On

Image via: Watch Insanity

Ah, one of the oldest watch debates in the world. If someone ever tells you that you’re wearing your watch on the wrong hand, back slap them with your leather glove and tell them you challenge them to a duel. Alternatively, just explain to them that the rule is to wear a watch on the non-dominant wrist. That is, if you’re right handed you wear it on your left wrist. If you’re left handed, the watch goes on your right wrist. That’s the traditional rule anyway. These days it’s perfectly acceptable to wear a watch on whichever wrist you’d prefer.

Picking The Right Watch For The Right Occasion

Ever seen a grown man wear a G-Shock with a dinner suit to a wedding? On a charm scale of 1 to 10, it’s an Adam Sandler. So here’s how it goes for picking the right watch for the right occasion.

Sports, Adventure & Diving Watches

The line’s a bit blurry these days with many watchmakers incorporating ‘diving/sports/adventure heritage’ into their more refined pieces for formal use, but we’re talking about serious sports watches which are designed to do just that. Think bulkier Breitling Superoceans, Bremont’s Endurance GMT or OMEGA Seamasters paired with rubber straps for dedicated active duty. These are in no way bad watches, they’re just not designed to bode well with a suit because they can’t sit snug under a sleeve and tend to feature hits of bright colours. Dedicated outdoor watches like these are more sports watches, so wear them with your casual wear instead. Think along the lines of cool active outerwear.

Dress Watches

At the other end of the spectrum we have the dress watch. Whilst some may bear names that take inspiration from their sporting heritage, they are essentially heavily refined versions which still fall under the dress watch category. Dress watches often exhibit a much cleaner dial design and more humbling functions (hours, minutes, seconds, date) which hark back to tradition rather than all out versatility. Size-wise they also tend to be slimmer and feature more traditionally shaped cases paired to leather straps or a classy steel bracelet. Its design is solely dedicated to seeing you through formal affairs whether that be in a business suit, a wedding suit or a fancy tuxedo.

Aviation & Motorsport Watches

This one’s another murky area as both driving and aviation-style watches are these days acceptable as dress watches. As a style guide, we’d recommend sticking to traditional dress watches with suits and tuxedos if you’re the conservative type. Pairing driving and aviation watches to suits are for those who want to add a bit more character, conversation and ‘pop’ to their overall look. These types of watches can do that because they often come with cool design elements and distinct functions lifted from their respective fields (motorsports and flying). The best way to describe these watches is somewhere between a dress watch and a sports watch. They have the refinement of a dress watch but with the added flair of a sports watch. As such, we’d recommend pairing them with a smart casual look; a blazer with jeans, a denim shirt with chinos, button-up linen shirts with fitted shorts, leather jackets with jeans. The idea is that the watch should match your day’s activity.

How To Accessorise Your Watch

Besides playing around with the plethora of straps available on the market, there’s no other way to accessorise a nice luxury watch – and that’s a good thing. Simply switching out a black leather strap with a brown leather strap can take a dress watch from formal to smart casual. The same also goes for changing it up to a NATO strap for casual weekend duties. Each strap material has its place and purpose so again, know what the occasion is and then style your watch accordingly.

  • Black leather straps and steel bracelets are best used in formal environments like work or special functions
  • Brown leather straps can also be used in formal situations but cross over into smart casual territory
  • NATO straps are usually woven nylon or fabric and feature cool colours and patterns. Use these to pare down your watch whilst standing out for all the right reasons
  • Rubber straps are purely for active duty like sports, sailing, diving, adventure, etc

Wearing A Watch With A Dress Shirt

A formal affair calls for a formal look. From weddings, to swanky bars to job interviews, there’s an art to pairing a watch to any formal dress shirt.

  • First rule: A long sleeve shirt should cover 85-percent or more of the watch when your arm is straight. It’s only when the arm is bent that the watch should be visible. Also make sure the sleeve length isn’t so long that it goes half way down your forehand. A alterations place can fix this
  • Second rule: Watches always belong under the sleeve, not over it (unless you want to look like you just robbed someone)
  • Third rule: The watch’s thickness should be moderate so that it can sit under the cuff comfortably. As we mentioned, a chunky diver’s watch won’t work well in this dress shirt-suit scenario
  • Fourth rule: Make sure the strap fits your wrist properly. You’re not in school anymore so wearing a watch around your forearm will never be cool

Wearing A Watch With Short Sleeve & Long Sleeve Shirts

We’re no longer talking about suits and dress shirts here. Watches are also perfect for pairing with your casual short sleeve button-up shirts and long sleeve button-up shirts. There’s no rules on which sleeve style one is right or wrong for watches – so long as the fit is right.

Some proven winning looks for the casual shirt-watch combo includes the long sleeve button up shirt with rolled sleeves. It’s a good way to show off the timepiece and we’d recommend opting for sports watches or driving and aviation timepieces. The same can also be applied to short sleeve shirts.

If you’re a casual t-shirt kind of guy, definitely don’t choose a dress watch as this will look a bit out of place. Again, sports watches or driving and aviation timepieces work best here irrespective of long or short sleeve.

Wearing A Watch FAQ