You might think that men naturally know how to wear a watch. You just strap it on, and you’re good to go.
Sure, in many cases, that works just fine. But wearing a timepiece can be an art form in itself, and it’s fallen by the wayside in recent years.
When you know the right watch to wear for each occasion and with each suit, you’ll find that you can subtly elevate your style IQ.
Basic Tips on How to Wear a Watch
When we were kids, wearing a watch required no thought. All you had to do was slap on your Micky Mouse watch on your wrists, and you were good to go.
As an adult, there’s more finesse to wearing a watch.
The trick is to make your watch seem like an effortless accessory, as though it’s a natural extension of the suit you’re wearing.
Of course, it takes some basic understanding to make wearing a watch appear as if it’s second nature, but it can make all the difference.
Wear the Watch Beside the Wrist Bone
Did you realize there’s a correct placement for your watch?
When you look at your wrists, with your palms facing down, notice the small bone sticking out on the outside of your wrist. That bone is called “ulna“.
The face of your watch should rest just below your ulna. That specific location ensures that your watch is mainly hidden beneath your dress shirt sleeve. Your watch should not sit any further up your arm.
You Can Wear a Watch on Both Sides
Most watch connoisseurs will advise you to wear your watch on your non-dominant hand.
So, for example, if you are left-handed, your watch should sit on your right wrist, so it doesn’t get in the way when you write.
However, this isn’t a concrete rule. Wear your watch on whichever side makes you happy. There is no wrong way to locate your watch, and nobody will judge you for whichever side you choose.
Watch Case is Not Too Big
Your wrist size affects the size that your watch case should be. The face of your watch should be about 2/3 the size of your wrist.
The proportion is an essential factor to consider; the larger your wrist is, the larger the face of your watch can and should be.
Your entire outfit will seem off-kilter if your watch face is too large or too small on your wrist. Again, your watch should seem like just another part of your suit.
Oversized items are not natural. The best size range for a watch case tends to fall between 34mm and 50mm. Anything over 50mm is most likely too large.
Proper Watch Band Fit & Width
The width of your watch band is usually proportionate to the face. Therefore, the larger your watch case is, the wider your watch band should be.
Conversely, if you wear a watch with a slim watch case, the band should also be thin. Once your watch band is secured to your wrist, it must fit properly and feel comfortable.
Your watch shouldn’t move around on your arm; it looks sloppy when loose. Neither should it appear to be cutting into your skin.
The best way to check the sizing of your watch band is to slide one finger between your wrist and the band. You should just be able to squeeze your finger in between.
Different Watch Types You Can Wear According to Occasion
Wearing the wrong watch for the occasion will stand out like a flashing light. It will call attention to itself and could detract from your outfit.
It’s sort of like wearing the wrong shoes with your suit. It may not be obvious what is wrong with your ensemble, but it will be apparent that something doesn’t look right.
Don’t send an incorrect message by wearing the wrong watch. A watch that perfectly suits the dress code shows that you pay attention to detail and have respect for the event.
Whether that event is a wedding, a gala fundraiser, a business meeting, or a casual meetup with friends, your watch unintentionally signals how you feel about the occasion.
For example, you wouldn’t wear tennis shoes with a business suit, so you shouldn’t wear a sports watch with one, either.
Fortunately, there are many categories of watch styles to pair with your outfits:
- Dress Watch
- Dive Watch
- Chrono Watch
- Aviator Watch
- Field Watch
Dress Watch for Formal Events
A dress watch is defined by its simplicity. It has a plain face, very little in the way of embellishments, and no complications. It has a very clean look.
Dress watches are typically made of precious metals such as gold or platinum. They may include some gemstones, but those should be minimal. Don’t go overboard with the sparkle; keep your watch tasteful.
On the other hand of the spectrum, affordable dress watches usually feature a stainless steel case.
The most formal watches have leather straps. If you wear your dress watch for a formal event, your dress shoes will most likely be black; therefore, your watch strap should also be black.
Dress watches are thin and have a slim casing. The main goal of a dress watch is to remain discreet.
A dress watch is suitable for most occasions; they’re dressy enough for a tuxedo and can make more casual outfits seem a bit nicer.
The only times a dress watch would be inappropriate would be for sporting events or other very casual clothing.
Formal Watch for Business & Semi-Formal Events
This category offers a little more flexibility than most formal events. You can still rock a dress watch, but you can also expand your styles to include dive watches.
Diving watches are bulkier than dress watches because they have a metal bracelet for their band. They also have a few more details, known in the watch industry as “complications.”
For example, they may include a calendar or daytime/nighttime indicator.
Chrono watches are also acceptable but not the preferred option.
Chrono watches, short for chronograph watches, have a stopwatch feature that was very useful before smartphones could do all that for you. These watches can have either a leather or metal band.
Chrono watches are appropriate most of the time you wear any suit, as long as it isn’t a tuxedo.
However, these options are perfectly fine for both formal and casual business offices, cocktail parties, semi-formal weddings, and most casualwear.
Casual Watch for Casual Clothing
For the days when you are doing more than sitting at your desk and are being more active, your watch should be made of strong material, like stainless steel, for example.
When you’re dressing casually, you’ll likely want a watch that’s durable and not as fragile as a dress watch. A chrono watch is a perfect casual watch, and so is an aviator or field watch.
Aviator watches are large, rugged watches with leather straps and many complications. Pilots originally wore them, and they relied on their watches for help.
A field watch is another fine choice. This was initially developed as a military watch and is exceptionally durable and waterproof.
They can have metal, leather, or canvas straps; they aren’t quite dress watches but are definitely more stylish than a sport watch.
Any of these watches are excellent for everyday activities and are also suitable for business-casual settings.
Sport Watch for Everyday Wear
You can opt for a sport watch for either the style if you are aiming for a sporty look or the function it offers you when exercising.
Sport watches need to be appropriate for wearing when you swear, so their bands are usually fabric, plastic, or rubber. Of course, it should be waterproof, too.
Sport watches aren’t high style, but some can look quite nice and are acceptable for your day-to-day life. However, avoid these casual accessories when dressing up for work or a social event.
How to Match the Watch with the Rest of the Attire
You aren’t quite done yet once you’ve matched your watch to the occasion. It is also critical to make sure your watch goes with your clothing.
Your watch’s style needs to set the tone of your outfit, but it also needs to look fitting with your clothes.
In other words, make sure your watch doesn’t clash.
Getting the formality level right through the style of the watch is the first step. Now that you’ve got that down, the rest of the details need to look right against your clothes.
Match Your Watch to Your Shoes
Make sure that your watch is the same formality as your shoes. Also, if you are wearing your watch to a more formal event, your watch and shoes need to be the same color.
For example, if you’re wearing Oxford dress shoes, you should be wearing a dress watch.
On the other hand, if you’re sporting a pair of sneakers, a sports watch is more appropriate.
Those are simple and extreme examples, of course. Shoes like brogues, derby, and monk straps have various options; dress watches, divers, and aviators will all work.
Match Leathers if You Wear a Leather Watch
Your leather watch strap should look the same as your leather belt and shoes.
Get the colors as near each other as possible, especially if you are dressing formally. That should be easy since formal calls for black, and black doesn’t have different shades.
Brown leather is more nuanced, but because it’s less dressy, the fashion police are more forgiving there. However, you can’t ever pull off tan shoes and a black leather watch strap.
Also, match the type of leather when possible. For example, if your watch strap is full-grain leather, it would be best if your belt was.
Match Metals if You Wear a Metal Watch
The rule about matching leather extends into the world of metals, too. Your other metal accessories should match if your watch has a brushed nickel casing.
You can’t pair gold with silver. A rose gold watch is stunningly beautiful, but if you pair it with platinum cuff links, all its beauty will be lost because of the disconnect between the metals.
The only exception is your wedding band. That’s more than just another accessory, and you wear it every day.
If you can match your metals to it, that’s fantastic. But don’t sweat it, as long as it’s the only piece that doesn’t fit.
Light Watch Case with Light Shirt & Vice Versa
Old guidance dictates that the dial color on your watch should align with the shading of your outfit.
So, for example, if you are wearing a dark shirt like black, your watch case should also be dark/black.
However, a white dial with a dark suit is entirely acceptable. Of course, it will stand out in contrast, but that isn’t a problem as long as your watch is tasteful.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it’s a helpful tip.
How to Wear a Watch with a Dress Shirt
Perhaps the first rule that needs to be cemented about wearing a watch with a long sleeve dress shirt is that you don’t ever put your watch over your sleeve. Instead, it should always sit directly on your skin.
The cuff of your long sleeves should cover the majority, but not all, of your watch. Leave just a small bit poking out, and when you bend your arms, your entire watch will be revealed.
Your watch should not be so thick that it can’t easily slide under your cuff. A slim watch works the best.
Again, your strap should be snug on your wrist. When you move your arm, your watch should stay in the same spot. If it spins or slides on your arm, it’s too loose and will look sloppy.
What to Avoid When You Wear a Watch
If you are going to do something, you may as well do it right. This applies to many things in life, even wearing a watch. However, sometimes it helps to know what not to do.
Don’t Wear Oversized Watches
A super large watch is inappropriate with most outfits because it attracts too much attention.
In addition, it ends up looking clownish because it doesn’t fit the proportions of the rest of your outfit, especially if you are dressed formally.
The other problem with a supersized watch is that it gets caught in your dress shirt sleeve. Avoid the awkward fidgeting with your cuff over your watch and stick to something more proportional.
Avoid Too Flashy Watches
An oversized watch can be categorized as flashy, but other details can also go too far.
A watch with a gemstone or two can look classy and elegant.
However, when you bedazzle your entire watch, it winds up looking tacky. That much sparkle is distracting; it appears like the owner is overcompensating or simply trying too hard to look rich.
Instead, keep your watch simple with just a hint of opulence, and you’ll remain classy.
Don’t Touch Another Person’s Watch
If you like another man’s watch, definitely pay him the compliment of your opinion, but admire it from a distance.
Feel free to ask him questions about his watch, but remember that a watch can be a very personal item. Having another person touching it without invitation can feel invasive.
However, he’ll be flattered to hear your admiration for his watch. And he may take it off and hand it to you to look at it more closely. But don’t make that first move.
Hi, I’m Alex, and I’ve studied and specialized in styling in Rome. Through my writing, I want to help men dress well and learn the purpose and significance of suits and other formal attire. My final goal is to make men more confident in their wardrobe choice and life in general.