Wearing Rules

Let’s clarify straight away: there is not a specific way to wear a wristwatch like a pro. There exist some arbitrary guidelines about the way to best wear a wristwatch, but every outlet or person will give you his/her own version. Some directions are consistent, others might get you lost. You might wear it on the left or right hand, loose or tight, under or on top of the shirt sleeve… everyone has his/her own philosophy. However, there are a couple of things to take in consideration when wearing a wristwatch.

Nowadays, the passage of time is indicated everywhere, starting from the so common mobile phones to your PC (or mac) or the many wall clocks. Nonetheless, watches are still broadly used. There are different reasons why we keep wearing wristwatches, but they are now mostly used as a fashion accessory. As such, it is better to follow trends and the unwritten fashion rules. This applies to both the choice of the watch and the way to wear it (same as for clothes). 


1. Match Your Wrist

wristwatch case dimension

The watch should not only fit you well, it should also enhance your style. You know your style, so you are in the best position to choose the watch design. But be careful on the case shape and the dimensions you select. When people choose sunglasses, for instance, they know that depending on the shape of the face one design might fit better than another. This is the case also for watches and it would be better to choose the case design and the dimensions based on the specific wrist each one of us has.

It is good practice not to wear wristwatches with lug-to-lug size equal or bigger than the wrist size - always leave some space on both sides. Notice that we are referring to the lug-to-lug dimension and not to the case diameter as the lugs design has also an impact on the overall look (and comfort). Women might go for the very small case dimensions, while men generally wear wristwatches with lug-to-lug only few millimeters to max half centimeter smaller than the wrist (on each side). 

wristwatch case shape

In terms of shape there is more flexibility, but it is important to note that some shapes are more appropriate for certain types of wrists. Over time the wristwatch shape has evolved and now we have a quite broad choice. For instance, a tank (rectangular) kind of watch tends to emphasize small wrists due to the linear design that breaks the arm/hand continuity. On the other hand, classically rounded shapes might look better on smaller wrists as they smooth out the transition between the arm and the hand.

Finally, colors of both case, dial and bracelet should be carefully considered based on the type of wrist but also on the skin shade one has.


2. Be Style Aware

Gianni Agnelli was an influential Italian industrialist and principal shareholder of Fiat, but he was also a daring elegant gentleman and a trend setter. One of his style signatures was about wearing wristwatches on top of the shirt sleeve. And, he is not the only one wearing watches in a very peculiar way. Diego Armando Maradona, the professional footballer and manager, use to wear two (Hublot) watches, one on each wrist. Similarly did Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and General Norman Schwarzkopf. Fiedel Castro, instead, used to wear two (Rolex) watches on the same wrist. 

Gianni Agnelli Watch

The point is that there is not a written rule on how / how many watches to wear. You can dare creating your own style, you can even wear the watch on your ankle if you fancy doing so (and can read the time). But, you need to be aware and confident of your style.

Conversely, if you wish not to be noticed, then you can keep the standard of mono watch in one single wrist – you choose left or right depending on which one is most comfortable for you. Some people prefer to wear the watch in the “weak arm” so that the other one, the most used, can freely move. Most of the time the watch faces up so to avoid scratches when sitting on a table, but, again, some people do wear the watch facing down. Make your own choice based on style or comfort criteria.


3. Treat it as a Friend

There are lots of guidelines about how tight or loose the watch strap needs to be. As in everything, “in medio stat virtus” (the virtue lies in the middle) hence you should aim for not too loose and not to tight. The watch is your friend, so you want to keep it close enough not to lose it and distant enough so that you can breathe. 

wearing wristwatches

Similar concept applies to the choice of strap. It should let you breathe and it should make you feel at ease. You might change by season and occasion moving from leather to textile to metal (also depending on the specific watch design chosen) and you can generally easily change the wrist tightness to make you feel as comfortable as possible. 

On this last point, there are several theories, most of which claim that the watch should not be visible under your shirt cuff unless you’re bending your arm. Indeed, a good advice but why wearing a watch if it is not visible? Just to check the time? Then you can use a mobile phone. As previously mentioned, the watch is now mainly a fashion accessory hence feel free to show it off (or keep it as your secret accessory if you wish) – you make your own style.

Finally, remember that you can also accompany your “friend” with other bracelets. Nothing wrong with it but just make sure they get along (to keep the analogy) and their look and style does not clash.  



In a nutshell the true rule is that there is no rule! Forget about what others say and enjoy your wristwatch(es) as you wish.


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