What's the Correct Wrist to Wear Your Watch On?
Tuesday - 06 August 2013
As a child, I was encouraged to wear my watch on my left wrist. When I asked "why?" (as children do), I was told it was because I'm right handed. If I wore my watch on my right wrist, it would be more likely to get scratched or damaged.
Recently, my curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to investigate whether there's a "right" way to wear a watch. Right wrist or left wrist?
I discovered there's two opposing views, with strong opinions on each side.
The Argument for Convention
I was brought up to wear my watch on my left wrist. If I ever put a watch on my right wrist, it feels heavy, awkward and out of place.
Wearing a watch on the left wrist is the conventional way of doing things. The main reason for this isn't to avoid damage, as I was taught, though that is one reason. Rather, wearing a watch left-wristed allows watches to be wound while they're being worn. Most watches have a crown on the right hand side. That means winding is a breeze if they're worn on the left wrist. Worn on the right wrist, you have to be extremely dextrous to get your winding done without taking the watch off.
Left-wristed wearing also keeps the watch out of the way while writing and eating. Additionally - for tea and coffee addicts on a tight schedule - it means you can hold a hot drink in your right hand and still check the time on your left.
Proponents of the conventional view believe traditions are there to be kept. Going against the norm, people might assume there's something "off" about you. As such, when you want to come across as professional and competent, it's best to opt for left-wristed wearing. Alan Kirshner explains:
"Until someone knows you they only see the watch on the right hand and see only that you have violated the convention and may draw the (incorrect) conclusion that there is something unconventional about you."
Even those who strongly believe in convention accept there are some situations when it's acceptable to wear a watch on the right wrist, such as a left-handed person wearing a left-handed watch, or a military marksman who needs to check the time on his right wrist while holding his rifle steady in his left hand.
The Laissez-Faire Approach
In many areas of life the fast pace of change in our modern world means tradition is often ignored, overlooked, or simply irrelevant. This is certainly true when it comes to wearing watches.
Many watch lovers today will say it doesn't matter which wrist you wear your watch on. If people judge others by how they wear their watches, that's their problem, not the problem of the watch wearer. This is the mainstream view. Both Esquire and GQ advocate this laissez-faire approach to watch wearing.
What's more, some right-wristers argue that their way of wearing a watch is more practical. The crown, they say, is less likely to suffer water damage whilst washing hands when a watch is worn on the right wrist.
The only question is: if anything goes, so there's no protocol for how to wear a watch, how do the unconventional express themselves?
Eccentric Ways of Watch Wearing
Even the laissez-faire camp has its limits, which means there are still eccentric ways of wearing a watch, or watches.
Two watches on one wrist is rarely seen, perhaps for good reason. It grabs attention, but it marks you out as unusual.
A more subtle unconventional approach is to wear a watch upside down. I've heard of a journalist who did this to keep track of time during interviews without alerting the interviewee.
Or perhaps you could model your style on the former CEO of Volvo, who wore a watch on both wrists, with each watch set to different time zones.
What's Your Convention?
The strongest conventions are our own. It feels strange to violate what we've done every day for many years.
Why not take a stand against your own conventions and try wearing your watch on a different wrist to usual? You'll give your wrist a chance to breathe (or tan, if we get some sunshine). You never know, you might enjoy the change.