Most men with a sense of style know not to match brown shoes with black belts, a pre-tied bowtie or pyjamas in public. I remember my father once mentioning that the only glass a man loves to keep clean is the glass of his watch. When it comes to wearing watches people don’t really care about the rules. On many occasions you will discover men wearing completely inappropriate timepieces to their outfits. Being aware about some watch etiquette will save you from embarrassment, no matter how expensive, casual or formal the occasion is. Younger gentlemen will eventually begin to appreciate the meaning of classic—–an item that stands the test of time. At some point, these maritime gauges that so many of us wear look like what you’d expect to see on the QEII or Queen Mary or a cargo ship. The will fade out of vogue and when they do, you will be able to cover the succeeding watch with the cuff of your shirt and jacket sleeve.
1. Match your metals & colors Try and match the metals and the colors of the watch to the rest of the outfit you have on. Note the color of your belt buckles, shoe buckles, rings, collar bars or pins, and cufflinks and choose a watch in a matching metal. Wear yellow gold with yellow gold, and don’t wear a brown band when you’re wearing a black suit. Focus specifically on the boldest parts of the watch; the color of the strap, the color of metal and even the color of the dial.
2. Don’t wear the same watch every day Even if you only own one nice watch, you shouldn’t wear it every day for several reasons. First, if the watch is a piece that you love, giving the watch a break will make it last longer. Second, one watch is rarely suited to the variety of outfits that a man will wear in a given week. The office, the gym, sporting events, dinners out, and parties all require different clothes and hence different watches. If you wear the same watch daily, chances are that 20-30% of the time it is the wrong watch to be wearing. Regardless of your budget, if you love wearing a watch, try building up a small collection of reputable watches that suit all the various needs you have during the week, and give you favorite piece the occasional break.
3. Skip the bling Wearing a diamond encrusted watch is fine if you’re a music mogul, but it has no place in the wardrobe of a well-dressed gentleman. Like an oversized watch, flashy diamonds and jewels are simply a cry for attention. They will distract from the rest of your outfit by drawing all the attention to one point. Most people will be wondering if it’s real, rather than what kind of watch it is. Diamonds and jewels also have the effect of making men’s watches appear more feminine. Unless you’re trying to be the next Eminem, skip the diamonds – with one exception. Some dress watches use very fine diamonds or other stones to accent small details, such as the rim of the dial or the numbers on the face. If the stones are subtle and enhance the overall features of the watch without being ostentatious, then they can find a place in a gentleman’s watch collection. Just remember to wear them in appropriate settings and don’t buy sporting watches, as diamonds are not suited to more casual watches. Finally, it should go without saying that you should never buy a watch with fake stones. If you can’t afford the real thing, skip stones altogether, as they will only cheapen the overall look and make it painfully obvious that you seek the kind of attention diamonds can bring.
4. Wear your watch on the wrist that suits you The old rule of thumb was to always wear a watch on the non-dominant wrist. The reasoning was that it is the opposite of the dominant hand. Don’t let tradition dictate on which hand you wear your watch; wear it where you find it most comfortable. Like any other garment or accessory, your watch should fit you properly in two key ways. The size of the dial should be proportional to your wrist, and the band should fit snugly but comfortably. A loose band looks sloppy, so take it to your jeweler to have it sized to your wrist.
5. Admire other men’s watches from a distance Just as you would never touch another man’s wallet, don’t expect to handle his watch. For many men the watch is the only piece of jewelry they own or wear, and they take great pride in keeping it dust free, fingerprint free and well polished. It’s perfectly okay to politely ask to see a watch, but don’t expect him to take it off his wrist. If he offers, feel free to accept, but try to handle it as little as possible and never place it on a hard surface where it could get scratched.
6. Pair watches with outfits appropriately Just as you wouldn’t sit on the beach in a morning coat, you also don’t want to wear your dress watch sailing. Try and match the type of watch you wear to the activity you’re involved in each day. If you’re unsure what you’ll be doing, pair it with your choice of clothes; sport watches with athletic wear, dress watches with business wear, or a simple Seven Friday with beach wear. If you’re invited to a formal event or gathering and the dress code calls for black tie, attitudes have changed about wearing a watch. Historically it is considered impolite to wear a watch, but the rules regarding black tie have softened to accommodate wearing a simple dress watch with a black face and band if you choose. A pocket watch like U-boat or Bomberg is an alternative. For the rare white tie event, tradition demands that you do not wear a watch at all.
7. Beware the implications of checking your watch Even though a great watch is one of a man’s ultimate accessories, checking it can have some negative social implications even if that’s exactly the reason you are wearing it! If you’re on a date, in a meeting, or at a social event, don’t check your watch visibly in front of other people. Just like it’s rude to check your phone at a movie or restaurant, checking your watch shows that you have other things on your mind; things that take precedence over your present company. Unless you’re still young and have a curfew, the only way you should know what time a date is over is when she says goodnight.
8. Wear dark with dark, and light with light If you’re out during the day consider a lighter colored face such as white or cream. However, at night focus on darker dials such as black, grey or browns. Just like a tuxedo is for evening wear and you wouldn’t wear it to brunch, a dark watch dial should be on your wrist at night, rather than during your 9am tee time at the country club.
9. Never wear a dive watch with a suit Just because James Bond did it, doesn’t mean you should. James Bond was a spy who might, in fact, jump into a river in a suit at any moment. As far as we can tell, he’s the only one (besides other actors with endorsement deals with Omega) who should wear a dive watch with a suit. Dive watches are bulky, they don’t fit well under a suit jacketand they are a tell-tale sign that you don’t know the rules of watch-wearing…or that you aspire to have your own theme song. The same way that you wouldn’t wear your sunglasses at night, leave the dive watch for casual wear and pair a simple dress watch with your suit.
10. The oversized watch is over For the last couple of years, oversized watches have become the norm in men’s style. This popular trend only served one purpose: to scream for attention. An oversized watch dwarfs your wrist, throws off the proportions of your entire outfit, and simply doesn’t “fit” well into a nicely combined outfit. For a watch enthusiast, those large dials are nothing more than for show. If you want to be taken seriously in the world of horology, stick to watches that fit your wrist.