How To Wear Men's Watches

Unlike earrings, necklaces, and bracelets, a good watch is one of the few universally acceptable pieces of jewelry that any man can wear and for that reason alone, it's an accessory that every guy should have and know how to wear properly.

Whether you think you’re a watch guy or not, any self-respecting man should own a watch or two and know how and when it should be worn.


Your watch should fit your wrist properly, be worn above or below your wrist bone, should match your outfit or activity and have a specific design.

Watch Mistakes Most Men Make

I see so many guys making the following mistakes, so I want you to be aware of them:

  • Wearing the wrong watch with your outfit.
    Super common error. I've included a lot more in-depth information on this below.

  • Not matching your fabrics.
    If you're wearing a suited look, then the leather strap of your dress watch should match the leather of your shoes and belt.

  • Assuming that high price = high quality.
    These days, it's easy to find a stylish and well-made timepiece that won't break the bank. Also, a lot of the more expensive watches on the market can have an overly-flashy aesthetic that can usually come across as cheap and tacky.

Want to learn what other common mistakes men make when it comes to their accessories? Check out my Essential Capsule Wardrobe App.

What Size Should Your Watch Be?

If you have a smaller wrist, around 6 inches (15.25cm), then go with a 40mm or smaller.

If you have an average to wider wrist, around 7 inches (17.75cm) or bigger, then go with a 40 to 44mm sized watch.

Most older watches, including Rolex’s diving watches, were 38mm or less, but they’ve since shifted to 40mm to follow the trend of larger watches now.

Traditionally, dress watches were made to be smaller and fit under your shirt cuffs, while diving or chronograph watches are bigger so they’re easier to read while doing the activities they were designed for.

It’s really up to your personal preference. I’m a little 'new school' in that I think dress watches don’t need to be tiny and unless your wrists are extremely small, then any size between 36 and 44mm will be fine (almost all watches fall within these sizes anyways) as long as it fits under your shirt sleeve when wearing a dress watch.

It’s when you get into vintage watches that the sizes tend to be smaller. So if you prefer a smaller watch, then vintage may be right for you.

Where Should a Watch Be Worn On My Arm/Wrist?

Which hand?

  • Your watch should be worn on the wrist of your non-dominant hand.

    • This allows for better dexterity and ease of movement for tasks that require your dominant hand.

Where on my arm?

  • Typically, you should wear it at the tip of the ulna (the bone on your wrist that sticks out).

  • If you try keeping your watch on top of or above that bone (closer to where your wrist and hand meet), it could be uncomfortable, but if you're okay with that, then feel free to wear it there.

  • Most men wear their watches with the face facing out on the top of their wrist.

    • However, some may prefer to wear the watch face on the inside of their wrist during certain activities to protect the watch face from scratches.

      • Do this only during said activities, otherwise it looks like you're wearing a weird bracelet (metal or leather) with a buckle in the middle.

  • When your hands are at your sides, your watch may slightly show from under your shirt cuffs if you're wearing long sleeves.

How To Match Your Watch To Your Outfit

It’s pretty simple. If you’re wearing:

  • A suit with black dress shoes and a black belt.
    You should be wearing a dress watch with a black leather strap.

  • A suit with brown dress shoes and a brown belt.
    You should be wearing a dress watch with a brown leather strap.

  • Anything outside of a suit, even if you’re wearing dress shoes, you can wear any type of watch you’d like – that includes dress watches as well as any sport, chrono, diver, pilot, etc. type of watches.

How and When To Wear a Smartwatch

  • Smartwatches have an overly 'techy' aesthetic that will just never have the same classic look as a dress or sport watch.

  • Don't wear them for anything above a casual dress code as they will not work with business casual, or formal outfits.

  • However, there are certain instances where you can wear them:

    • Going to the gym/for a run/hike.

    • Laying around the house.

    • In bed (to track your sleep).

Want to know how to pair your other must-have accessories with your outfits? Check out my Essential Capsule Wardrobe App.

What Watches Should a Man Own?

  • To cover all your bases, you should have one to three watches in your collection.

  • You can absolutely get away with owning only one, provided that you don't wear suits with any sort of regularity.

    • Two or three different watches, however, will cover you for every outfit and scenario.

Silver Dress Watch With A Black Leather Strap

Here are the basics of what this watch should be. If you own one watch, this should be it. That way it’ll cover you for most scenarios. You’ll also need a brown leather band to swap out as your outfit accessories dictate according to the matching rules I discussed earlier.

Your black leather strapped watch should have the following features:

Silver Case

You want a silver case because, just like with the hardware on your belts, it’ll match with everything. If you were to get a watch with a gold or black case and black leather band, it won’t match as well or be too sporty to complement the rest of your wardrobe.

As for the size of the case, that’ll depend on your preference and what looks best on you, but a classic dress watch is supposed to be very thin and a small case size small (sub 40MM, usually).

White Dial

The dial of your watch should be white because it’ll match perfectly with everything you could throw at it. Black, blue, skeleton, or other dials won’t match as well or will come off as too sporty or gaudy.

Black Leather Strap

You can also use a leather alternative or other hide – kangaroo, ostrich, alligator, etc. The one thing you should never do is wear a nato or rubber strap with a suit. If I can be blunt – it looks like shit and is an amateur move. Those should be reserved for casual outfits only.

In regard to the stitching on the strap, I’ll forever dislike contrasting stitching, just like I do on wallets, so ideally, the stitching should match the color of the strap.

Subdials Or Complications

I’m a little 'new school' in that I don’t believe a dress watch needs to have the cleanest dial possible. I don’t mind a few subdials or complications like a power reserve, subdial seconds, moon phase, or month/day date. Just don’t go crazy and use a chronograph or diving watch (details below) with a leather strap as a dress watch, please.

Silver or Gold Dress Watch With A Brown Leather Strap

The requirements for your brown leather-strapped dress watch are nearly identical to the black leather-strapped dress watch above – with one major exception:

This is the one time when a gold case is acceptable because the dominant color of the accessories you’d be matching with would be brown, regardless of the hardware color of your belt. I’d still prefer a silver case if given the choice, but a gold case would work just as well.

If you have the budget for only one watch (or only want to own one dress watch), then make sure to get a black band to swap out with your silver-cased watch as your outfit accessories dictate. It’s a little bit of a pain, but not so much that this isn’t an option. Changing watch straps is quite easy.

A Chronograph, Diving or Sport Watch

Also, called "Sports Watches" or 'Tool Watches" you want this type of watch to round out your collection because it goes with any outfit from business casual right on down to casual.

Please, for the love of all that is holy, please don’t wear your sports watch with a suit - even if you've thrown a leather strap on it. I immediately know a guy doesn’t know much about looking good when I see a sport watch with a suit.

Here are the details of what I look for in a good sports watch:

Black Or Blue Dial

If I had my choice, I would choose a black or blue dial, with a slight edge to blue, as long as it’s more navy and not a royal blue. The latter is just way too loud.

Silver Metal Bracelet

There’s nothing better for casual outfits than a metal bracelet – in either titanium or stainless steel. Just like in the dress watches above, I prefer these materials and colors over a black or gold bracelet because it goes with everything and all the hardware on your belts, tie bars, etc. I also really love to see the metal bracelets swapped out for leather, rubber, perlon, or nato straps, as well, but metal bracelets are a necessity for any sports watch – so you want to make sure it comes with that, first.

Want to see what other accessories you need based on your specific age, body type, and skin tone? Check out my Essential Capsule Wardrobe App.

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