Which Hand Do Watches Go On? Left Or Right Wrist? Men vs. Women?

We’re with you: keeping up with all the fashion rules is exhausting. Can this black belt be worn with these brown pants? Is it still considered bad taste to wear white after Labor Day? Is wearing socks with sandals really so bad? (That one is easy: Yes, it is.)

It feels like, for every new piece of clothing or accessory, there is some unwritten rule on how, when, and where to wear it.

There even seems to be rules on how to wear a watch. You probably thought it was just as simple as slapping it on your wrist, but apparently not. Now, if we’re being honest, we’ve started second guessing ourselves. Should we wear our watch on the right or left wrist? On the dominate or non-dominate hand? Does it matter if we’re a man or a woman?

Based on the number of Google results that come up for these questions, it would appear there is a chance you’ve wondered about one or two of them yourself.

So, let’s get into it and settle it once and for all.

On the right or left?

The obvious first question is, does the watch go on your right wrist or on the left? Since this is the most basic detail to figure out, you would think that there would be a hard and fast rule. Alas, nothing can be that easy.

If you don’t want to think about it too much, the simplest answer is that your watch generally goes on your non-dominant hand. Your dominant hand is the hand with which you do most actions, the one that, for most people, is most dexterous. So, if you’re right-handed, your non-dominant hand is your left, and for left-handers, it’s your right.

Wearing your watch on your non-dominant hand frees you up to see what time it is while you’re doing whatever you’re doing with your dominant hand. No one wants to accidently dump their drink on their shirt because they wanted to check the time. There, it’s settled. Isn’t it?

Well, not so fast. For one, some people prefer to wear their watch on their dominant hand for purposes of comfort or functionality. If you’ve already got your dominant hand extended to tighten a screw or change the channel, all it takes is the slightest twist of the wrist to see the time.

Most people do seem to prefer wearing their watch on their non-dominant hand, but it’s not exactly a rule. Either way, though, it’s clear that the question involves more than just choosing right or left.

Who wears the crown?

If you own a watch currently, there is a good chance it was meant to be worn on your left hand. We know what you’re thinking, didn’t we just say it’s not a hard-set rule on which wrist you wear a watch. Well, it’s not, but that doesn’t mean the makers of your watch didn’t have a specific wrist in mind when they designed it.

The issue comes down to which side of the watch the crown is located. The crown of the watch is the small, round knob that is used to set the time and, on a mechanical watch, wind the internal spring. The crown is almost always located on the side of the watch, either just beyond the ‘3’ or the ‘9’ on the exterior of the watch face.

Since the crown is meant to be easily manipulated by the opposite hand, you can tell which wrist the watch is designed to sit on depending on whether it is by the 3 or 9. If it’s the former, the watch was intended for the left wrist, as that makes it easiest for the right hand to turn. If the crown is by the 9, it’s the opposite. Go ahead, test it out real quick, we can wait.

Most watches are designed with the crown on the 3 side, because most people (90%) are right-handed, and because, as we discussed above, most people prefer to wear their watches on their non-dominant hand.

Luckily, for all you left-handers and non-conformists, you have options.

Left-handed watches

right wrist watch
Photo Credit: David Goehring

These days, there are entire stores of products created specifically for left-handed people. There are scissors, notebooks, and, yes, watches designed for all the southpaws in the world. Watches intended to be worn on the right wrist for left-handed users are known as destros (Italian for “right”) and they can be just as stylish and finely crafted as their opposite-side brethren.

Most major watchmakers, including Rolex, Heuer, Zenith, and Tudor offer expertly crafted timepieces with the crown alongside the 9. If you’re a left-hander, the luxury watch industry hasn’t left you behind.

Of course, just like picking the right or left wrist based on your dominant hand, there is no law saying you must wear a watch on the wrist for which it was designed.

If you’re interested in more wrist watch etiquette, check out these 5 tips:

What about for men and women?

Okay, so even if there isn’t an absolute rule on right versus left, there is probably still some sort of gender rule. You very well may have heard or read somewhere that men should wear their watches on their right wrist and women on their left. Certainly, enough people online think so that the question comes up time and time again.

Truth is, we found no evidence that that was ever a fashion rule or any other kind of rule. It is true that, up until World War I, wristwatches were thought of as being purely for women, but once soldiers started using them on the battlefield, that notion went out the window. Wristwatches have officially been part of men’s fashion for a century.

These days, the idea that there would be any kind of gender-specific way to wear a watch feels outdated, anyway. Wear your watch however you would like.

It’s time to accept it, there is no “right” way to wear a watch. If it’s more comfortable on your left wrist, wear it there, but if you prefer wearing it on your right, do that. No one can tell you you’re wrong.

If you’re still skeptical and remain convinced that there must be a rule, let us turn to no other than the fashion experts at GQ to put the question to rest once and for all. To quote: “Who cares?”

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