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Why Do People Wear Watches Upside Down? Several Reasons, Actually

August 27, 2021

Here, we'll be answering the question of (at least for some) a controversial practice. Why do people wear watches upside down? For most people the answer is simple: habit.

But where did the practice come from? And does it have practical implications? I grew up with a dad who wore his watch on the inside of his wrist. For him, he had developed the practice at sea. He was an engineer and, before I was born, had spent his time sailing the seven seas (although to listen to his stories, they spent more time in port than actually sailing anywhere).

I never really copied his thing. Wearing a watch on the inside of your wrist gets in the way of the keyboard and bangs on the table. As an author, that's quite an issue. But I've always been fascinated by the practice.

The reasons to wear a watch upside down

Simply put, there are 5 major reasons people might want to wear their watch on the inside of their wrist:

  • Watches as a style statement
  • Protecting your watch against damage
  • Make it easy to read your watch
  • Stop glare and reflection from your watch
  • Discretion

Let's take a look at each of them

Watches as a style statement

We are always looking for ways to express ourselves. Especially as a younger person, we're always looking to display our individuality. Watches can be a big part of expressing personality. Someone with a nixie tube watch on their wrist is sending a very different message to someone with an apple watch.

But just as the watches themselves are expressions of self, so is the way you wear them. Having your watch inside your wrist is one method of changing up your style.

person wearing the watch upside down

Protecting your watch against damage

If you work with your hands, wearing a watch can expose it to a lot of punishment. But you still need to check your watch. Plumbers, joiners, nurses, police, military personnel and special forces. They all work in situations that expose their watches to risk. All day long they are in situations that can scratch, knock or spill something on their timepiece.

In these circumstances, it can be very practical to keep your watch inside of your wrist to give it added protection. Having the face protected by your wrist can stop scratches and knocks, and avoid grease, dirt or bodily fluids.

Make it easy to read your watch

For the majority of people, wearing a watch on the top of your wrist, makes it easy to read. As I type, I don't even have to move my wrist to see the time.

But that is not the case for everyone. With certain jobs, often those where you use your hands a lot, it is easier to read your watch from the inside of your wrist.

It's not really the case anymore because of modern technology, but nurses would traditionally wear a watch on the inside of their wrists to make it easier to count time while taking a pulse.

Engineers, mechanics and tradespeople often find it easier wearing a watch on the inside of their wrist. As they hold tools or perform work, it is a more natural position to read the time.

Military and special forces personnel and armed police can wear watches upside down as it's easier to read the time while holding a rifle or gun. In a life and death situation, the tiny difference can have huge consequences.

Stop glare and reflection from your watch

We've all had our watch catch the sunlight streaming through a window and played with the reflection on the wall. Or maybe that's just me. Regardless, we know a watch can reflect light and even dazzle the teacher's eyes if you get it right (or is that just me again?). But is stopping reflection really a reason to have watches on upside down?

For some people, yes, and with good reason. Military personnel finding themselves in the line of fire, don't want to advertise their position to the enemy. A stray reflection from the display face could literally mean death in the wrong circumstances. The enemy could find you and all your squad mates. Light discipline is something to be taken seriously in the armed forces.

On the flip side, light from the sun reflecting on a hunter's watch dial might alert their prey to their position and let them escape.

For both these reasons, wearing your watch upside down is a necessary discipline.

wrist watch turned upside down

Discretion

Have you ever been in a job interview where the interviewer looks at their watch? Or discussing promotion with your boss? Or a sales meeting? It never feels like a good sign. But there might be a totally innocent reason that person is checking the time.

If you want to discreetly glance at your watch, it can be one good reason you might choose to wear your watch upside down.

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Conclusion

So, there are many reasons to have timepieces on the 'wrong' side of your wrists. Having a wristwatch the wrong way on your wrist can actually be a good idea.

If you're making a style statement and bringing attention to your arm by wearing the watch upside down. If you're working to protect that precious apple watch you love from damage.

Or you're making it easier to read your screen. If you're being discrete. Perhaps, you're avoiding reflecting light from the sun to hide you're position from the enemy.

Whatever the cause, wearing a watch upside down might be wise. There is no right side and wrong side to wearing your watch.

Author
Alastair Crombie
I’ve been collecting watches since I bought a ‘Rowex’ for a fiver from a mate when I was 10. He told me you pronounced it Rolex and that’s how it all started. I used to love that Rowex. These days I still tend to stick to the more affordable end of the market. Both my wallet and my wife are happier that way. My favorite watch changes with the seasons, and that’s what I love about watches. Each one doesn’t just tell the time, much more importantly, they tell a story.
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