Why Do People Wear Watches Upside Down?
Daniel Louwrens31 July 2023 | 8 min read
I didn’t even know this was a thing, but upon doing a bunch of research, this is legitimately a real thing. So, either Jaeger-LeCoultre was far ahead of its time, or the world was just way behind. There are quite a few reasons why you’d wear your watch upside down – and each has its own benefits or drawbacks. Let’s run them down.
One more thing! When you actually Google Why do people wear watches upside down, you soon learn that there are two examples – upside down, simply turning the watch upside down, and wearing the watch with the dial facing the inside of your wrist. So, we’ll cover both of these.
In case you don’t know, Jaeger-LeCoultre designed a watch back in 1931 called the Reverso, and it revolutionised the watch industry as we know it. Jaeger, who is known for producing some of the best movements on the market, released a watch that swivels the case around to display the solid case back.
As the story goes, this was specifically developed for polo players, allowing them to protect the watch while they were not using it. Today, the Reverso is still a crowd favourite and is perhaps one of the most iconic watches being produced.
However, hop on over to Chrono24, and you soon realise that even the cheapest Reversos go for a pretty penny. If you’d like a precious metal option, you’re looking at a lot of money for essentially a watch that (when you break it down) doesn’t always show the time. What’s more, this is limited to a dress piece, seeing as you probably won’t go into the savannah with a Jaeger that’s 28mm wide and worn with a high-quality leather strap.
So, what’s a bundu-bashing young lady or gent to do?
Well, some people simply flip their watch. Yes, some individuals would simply flip the case of their watch to protect it from the elements of life. Safety is thus reason number one of why people wear their watches upside down.
They would wear the dial towards the inside of the wrist. This is perhaps more than just a ‘good reason’ to do so. This is an exceptional idea if we’re being honest. You get the presence of the watch, and you can simply switch the watch out when you need to. You get to protect your watch face, and if you own a $25,000 watch, this could be a big problem… Sapphire is expensive…
#2: A Fashion Statement
Watch wearers know that individuality is everything. Sure, Speedy Tuesdays and Seiko Owners Clubs will make us feel … like part of a club. However, you also feel somewhat let down when you see someone with an identical watch on their left wrist as you. Not really likely if you own a mechanical watch since there are not a lot of people wearing these.
As you may have seen out in the open, lots of people have odd tastes in almost anything. Whether you like putting Japanese female characters from Anime on your car or wearing a jacket with a bunch of holes in it, if it’s a fashion trend, people are bound to follow it.
Some people have also gone as far as flipping their watch upside down to make it unique. This does move everything from its natural position, but that’s a price they are willing to pay. Some folks might also wear it on the right arm while others flip the case inside out, even purely to be unique. While this can be done with all watch styles, I rarely see someone doing something like this with smartwatches. Maybe function does trump form?…
Just be aware that not everyone will share your taste and choice when it comes to making a statement like this. That said, if you do this, you probably don’t care what others have to say about you…
#3: Hiding Part of You
Some people are the exact opposite of the fashion icons. Some people are modest; some folks would prefer hiding parts of themselves to ensure they are not going to offend anyone or be ‘too much’ to some. A subtle and humble approach to a fashion item that sometimes costs thousands of dollars. Again, not something you’ll see on someone wearing an Apple watch, but you will spot it on the Dalai Lama… Yup, that’s right.
Now, from the get-go, I’m a long way from understanding his philosophies and overarching ideas of life. I’m a victim of modern technology, and at the end of the day, he was his own individual, and while we can speculate why he wore watches this way, the majority of people merely ‘believe’ this to be the reason.
Now, in case you do not know, the Dalai Lama is massively famous for his appreciation of watches. His first watch wasn’t a wristwatch, but rather one of Patek’s pocket watches, gifted by U.S. American President Franklin D. Roosevelt. From there, the Dalai Lama developed a fondness for Rolex watches. He owns a Rolex Day-Date 18038 with a blue Lapis Lazuli Dial and another two-tone Rolex Datejust with a jubilee bracelet.
What’s interesting is the Day-Date is worn on an aftermarket steel elastic band as opposed to a rose gold jubilee bracelet. Couple this with the fact that was often seen wearing the watch inside out (upside down). It all points to the humble overarching life ideas he had spilling over into his love of watches. He wears (and owns) some rather special watches, and some folks might see the presence of a watch counterintuitive to the ideas of Buddhism.
Again, there is no concrete evidence of this. There are no quotes confirming this, no scripture saying this personal choice is, in fact, the reality, so take this with a grain of salt. There are also limited photographs of the Dalai Lama wearing his timepieces, especially in this manner. If you want to find out more about his watch collection, you can check out our article titled: The Dalai Lama Watch Collection – How A Marxist Gets To Own 15 Watches.
As opposed to stealth wealth, wearing a watch upside down for pure stealth probably refers more to those who are actually in situations where their safety will be of concern. Think police officers or special forces personnel. These individuals might be on the brink of death, and if your luminous hands or reflection give away your position, you’re quite literally screwed.
So as a result, various military personnel will end up wearing their watches with their faces towards the inside of the arm. Not only is this for the luminous material, but it will also protect your watch if you’re going through a tough environment.
The chance of damage is decreased, and you learn some light discipline to take care not only of your health but of your equipment as well, and depending on the type of watch, it might even make for a better wearing experience.
Of course, this might not be the best idea if you go to a business meeting, where the only stealth that matters is stealth wealth (wearing an extremely expensive watch that no one recognizes). However, if you can see yourself as a John Wick style of person, this might be something you end up doing for multiple reasons.
#5: Easier to Read Your Watch
Stares down at my 18K gold-plated Casio…
“Who on earth… What?!”
There are several different styles of watches. Some resemble the Galaxy watch, while others are the main reason for the Perpetual Lovers Facebook group. Whatever your love is, we all need to read the time or information at some point – unless you wear something like a Ulysse Nardin Freak or a Richard Mille.
For some folks, this is a hard thing to do purely based on design, age, or colour combinations. Some will buy a certain watch because it’s legible (medical professionals, people of utility, etc.), while others will think of it as an afterthought. Individuals from both parties have noticed that sometimes flipping the watch upside down allows them to read it better. Can I relate? Not one bit.
Perhaps, these individuals are referring to wearing the watch on the inside of the arm. Meaning rather than fastening the buckle on the wrist, they would have the face of the watch on the dial and the buckle on top. This allows the person to read to watch a lot easier simply because they wouldn’t need to rotate their wrist.
#6: What about the other Wrist?…
Does this count as upside-down? Doubt it, but I’m covering it anyways.
Most watches were designed to be worn on the non-dominant hand, but some choose to go against the grain, brush against a polished surface if you will. We’ve all seen the new GMT-Master II Sprite making the rounds on the market, and as you might very well know, this is a destro watch, meaning it was designed with left-handed people in mind. We’re not talking about this; we’re talking about the people who would wear a normal GMT on their dominant hand.
Why would people even do this?
To be unique! Everything about watches is trying to be unique. We lust after the meteorite dials that all look different. We swoon over limited editions. In case you didn’t want to fork out thousands extra to get a 1-of-100, you could slap the 126613LB on your right wrist and say, “Hey, I’m better than other Submariner owners!”. Whether that is true or not… yeah, that depends. Regardless, people will keep doing things to set them apart from others.
#7: To Stop Glare?…
I did not expect this reason, but it’s apparently true. Some people will simply turn their watch inside out to stop the glare from the crystal from bothering their eyes. Thinking about this for a bit longer made me realise that maybe the gigantic IWC Big Pilot might produce a significant amount of glare to actual pilots, distracting them from … the clouds? The road?
This might seem like the most moot point on the list (and, in my opinion, it is), but I’ve also never flown a plane. Personally, I like the reflection of light when it catches my watch right, reminding me of the special object on my wrist. But to each their own.
Should you wear your Watch Upside Down?
Do you want to? Well, then, you should go right ahead and do it. Sure, there are multiple (legitimate) reasons why you’d want to do this, but there are also a couple of reasons that aren’t really focused on ergonomics.
Whatever the reason, try it. See how you feel wearing your watch in one of the various ‘upside down’ ways, and see if you like it. Suppose you are in the line of work similar to Keanu Reeves (i.e. a super soldier of sorts). In that case, this might actually spare your watch from new knocks and bruises – and if you buy into the idea that glare will mess with your sight and give away your position, then it might save you from a few knocks as well…