The Purpose of Wearing a Wrist Watch Inward: An Analysis of SOF Operators

Author: Eric Sof

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One of the most common questions about special operations forces (SOF) operators is why they wear their wristwatches with their faces turned inward. This practice is not exclusive to SOF operators and is common among military personnel and police officers, who may find it helpful in certain situations. Wearing a watch this way provides an advantage in combat or other high-stress situations where quick access to information is critical.

SOF operators and other professionals who work in combat zones or regularly use firearms know that every advantage counts when lives are on the line. Wearing a watch with the face turned inward allows the wearer to quickly check the time without fumbling with the watch or taking their eyes off their surroundings. This can be especially useful when using a gun or engaging in other activities that require hand-eye coordination.

Tactical purpose

One of the primary reasons that special operations forces (SOF) operators and other military personnel wear their wristwatches with their faces turned inward is for tactical purposes. This allows them to quickly and easily check the time without moving their wrist or taking their eyes off their surroundings. However, there is another reason that is often overlooked.

The screen of a watch can reflect any light that shines on it, which can violate light discipline and potentially give away the operator’s position. By wearing the watch with the face turned inward, the risk of reflections is minimized, allowing the operator to maintain a low profile and avoid detection. This is especially important when stealth and secrecy are critical to the mission’s success.

SOF operators wear their wrist watches face inwards mostly for tactical purpose
SOF operators wear their wristwatches face inwards mostly for the tactical purpose (Photo: XY/Spec Ops Magazine)

Military fashion

Another reason that special operations forces (SOF) operators and other military personnel may wear wristwatches with their faces turned inward is to protect the screen from scratches or damage. This can help to reduce noise and maintain noise discipline, as a broken or scratched watch can make unwanted noise when the wearer moves their wrist. Additionally, wearing gloves and a watch simultaneously can be uncomfortable and even painful for some people unless the watch is worn upside down on the inside of the wrist.

Why do SOF operators wear their wristwatches face inwards?
Why do SOF operators wear their wristwatches face inwards? Not for fashion, of course! (Photo: Illustration)

Wearing a watch on the inside of the wrist has been a military fashion since the First World War when wristwatches first became popular among men. Previously, they had been primarily worn by society ladies. Wearing a watch this way allows the wearer to quickly check the time while also protecting the watch and maintaining a low profile.

Reflection

Another reason that special operations forces (SOF) operators and other military personnel may wear their wristwatches with their faces turned inward is to avoid revealing their position at night. Many wristwatches used by military personnel during the First World War had radium markings, which allowed them to be used in low-light conditions. However, the radium glow could reveal the wearer’s position, similar to the superstition about not lighting three cigarettes off one match.

To avoid this, men began wearing their watches on the inside of the wrist, where they were less likely to be damaged and easier to read while holding a rifle or operating weapons or vehicles. Additionally, the shiny crystal of a watch can reflect moonlight or sunlight, which can be easily seen by others and potentially reveal the wearer’s position in a combat environment. Wearing the watch with the face turned inward helps to minimize the risk of reflections and maintain a low profile.

Soldiers also operators wear their wrist watches face inwards because of the reflection
Soldiers also operators wear their wrist watches face inwards because of the reflection. The moonlight or sunlight can reflect off your watch’s crystal (Photo: XY/Spec Ops Magazine)

Conclusion

It is not uncommon for individuals who are not military or law enforcement personnel to wear their wristwatches with their faces turned inward. Some people may be used to this style or prefer it for personal reasons. However, if you see someone wearing their watch this way, they may have a military or law enforcement background or are simply a veteran.

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