Why do SOF operators wear their wristwatches face inwards?

U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret firing from M4 in Afghanistan
U.S. Army Special Forces operator firing his gun (Photo: Pinterest/Green Berets)

Why do SOF operators wear their wristwatches face inwards is a regular question we receive among other interesting questions. Those queries often include questions about “military fashion”, especially popular inside special operations forces. Many operators wearing their watches face inwards and in this article, I’ll try to explain to you why.

As it is mentioned, you can probably guess who would be an obvious candidate for wearing a watch upside down: military personnel and police officers. Those are people working in combat zones or the people who regularly have to use a gun know that any advantage matters when life (theirs or someone else’s) is on the line.

Tactical purpose

First of all, it’s more convenient to check the time, especially while aiming your primary weapon. But there’s one reason that precedes this ability to check the time without moving your wrist. Namely, the screen of your watch makes a reflection of any source of light pointing it. Besides, it doesn’t have to be an evident light, it’s screen can reflect anything! Which, of course, is a violation of light discipline.

Military fashion

The third strongest reason would be to protect its screen from scratching or breaking, thus avoiding making noise. A way to reduce noise and acquire noise discipline. Moreover, wearing gloves and watch at the same time might hurt your wrist unless you wear it upside down.

Why do SOF operators wear their wristwatches face inwards?
Why do SOF operators wear their wristwatches face inwards? (Photo: Illustration)

In fact, wearing your watch on the inside of your wrist has been a military fashion since the first World War, when wristwatches first became popular amongst men (previously they had been worn mostly by society ladies).


Many of the wristwatches had radium markings, so they could be used at night. Men worried that the radium glow could reveal their position at night, similar to the superstition about not lighting three cigarettes off of one match. They began wearing their watches on the inside of the wrist and soon realized that they were less likely to be damaged than when worn conventionally. Also, they were easier to read when holding a rifle, or when operating weapons or vehicles.

And one of the most logical explanations, important for soldiers is that moonlight or sunlight can reflect off your watch’s crystal. It’s shiny and easy to see. On the inside, you won’t see it.  And that is important in a combat environment.


Not everyone who wears their watch inside out is a soldier or working alongside them. Some people just used to it or prefer it that way. Still, if you do see someone with their watch turned around on their wrist, there is a good chance they are military or law enforcement related or they are simply veterans.

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