Why do Special Forces operators wear their wrist watches face inwards?

US Special Operations Forces operator

We received some interesting question about “military fashion”, especially popular inside special forces. Many operators wearing their watches face inwards and in this article, I’ll try to explain you why.

First of all, it’s more convenient to check 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.

Third strongest reason would be to protect its screen from scratching or breaking, thus to avoid 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.

In fact, wearing your watch on the inside of your wrist has been a military fashion since 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 realised 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.


I'm the active duty law enforcement officer serving in SWAT unit. My hobby's are firearms, skiing, martial arts.

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