Is it Ok to Wear a Wristwatch With a Tuxedo?

Wearing a watch with a tuxedo was once considered rude. Today, it's acceptable to wear a wristwatch with formal wear. You just need to select the right watch for your style and clothing. Keep it simple and classy. It should add to your overall look, not distract from it.

Cropped image of a man in a black tuxedo, tie, and wristwatch against a black background.

It was once considered bad form to wear a wristwatch with a tuxedo. Not because it offended fashion sensibilities. Instead, it was thought rude to check the time when you were at a formal event. Today, it’s considered acceptable to wear a wristwatch with formal wear. However, there is etiquette involved.

Should You Wear a Wristwatch with a Tuxedo?

Young man in black bowtie tuxedo with a wristwatch unbuttoning his jacket.

According to Alan Flusser, author of Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion, fashion should be viewed as an art form, instead of a long list of rules to follow. He explains that in most cases, common sense is all you need to look your best. He states, “If you choose to wear a wristwatch, remember that the thinner the watch, the more tasteful it is. Black bands are recommended.”

The general consensus is that you can wear a wristwatch with a tux as long as you use good taste and judgment. Many argue that there’s no need for a wristwatch today. We all have phones that display the time in our pockets. However, pulling your phone out during a conversation is rude. Checking your wrist is a much better alternative.

While cell phones aren’t a suitable substitute for a wristwatch, a pocket watch can be. If you choose to use a pocket watch, you’ll need to follow the same rules as you would for a wristwatch.

Avoiding Black Tie Pitfalls

Side profile of a young man smiling and wearing a blue suit while holding his wristwatch.

There are some all to common mistakes that men make when they are choosing a watch to wear to an event. These mistakes can lead to you appearing tacky. Black tie events are exclusive. You’ll want to honor your host and other guests by taking extra care with your appearance and knowing the proper etiquette.

Going too Casual

One of the biggest mistakes men make is wearing the same watch they wear every day to a formal event. Casual watches are not appropriate with a tuxedo. It will detract from your overall appearance, and it can leave a bad impression on other guests.

Choosing Something too Elaborate

At the other end of the spectrum are the men that believe that bigger is better. If you’re going to wear a watch in a formal setting, why not go all out? Do not choose an elaborate or statement piece. Flashy doesn’t equate with refined.

Glowing in the Dark

Glow in the dark watches have their place, but it’s not at the theatre or a fancy dinner party. It should be common sense, but never wear a watch with a glowing face to any type of evening or formal event.

Size Matters

Lastly, the size of the watch matters. Oversized watches might be popular. It can be tempting to want everyone to notice your watch, particularly if you’ve invested in a well-made piece. Your watch should add to your overall look subtly. It should not be noticeable.

Choosing a Wristwatch to Wear with a Tuxedo

A young man holding in black bowtie, tuxedo, and wristwatch.

There are a wide array of wristwatch styles. They can easily be divided into casual, dress, and evening. When you are wearing a tuxedo, you’ll want to choose an evening watch. It will be more formal. The easiest rule of thumb is that the watch face should match the time of day. White for a day at the office, and black or midnight blue for evening wear.

When it comes to pairing it with a tuxedo, less is more. Choose a thin watch that doesn’t have an oversized face. Avoid digital watches and those with complicated dials. Roman numerals are considered classic and more formal than other number styles.

The watch band should be either metal or leather. A simple black leather band is usually the best choice, but gold and platinum are acceptable options as well. Rubber watch bands are not acceptable for formal events. You’ll want to keep the watch clasp and buckle simple and understated as well.

It’s important to pair your watch with the other jewelry you are wearing. If your cufflinks are gold, consider an understated gold band or a watch with gold trim. You can also choose a watch face that matches the color of your jacket.

How to Wear a Wristwatch with a Tuxedo

A young man in black bowtie, white tuxedo, and wristwatch against a black background.

There are a few things to keep in mind when wearing a wristwatch with a tuxedo. First, the watch shouldn’t interfere with your sleeve. It should slip under the sleeve easily when it is buttoned. You should always wear your watch on your left hand, because you shake with your right hand. The band should be tight enough to keep your watch on top of your wrist, but not uncomfortably so.

Lastly, don’t stare at your watch. It is still considered rude. Some etiquette guides suggest that you should excuse yourself to the restroom to check the time discretely. It’s not necessary to take it to that extreme, but be polite. If you feel the need to check your watch, do so discretely, and try not to do so when engaged in a conversation.