Crown on the left Why I am switching allegiance
Comfort, comfort, comfort. All too often, the watch industry ignores the most basic notions of comfort. I decided enough was enough.
The classical, usual, conventional, normal position is on the right. I’m talking about watch crowns, of course. 99% of watches have their crown positioned on the right side of the case. The underlying logic is that watches are worn on the left wrist, on the less-used arm, where they are less likely to get in the way. Consequently, the crown needs to be accessible to the other hand, the right hand, which is why it’s on the right side of the watch.
Rather inconveniently, however, the right side of the left wrist is already occupied, by a very useful but often overlooked limb: the hand. After spending this summer cycling a lot, sweating copiously, cooking several kilos of meat, fish and vegetables on the barbecue, and grappling with my small, wriggling children in the swimming pool after they had been liberally basted with sun cream – in short, after a busy and slippery summer, I’ve come to the conclusion that having a crown on the right hurts. Often, my watch slides around, and ends up pressing into my wrist. On a bike, the bumps in the road jiggle it around, making my watch perform impromptu drum solos on my delicate carpal bones. After several cries of pain (okay, small squeals) and extended periods of discomfort, I decided there was something seriously wrong with this situation.
Watches that have their crown on the left are often called “left-handed” watches. That itself is disingenuous, because in fact these watches are intended for collectors who are into collecting rare, offbeat models. What’s more, 10% of the world’s population are left handed, while these so-called left-handed watches represent 0.001% (if that) of watch production. A more appropriate name would be watches for right-handed people who can’t take the pain any more. And for those of you who are thinking that, in this position, the crown is inaccessible, let me just remind you that you take your watch off to wind and adjust it.
TAG Heuer Chronographe Monaco Calibre 11, crown on the left, pushers on the right © TAG Heuer
In fact, many of these left-handers are diving watches, because a crown on the left is less likely to damage your neoprene wetsuit. Don’t say I didn’t warn you – watch crowns are dangerous. Incidentally, all you southpaws out there should consider wearing a right-handed watch on your right hand. They’re actually the perfect design for you.
There are three other, somewhat exotic, possibilities which, in the interests of completeness, we should probably mention. Crowns offset to the 2 or 4 o’clock position provide a partial solution to the problem. These are generally found on diving models or military-style watches, and justifiably so. But in reality, and after wearing a watch with a crown at 4 o’clock for quite some time, I decided that for true comfort, it really needs to be at the 5 o’clock position.
On almost all its diving watches, Seiko nudges the crown to the side © Seiko
There aren’t any watches with a crown at 6 o’clock, although some have it at 12. From the point of view of comfort in wear, they’re amazing. But the downside is that these types of crowns overshoot the wrist, which is longer than it is wide. The watches look too big, and the cases tend to be unstable. So, a bit of a dead end as far as I’m concerned. Watches that have their crown hidden inside the caseback are extremely rare and exorbitantly priced – even if their smoothly contoured cases have a lot going for them.
Militare Alpini Camouflage © Anonimo
So, to return to my original thesis, the right no longer has my vote. I’m transferring my allegiance to the left; I’m campaigning for the overthrow of the crown. I support a reversal of tradition – watchmaking tradition. But I find myself in a very small minority. The options are very few and far between. There are some examples, but they tend to be huge, almost invariably limited editions, and only in sports watches (with optional six-pack). I can see no way of reconciling my needs with my wants. It’s almost enough to make me want to ditch the watch altogether and use my phone to tell the time, like everyone else. Almost.
One of several left-handed watches by Panerai, the PAM 557 © Panerai
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