Choosing a nurse watch – what you need to know

Ever wondered why a nurse’s watch is upside down?

Let’s start with some history and context: The whole nurse uniform was initially conceived thinking about hygiene and practicality.

Historically nurses were women, and their uniform consisted of a dress, an apron and the well know nurses cap. Some nurses wore also a nurse’s pin, identifying the nursing school they’d attended.


This is, in some countries, still the typical female nurses uniform, although there are several alternatives.


With the appearance of personal watches, being fob watches (or pocket watches) or the later wristwatches, people would often get used to wearing a watch, and would sometimes feel naked when wearing no watch at all. Even today, people that normally wear watches are constantly looking at their wrist when they’ve left their watch at home.

Nurses were strongly discouraged from wearing jewelry, as it could interfere in their manual tasks, but also and specially for hygienic reasons.

Typical fob watches allowed nurses to keep their hands busy and dirty, and still be able to use the watch, that would be hanging from their lapel. The only problem, is that without properly holding the watch on their hands, the timepiece would be upside down, making it harder to read the time, for such already busy people.


That’s when the nurse’s watch or “nursing watch” made appearence. Basically a pocket watch that is upside down and has a pin, so it can be pinned to the lapel. This way nurses can simply tilt their head down and look at the watch, or with the back of the hand, lift it and read the time.


This concept is also present on carabiner watches. A carabiner watch (also called a clip watch) consists of some sort of key chain with a watch at the end.  Initially designed for militaries and hunters, this kind of watch often includes a compass.


Finally it is also possible to adapt a regular wrist watch so it can be used as a lapel watch.



Wrist watch adapted to clip watch

Wrist watch adapted to clip watch



What to look for when choosing a nursing watch?

Comparing to wristwatches, nurse watches or lapel watches are more limited in terms of choice, but still, there are several kinds of nursing watches, with different styles, different materials, different price tags and different features.


The choice may be driven by any of these aspects, so below you’ll find some different styles, different features and different price tags, to give you an overview of what the market has to offer.


Although it’s possible to find some automatic watches for nurses (or even to adapt an automatic watch to be used as a lapel watch), you’ll have to keep in mind that you’ll need your hands to rewind it every now and then, which may end up being very unpractical.


Shape and style are also important. While stylish and shiny watches may be good on the eye, they’ll be harder to clean and sanitize in case of an accident. There are even some watches that use special materials to prevent infections.


The last aspect that may be relevant are the watch features. Some watches will only be good to read the time, while others will allow you to read the date, or event to quickly determine someone’s heart rate.


A carabiner’s watch will often feature a compass, that inside an hospital may not be of great use, but may help with some field assignments, or urgency missions. Please note that most of carabiner watches don’t have a pin, only a lock, so you’ll have to find a way to hook the lock somewhere, or buy a separate pin.


The following list gives you some ideas of what you can buy and at what prices. All of them are relatively inexpensive.

It’s also possible to adapt a wristwatch to be used as a nurse watch.


Inexpensive nurse watches (unisex)

BestGrew Unisex Silicon Nurse Watch

This set of 3 watches (click image for details) costs under 10$ each watch features a colorful silicone cover, a precise quartz movement and 28mm white dial that glows in the dark.



BestGrew Unisex Nurse Watch

BestGrew Unisex Nurse Watch

Simply and easy, if you like the vivid colors of the silicone wraps and need a simple disposable watch, that’s the way to go. The price/quality is simply unbeatable.



Shiny and stylish (for the ladies)

If you’re looking for something shiny and stylish have a look at the two following ones:


Caravelle By Bulova 47J18 Stainless Steel Nurses Lapel Pin Watch



Caravelle Bulova stainless steel nurses lapel pin watch

Caravelle Bulova stainless steel nurses lapel pin watch


Style, is undoubtedly the strong point with this watch. It’s shiny and perfectly round  aspect will come out of your uniform, and give you a touch of class.

The dial, which is 19mm only, may be a bit too small for tired eyes.

May also be found in gold.


Timex Womens Classics Nurses Fob Tunic White INDIGLO Dial Stainless Steel Pin Watch T24601


This is a more classic watch, almost identical to a wrist watch, much because of the band design, which looks like a wrist band (well, half of it actually).

While classic in style, it still does look good, bringing sobriety and class. The case is 30mm wide, which makes it easier to read.


Timex Nurses Watch Fob Tunic White

Timex Nurses Watch Fob Tunic White



Professional (unisex)

Lorus Professional Unisex Lumibrite Nurses Fob Watch RG253CX9

The Lorus RG253CX9 looks very professional, just as the name says. It allows a quick reading of the patient’s heart rate, by counting to 15 and checking the seconds hand position.


Lorus Professional Unisex Lumibrite Nurses Fob Watch

Lorus Professional Unisex Lumibrite Nurses Fob Watch

Style wise, it’s very sober, the band is very well polished and the whole lumibrite dial glows in the dark. The case is 29mm wide which also makes it very easy to read, even without holding it.


Carabiner Watch

Dakota Watch Company Digi Clip Watch

This 100 feet (30m) water resistant digital clip is features an alarm, dual time, stopwatch and countdown, as well as a compass and it will light in the dark.


Dakota Digi Clip Watch

Dakota Digi Clip Watch

Its big digital display will allow an easy time reading, and will give a sports look that will go well with your uniform.


TLG LUM 35mm


This simple carabiner watch features a glow in the dark 35mm analog dial which allows an easy reading. The design is rather simple, with a military style and focus on robustness.


TLG Paramedics Carabiner Watch

TLG Paramedics Carabiner Watch


If you prefer to keep it simple, but like the carabiner style, this is a great alternative.


So, there you go. Several different watches, in style and function, with different materials and price tags. With any of them you’ll be able to read the time, but a watch is really something that we wear and we should wear what makes us feel good, so pick the one who makes you happy.


On the comments section below you can leave your opinion or suggest another nursing watch.


Some more discounted nurse items:

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