No matter what your girlfriend says behind closed doors, size does matter. Get your mind out of the gutter; this is serious stuff. Until relatively recently, there was a trend for watches to swell to ridiculous proportions; now the very opposite has happened as watchmakers head back to vintage sizes. The thing is, not all watches suit all wrists.
Us skinny buggers here at Oracle Time know that all too well. For the slimmer wrist, anything over 44mm can begin to look a little odd; 48mm and up makes them unwearable. One of the team used to work for U-Boat back in the day, and their 48mm sterling silver behemoth overhung his wrist on both sides. Not ideal.
The thing is, it’s not necessarily just the number. Bigger case diameters tend to belong to watches that revel in larger proportions, especially diving watches. They’re not just wide, they’re bulky, which makes them look even more out of whack on a slim wrist. The same goes for high complications, which need space for the more advanced movements. As awesome as AP’s Royal Oak is, even the smaller sizes look strange on slim wrists simply because of their other dimensions.
If you want to just play it safe, stick to classically-inspired pieces, choosing anything from the big, old names like Breguet and Vacheron. You can also get hold of some decent-sized divers; Rado’s 37mm Captain Cook is perfect. There’s a reason it’s their coolest model for a decade…
The rule of thumb would really be to go for 42mm and below divers, but know you can get away with 44mm (possibly 46mm if you need to get a tourbillon in) classical watches. Avoid anything too deep and bulky and you’ll be just fine.
On the other end of the spectrum, guys with bigger wrists can have a bit more horological fun. You can revel in all the monolithic Urwerks and über-complicated Greubel Forseys you want. Hublot make their watches specifically for you, as does the aforementioned U-Boat, with anything you can imagine The Expendables crew wearing. The sky’s the limit.
Conversely, the watch world’s veering towards vintage sizes isn’t ideal for you. Timepieces of 42mm look just about fine, but anything smaller will just make your wrists look even bigger. In the wrong way. That unfortunately means no Captain Cook, but also cuts off a substantial cross-section of more traditional pieces. A 38mm Breguet Classique is pure elegance… until it’s lost in a sea of hairy arm flesh.
The easiest thing to say should be just to try on plenty of watches and see what works for you. That’s fine if you have the self-awareness to know what looks good and what is just your ego demanding more millimetres. If you want to go against our size brackets, it might well work out for you… just be careful.
Oh, and one last note: if you’re slimmer, always try to order your watch on a strap. It’s more likely to fit straightaway than bracelets and popping in a new hole is still far easier than fiddling about with any links. Now, we’re off to buy a hummer. Well, if we can’t overcompensate on our watches, we’ll have to do it elsewhere instead.