Friday, August 19, 2011

Watch Primer #04: Case Diameter

Today's installment of the Watch Primer takes a look at the role a watch's case diameter can play in determining whether the watch is right for you.

The most important factor in determining the appropriate size of a watch is its proportionality with the size of your wrist.  Generally, the larger the circumference of your wrist, the larger a watch's case diameter can be and look good while you're wearing it.  Wrist circumference isn't a perfect measure; the shape of your wrist--whether its flat and wide, rounded and thick, etc.--also affects the way a watch looks on you.  In the broadest terms, watch diameters between 34mm and 46mm span the vast majority of watches available for men.  Those with larger wrists may find watches toward the 34mm side of the spectrum too dainty on their wrists, while those with smaller wrists may feel that watches toward 46mm in diameter seem less like a timepiece and more like a piece of dinnerware strapped to their wrist.

Beyond general proportionality, there is a stylistic divide between the larger-diameter watch and those of a smaller diameter.  Smaller diameters reflect both the aesthetic trend of the 1950s and 1960s as well as the dressier side of the watch spectrum.  This makes sense, as the miniaturization of watch movements and subtlety of watch case sizing makes a watch less obtrusive and easier to wear, with the goal being that the watch blend as seamlessly into its surroundings as possible.  Larger diameters, on the other hand, reflect both an emphasis on sportiness and robustness and recent trends toward both the glorification and accentuation of the watch as one of the only accessories a man can confidently wear in a wide range of social settings, and a exultation of the watch as a work of horological art meant to be displayed.  Depending on which side of this ideological divide you find yourself, you may be inclined toward smaller diameters despite a larger wrist, or larger diameters despite a smaller wrist.

Ultimately, the most weighty criterion of whether a watch's case diameter is right for you is whether you feel comfortable with it on your wrist.  No matter how appropriate a 36mm case might seem to be for a person with a 6-inch wrist--or a 48mm case on someone with an 8-inch wrist--if the owner of that wrist isn't comfortable with the way the watch looks and feels there, it probably isn't going to work.

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