In Praise of Small Watches

We have been conditioned to believe that a watch surface should completely obscure the surface of our wrist. It was not always so. In the past case and lug shape were part of the aesthetic of wearing a watch. The band, bracelet, or strap were also meant to be seen. We think that a watch as merely jewelry is a new phenomena now that we carry cell phones that are infinitely more accurate, but the wrist watch was historically, at least initially, jewelry.

I have joked here that I have a Perfectly Sized Wrist (6.75 inches or between 17 and 17.5 cm). Style guides will describe that as a small wrist and will tell you that most men's wrists are larger. Many are certainly, but the best evidence that I can find shows 17 to 17.5 cm is the median size for American men. And we Yanks are at the large end of the spectrum. These very same online gentleman's style guides will tell you that anything below 34 mm is a women's watch. Pshaw.

The purpose of a watch dial and handset is to display the time so that it is easily read. Once that function is fulfilled then the rest is personal preference. I prefer a watch that is light and has some panache. When I find myself in more strenuous and wet settings I have heavier and larger watches for that purpose.

We have become taller and heavier as a species in the last few decades. We are concerned with our weight and how we appear. (As an aside, studies show that fitness trackers are more accurate for the thin wristed and that large wrist circumference is an indicator of diabetes, at least in Southern Indian men. An interesting study also linked our increase in weight with...not diet...not lack of exercise...but, air conditioning. This study theorized that we were retaining weight as a reaction to being in artificially cool environments at work and at home. Couple that Jane Jacobs' theory that air conditioning destroyed community cohesion in The Death and Life of Great American Cities and I am tempted to throw open a window.) Nevertheless, we should not hide behind huge watches. Wear what you want, but remember that there is no correct size. Some of these small ones are gems.

(This entire post is an excuse to show off a new old watch, in this case a 1943 Elgin. It is rare to find a war-time Elgin that is not in a military style. It is possible that the movement was made in 1943 and it was cased when the war ended in 1945. It is round. You can date Elgin movements here. It is also an excuse to show that not every new watch post needs to be just a picture and a short expression about how much you like it. Of course you do. Do @erikswrist a favor and try to stretch out a bit. Stay Crunchy.)

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Air-conditioning and weight gain... not heard that one before! I am intrigued and shall go research!

I'm actually surprised that men aren't more drawn to small watches.

When I wear something very much on the petite size, like this...

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It gives the impression of a chunkier wrist than if I wear this, for example...

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I am surprised that the same doesn't hold true for men and make them gravitate towards a smaller watch to emphasise their manly-man sized wrist.

(Also, can you part your hair so I can see the watch better please?)

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Deeperblue

Air-conditioning and weight gain... not heard that one before! I am intrigued and shall go research!

I'm actually surprised that men aren't more drawn to small watches.

When I wear something very much on the petite size, like this...

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It gives the impression of a chunkier wrist than if I wear this, for example...

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I am surprised that the same doesn't hold true for men and make them gravitate towards a smaller watch to emphasise their manly-man sized wrist.

(Also, can you part your hair so I can see the watch better please?)

As a descendant of Northern Europeans (Irish, German, Scottish, Welsh, English, Swedish) I have a bit of Neanderthal in the gene pool I am afraid. I am not exactly hirsute, but my forearms are insulated against Northern winters.

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My grandfather was 5'8" and wore a 34mm watch. I'm 6'2". 9% larger. Thus my watch should be a 37mm right?

Yer' darn tootin!

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Here's the old man's watch on me:

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I started this hobby with 42s and such but quickly scaled down to 36-40 for the vast majority of my watches with 38 being the sweet spot. I find it both more comfortable and it opens up options in vintage pieces I wouldn't be as copacetic towards were I more used to big ole' watches on my popeye wrists (7 3/4" btw).

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I've gotten to really enjoy wearing a smaller watch. There's a lot of unique options out there

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As @Aurelian knows, my collecting taste covers the spectrum from 28mm watches to 50+mm watches.

With a 7.5 inch wrist (on the left - it's 8.5 inches on the right - I rarely wear a watch on the right side as most don't fit), I usually find myself in the 37mm to 42mm range on most days.

Most watches that are 34mm and below look just a little too petite on my wrist, but as @Deeperblue says, maybe that makes them look more manly. I'll have to try that one on with my wife and see what she says 😉

So, in summary I am writing more here than the usual - "Hey Greg - awesome watch Bro!"

And I will include some wrist shots of watches less than 36mm for fun...Just did the "A" through "E"s (so I could get an Elgin in there 😉)

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"We have been conditioned to believe that a watch surface should completely obscure the surface of our wrist."

So not true.

Especially if you are older than 40.

The misguided perception that big (43+mm) watches were the norm is relatively recent in the history of watches.

Blame Stallone and Panerai.

Big watches always existed in Zlatoust and WWII era fliegers, but Sly and Pam made them "fashionable".

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ChronoGuy

As @Aurelian knows, my collecting taste covers the spectrum from 28mm watches to 50+mm watches.

With a 7.5 inch wrist (on the left - it's 8.5 inches on the right - I rarely wear a watch on the right side as most don't fit), I usually find myself in the 37mm to 42mm range on most days.

Most watches that are 34mm and below look just a little too petite on my wrist, but as @Deeperblue says, maybe that makes them look more manly. I'll have to try that one on with my wife and see what she says 😉

So, in summary I am writing more here than the usual - "Hey Greg - awesome watch Bro!"

And I will include some wrist shots of watches less than 36mm for fun...Just did the "A" through "E"s (so I could get an Elgin in there 😉)

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I love looking at your watches....

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ChronoGuy

As @Aurelian knows, my collecting taste covers the spectrum from 28mm watches to 50+mm watches.

With a 7.5 inch wrist (on the left - it's 8.5 inches on the right - I rarely wear a watch on the right side as most don't fit), I usually find myself in the 37mm to 42mm range on most days.

Most watches that are 34mm and below look just a little too petite on my wrist, but as @Deeperblue says, maybe that makes them look more manly. I'll have to try that one on with my wife and see what she says 😉

So, in summary I am writing more here than the usual - "Hey Greg - awesome watch Bro!"

And I will include some wrist shots of watches less than 36mm for fun...Just did the "A" through "E"s (so I could get an Elgin in there 😉)

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Beautiful selection as always. On the Certina, Elgin, and Etauche you utilize bund straps. That is a great way to give a smaller watch presence.

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foghorn

"We have been conditioned to believe that a watch surface should completely obscure the surface of our wrist."

So not true.

Especially if you are older than 40.

The misguided perception that big (43+mm) watches were the norm is relatively recent in the history of watches.

Blame Stallone and Panerai.

Big watches always existed in Zlatoust and WWII era fliegers, but Sly and Pam made them "fashionable".

Sure, early flight watches were huge. Like divers they were meant to be worn over clothing. Very few wore them and they did not cause a large watch fashion. Watches only got a little larger as we moved into the 1960's.

We are now more than 20 years into the large watch era. (I think that you misread me, or that we agree. My point was that large watches are a recent thing. I am well past 40, but you are ahead of me.) It is only recently that a 36 mm release would not derided as a "women's watch". What prompted this little digression was a recent poll about watch size that where the range of choices was only on the large end. To some folks here 38 mm is small. 38 mm is just fine, but it is not small. It is just not in Invicta, Marathon, or Aragon territory.

To be fair to Sly, he has a large wrist. There are many modestly wristed people who tried to wear very large watches.

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DukeMo

My grandfather was 5'8" and wore a 34mm watch. I'm 6'2". 9% larger. Thus my watch should be a 37mm right?

Yer' darn tootin!

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Here's the old man's watch on me:

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I started this hobby with 42s and such but quickly scaled down to 36-40 for the vast majority of my watches with 38 being the sweet spot. I find it both more comfortable and it opens up options in vintage pieces I wouldn't be as copacetic towards were I more used to big ole' watches on my popeye wrists (7 3/4" btw).

I am not sure that you can run percentages just based on height. For example, my great grandfather (a Timex wearer) was about ten inches shorter than I am. He was an ice man in his youth. To impress the ladies he would carry ice blocks with one hand using something like this:

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Even in old age he had the largest arms (and wrists) that I had ever seen.

But, you are right, you have opened yourself up to a larger variety by allowing yourself to wear smaller watches.

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Yea, height is a poor metric really but the fact is we're not all that much larger than our forefathers. I just used it since it happens to scale well to my preferences.😉

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I look at the watch you posted and think It’s odd that lugs have become such an afterthought. It reminds me of architecture where buildings used to be decorated and proportioned to be pleasing to the eye, but the modern idea is just to build a box. Or, if you’re feeling saucy, put a few boxes together, but don’t line them up. Somehow putting angles on buildings make you famous these days. You know what used to be cool? Gargoyles. They didn’t serve any purpose other than looking good, and I miss that. Like maybe you routed rainwater through them, but that wasn’t really the point. They were just there to look good or scare away withes or something.

So now watch lugs are just a way to attach a strap. It’s a missed opportunity really. There are so many ways you could shape those lugs to make them interesting, and yet every watch has pretty much the same lugs these days. While I love the Speedmaster, it’s comical that every article on it talks about the lyre lugs as if they were more than 13% different than any other watch lugs. I like them, but let’s not go overboard with them being much different than most other watches.

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MinnKonaMike

I love looking at your watches....

Thanks! Happy to oblige 😉

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Aurelian

Beautiful selection as always. On the Certina, Elgin, and Etauche you utilize bund straps. That is a great way to give a smaller watch presence.

Exactly! I figured this out when I picked up the only Rolex in my collection...it's from 1912. It is a very small watch and the strap it was on was for a 10mm lug width - yikes! Talk about dainty.

Thus, bund strap to the rescue (actually technically a Kitchener strap - these predated the bund strap). I had one custom made for a 10mm lug width. Turned out alright I think...

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