Case diameter, lug width, thickness, lug to lug length, case diameter WITH the crown. These just some of the case dimensions watch collectors see and hear on a daily basis. All of these dimensions come together to form a watch that may or may not fit your wrist. However, with any combination of numbers the formula needs to have balance in order to be appealing to the wearer. A watch that is thick but some of that thickness comes from the crystal may not appear thick in person. A case that is narrow with a large lug width will not look right when it sits on the wrist. If the lug to lug length is too tall, it may not fit a vast majority of the watch wearing population.
With that said, there is always an exception to the rule. The best example I can personally give is my Oris Aquis. On paper, this is a big watch. 43.5mm in diameter and around 50mm in lug to lug length. On my 6.75″ wrist this watch should look hugely out of place. But…it doesn’t. There are multiple factors working with the Aquis to not only make it appear smaller than it is, but be more comfortable on the wrist. The Aquis has integrated lugs, meaning the end links of the bracelet fit into the watch head and cannot accept normal straps.
This gives the watch a more fluid look on the bracelet. The watch head and lugs seamlessly flow into the bracelet, not giving you a clear indication where one part begins and another ends. I recently tried on the newer 39.5mm version of the Aquis and it looked too tiny on my wrist. All the dimensions that went into my version looking perfect on my wrist were working against me on the 39.5mm version.
Too big, too small, just right
Some watches for some people seem to fall into a Goldilocks type fit where it is just right. Usually this has to do with wrist size, but other times it might be because the manufacturer made it that way. The Tudor Black Bay is a great example of this. I’ve tried on most every Black Bay Tudor makes (not every color). The standard Black Bay was always too big for me. The slab sided case and lug to lug length was just a hair too big for my wrists. I had heard the 36mm Black Bay was perfect for those who found the other ones too big. Unfortunately, the 36mm looked completely undersized on my wrist. The dial size was too small and made it appear much to small on my wrist.
The Black Bay 58 on the other hand was a completely different story. Tudor nailed the dimensions on the 58 and made it fit into the Goldilocks category of watches that would be at home on just about any wrist size. The diameter, lug to lug length and lug width made a trifecta of wonderful dimensions.
Bringing it all together
Watch manufacturers most likely spend an obscene amount of time tweaking the dimensions of watches in renders. It wouldn’t surprise me if they had models of the average wrist size for their target demographic to fit their renders on. Micro brands most likely do not have this capability and need to trust their gut. Form and function go hand in hand with watches. The watch needs to serve a purpose, whether it is a dive watch, a dress watch or a chronograph. The form needs to fit that function. A dress watch cannot be 15mm thick and 44mm in diameter. No one would ever wear it with a suit and if they did it would be stuck against their cuff all day.
It is hard as a buyer, especially a buyer of watches you can’t see in person first, to judge how a watch will fit your wrist. When I personally buy a watch I do not look at one dimension and rule that watch in or out. You need to look at the whole picture, examine every dimension and compare it to what you already own. Just because a watch has a single dimension (or sometimes even two) that you don’t necessarily like, see if you can imagine how it will look in the metal. You may find that something will fit your wrist perfectly that you may have been ready to write off.
A few footnotes
- If I try on a watch I try not to look at pictures of how it fit later if I took them with my phone. Generally speaking, your phone’s camera will not provide an accurate representation of how the watch looks in person. It will often make the case look bigger and your wrist look smaller. Don’t believe me? Take a picture of what you’re wearing now
- Advances in AR technology are already opening up some new ways to see how a watch fits. Chrono 24 recently added a way to see how a watch will fit your wrist using your phone and AR. I haven’t personally tried it yet but the technology seems promising.
- If you have friends that have watches you like or are at a get together, don’t be afraid to ask to try it on.