Any of us watched crazed people would have come across this idea before. Whether seeing someone ask about the sizing of their watch, asking about the sizing of your own watch, or disregarding a watch based of size. And to me, there is so much more to the story than too big or too small. Some watches are built for a function, some wear larger on the wrist than others, and in the end why worry about size?
A common determinant of size is the purpose of the watch. Dress watches are historically smaller and would be acceptable in the 30-38mm range for a more traditionally look. Most of the time dressier looks and outfits have longer sleeves and the watch is more of an understated accessory to the outfit that slides under the cuff only to be seen when it needs to be. Tool watches are meant to be bigger either for the purpose of legibility or that of survivability. A 47mm pilots watch is truly meant to be worn over a jacket and provide extreme legibility, and a ridiculously thick watch may be so for need of technology to withstand pressure. But as most watches aren’t really worn for their intended purposes, proportionality is more the common criteria of what watch is worn.
I’ve personally never really been a big believer of the too big to small idea. If I like the watch I’ll wear the watch. That being said I do tend to wear smaller sized watches as I do have 6.5 in wrist but have worn watches up to about 43mm just fine. This brings me to my first point of proportionality. What is big for one person may be perfectly sized for another and the same applies to smaller watches. A person who has an 8in wrist can probably pull off that 47mm pilots watch no problem while it would look absolutely out of place on my smaller wrist. Similarly, I very proudly and comfortably wear a 32mm Tudor on a regular basis. A watch that even those smaller wristed people would hardly consider. But I find its proportions very well suited to my wrist and the watch is still very legible to me. And unless that fellow with the 8in wrist really wanted to wear that 32mm it would probably not be the best choice proportionally.
The classic idea of watch proportionality is that the lugs of the watch should not extend past the edges of your wrist or the watch is too big. I find my wrist span to be about 50mm and a lot of watches come under that figure. For a while I owned a glycine combat sub which has a lug to lug length of 50mm and while pushing to the extremity of my available wrist space, I wore it no problem. The lugs curved down very generously and I find that this is another feature of a watch that helps wear ability, if the watch was 50mm lug to lug with very straight lugs I have a feeling it would look like it doesn’t fit on my wrist. This idea of lug to lug length is also very important because a watch could have a very large diameter but a short lug to lug, and as a result be very wearable on both small and large wristed people. case and point is a Bulova Moonview. The watch has on overall watch diameter of just about 42mm, but the lug to lug is only 43mm long. As a result, the watch wears exceptionally small and allows my 6.5 in wrist to rock the watch no problem even though you would have never guessed that by reading the product dimensions. And due to its 42mm actual size, it will still have that visual presence on a large wristed person. The opposite can be true as well. Maybe your wrist span is only 47mm. The Nomos Club Campus at 38.5mm seems like a modestly sized watch that should fit, but its lug to lug is actually 49mm so there would be an overhang. And this is where choice comes into play.
Simply put, none of these sizing rules or ideas matter. If you like a watch wear the watch. If you have always worn 40mm watches and up then buying a 38mm dressier type watch will shock your brain and make you think that the watch looks far too small on your wrist. But just give it a chance. Smaller sizes tend to be classier and these bigger watches haven’t really com into fashion till recent history. Celebrities such as Elvis, Muhammad Ali, and Frank Sinatra all wore watches under 40mm and they didn’t question it. Plenty of others of the time wore Rolex and those watches lived between the 34-40mm territory. The largest typically being the submariner whose pre-maxi case wore even smaller than the modern counterparts. Give a smaller watch a try, wear it for a couple days or weeks, and I promise you’ll come to love it for being something different than what your used to. Similarly, if you always wear 34-36mm watches a 40 or even 42mm will seem like a beast of a watch to you. But again, try it on for a while, maybe don’t look at the watch so close to your face and hold it away a little, you’ll appreciate the change of pace and possibly the higher legibility. And realistically if a watch overhangs past your wrist…who cares! You are the one wearing the watch and if you are in love with it, wear it. I’ve seen plenty of women with very small wrists wear watches 40mm and up with lugs overhanging their wrist, and many would say it is too large for them. Yet, they wear it confidently so then it simply becomes the watch they wear without any questioning, regardless of the size.
There are so many beautiful watches under 40mm especially in the vintage watch realm and there are just as many amazing watches at and above that 40mm mark. Don’t disregard the watch based purely on the size. Consider the function the watch will serve, the lug to lug distance, or simply your love for the piece which should be the deciding factor. Step out of your comfort zone and wear a size you wouldn’t normally wear becauset it never hurts to try.
Written by Xavier Sanchez
Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the author and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated.
For the full range of Vario's watch straps, please visit
5 Reasons every Watch Lover should own a Harris Tweed watch strap
8 Reviewers who Liked our Vario Graphic Nato Straps
6 Customer's Watches with Ballistic Nylon Strap that we Liked
6 Customers' G-Shock with Nato Straps that we Like