Have you ever driven a car that is too big for the city you live in? Or worn shoes that are too small for your feet? If you have experienced either situation you will know that dimensions are important when buying a watch, a suit, a piece of jewelry, or a phone. Getting the right dimensions for us is important so that the object fits within our lifestyle and is easy to wear and operate. I would naturally not tell you what to buy, however it is important to keep dimensions in mind when buying a watch. In this article, I will discuss which dimensions are important to consider when buying a watch, what misconception we have about these dimensions, whilst also discussing whether or not dimensions should matter at all.
The first measurement that always appears on a spec sheet is the case diameter. I used to obsess about case diameters and for a long time I had the wrong understanding of what they meant. Once, many years ago, I saw a Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical that had a 38mm case diameter. It seemed oddly big for my wrist and I swore to only buy smaller watches. I thought that anything that orbits around 34-36mm would be perfect. And while this is true, not two 38mm cases are made the same. This is why, in addition to knowing the actual case diameter, we need to take into consideration the case shape.
A 38mm round case will look smaller on the wrist than a 38mm cushion-type case. That is due to the visual aspect of a cushion case that looks more square than round, therefore commanding more visual presence. Similarly, a 34mm rectangular case can appear larger than a 38mm round case. So, when buying a watch and looking at the case diameter, take a closer look at the case shape in addition to the following: is there a fixed or non-fixed bezel? How wide is it? How wide is the dial opening? All of these factors can change the way a watch looks on your wrist regardless of its official diameter.
Besides the diameter, pay attention to the lug-to-lug distance of a watch. By that I mean the length of the watch from lug tip to lug to the ti. Luxury brands rarely mention this measurement but independent brands do because they understand that it matters greatly. By experience, the lug-to-lug distance is more important to me than the diameter in determining whether a watch will fit me or not. Because a watch can have a small case diameter but long lugs or vice versa. The ideal situation is finding a watch that has the proper ratio between diameter and lug-to-lug distance.
For me, having a 6.25” (16cm) wrist, I prefer watches that have a diameter between 36 and 38mm and a lug-to-lug distance between 45 and 47mm. I could buy any watch with dimensions that fit within these parameters and I know it will fit my wrist properly. (Properly as in being neither too small nor too large, or neither too short nor too long.) Going back to shoes, it’s like taking in consideration the shoe size as well as the shoe width. You can have the right shoe size but the wrong shoe width. So learn which lug-to-lug distance works best for you.
A watch thickness is relative to the type of watch it is. Chronographs and perpetual calendars tend to be thicker than time-only watches because the case has to be higher to accommodate for the additional complications. When someone buys an automatic chronograph, one knows the watch will tend to be thick (at least 14mm) while someone who buys an everyday timepiece should expect a thin watch (something in the 10-12mm range.) Having a thicker watch means having a heavier watch, and thick watches tend to be top-heavy (meaning they will move around your wrist more often than lighter, thinner watches.)
However, keeping in mind what was said above about diameter and lug-to-lug distance, a thick watch can be comfortable to wear if the other dimensions are appropriate to your wrist. If you have 8” wrists, you can sport a 45 x 50 x 16mm (diameter x lug-to-lug x thickness) watch without any issues. But if you have a wrist like mine (6.25”,) you might want to stick with watches that are, at the very maximum, 38 x 47 x 12mm. For many, a thick watch can make or break a deal.
Do Dimensions Matter?
They do and they don’t. In many cases, getting the watch that has the right dimensions for your wrist guarantees it will be comfortable to wear. Just like you most likely avoid shoes that are too small or sweaters that are too large (unless you are following the latest trend,) you will want a watch that fits right. Or would you? Not everybody cares about dimensions as much as I (or you?) do, as many people choose a watch based on their design, functionality, or heritage. Buying a watch should be something fun and in this case, people aren’t concerned about the dimensions. And no one wants to be told what are “right” or “wrong” dimensions.
In this article we looked at different key dimensions that watches are described by: case diameter, lug-to-lug distance, and thickness. Finding the right balance between all of these dimensions is important for certain people and not for others. At the end of the day, you buy what you like and nobody should tell you what to spend your money on. And if they do, just ignore them. By mentioning the dimensions of watches, I merely wanted to give you something to work from when shopping for a watch if you are the type of person who’s curious about dimensions are and what they mean.Featured image: www.www.gq-magazine.co.uk