What is the Right Watch Size for My Wrist?

IMAGE Breitling/Cartier/Tag Heuer

When watch shopping, it’s only natural to think about the important details—materials, color, purpose, and price range—but there is also another essential question you need to ask: What is the right watch size for my wrist?  

The answer to that alone can already narrow down your options, as there are a range of models that only come in a certain size. Some watch brands have made a name for themselves for being big, brash, and bold (see: Hublot Big Bang, Officine Panerai), while others are known to come in the more elegant and refined, delicately sized variety (e.g. the classic and enduring Rolex Datejust).  

An out-of-proportion watch may get you noticed, but not always for the right reasons; an oversize watch that screams “Look at me!” at an occasion that calls for something respectable and discreet is downright unacceptable, unless you’re one of the few who can pull it off. For everyone else—don’t be that guy.  

To aid in your quest, we’ve compiled a guide to the different kinds of size ranges that watches commonly come in. Consider this against your own personal preferences and needs, and you won’t go wrong.  

First: Measure Your Wrist 

Grab a tape measure so you can determine the circumference of your wrist. Those who come to about six inches are on the smaller side of the spectrum. If you find that you are within the seven-inch range, you’re a medium. If your wrist measures roughly seven inches and up, it falls under a large.  


Next: Measure Your Case 

When canvassing, take note of the case diameters the models you are eyeing come in. For men’s watches, measurements tend to start at about 36mm for the smaller models and can go up to 44mm for the larger models and beyond.  

Also: Eyeball the Lugs 

Another general guideline when you’re trying the watch on is to pay attention to the lugs, a.k.a. the part that sticks out ever so slightly to connect the bracelet or watch strap to the case. Ensure that the lugs are still sitting visibly within the confines of your wrist, and that will result in a more or less comfortable and easy fit.    

So now it will come down to the case diameters—a rundown of what is currently out there should be able to help you answer the question of what watch is the right size for your wrist. Here are a few additional things to consider:   

The Small Watch 

The case diameter of a small watch would fall between the 36 to 39mm range. This is the size that is favored among the more classic set; modern watches of this size tend to have a rather vintage feel, perhaps because this was the standard size all watches used to come in before brands began outdoing each other by seeing who could release the biggest watch of all.  

Our pick: Cartier Tank Française (36.5mm)

watch now
IMAGE: Cartier

Smaller watches are still viewed as being more suited to business events and dressy occasions; the cases also tend to be thinner, allowing them to fit comfortably under your shirt cuff or jacket. Other advantages can be that smaller-sized watches are usually lighter and more discreet, so the rest of your outfit can do the talking. 

The Medium Watch

A medium-sized watch is a good pick for most wrists—look for those that fall between the 39 to 44mm range. These watches tend to be more versatile and can adapt to a variety of occasions, so if you want to start your collection by investing first in just one quality timepiece, this would be a safe bet. 

Our pick: Tag Heuer Aquaracer Caliber 5 (41mm)

Many of the sportier watch models come in a medium as well, so this is where you can experiment and have a little bit more fun with different functions and complications. Think something that will look great with a T-shirt and jeans, but that can also take you from day to night. A medium-case watch is like the Swiss Army knife of the watch world—everybody needs one. And even if you think you don’t need one, you’ll be glad that you do.  


The Large Watch 

You know what they say: big watch, huge ego. Well, nobody says that, actually, so while we can’t confirm whether or not this is true, let’s just assume that for those in possession of a big, hefty wrist, a tiny little watch face just won’t do.  

Large watches range in size from 43mm up; there was a definite upswing in the movement toward larger watches in the late ’90s and early ’00s, with timepieces like the 46mm IWC Big Pilot pushing the envelope for just how big a watch could be. Large watches could very well find a place on your wrist depending on your personality and they certainly have their practical uses, too—as in the case of the military diving watches issued by Panerai, which needed to be highly visible underwater. 

Our pick: Breitling Emergency (51mm)

They may not fit super comfortably under a shirt cuff, but then again, this isn’t a watch that’s meant to be hidden in the first place. And anyway, you could always take a page out of the famously fashionable Gianni Agnelli’s book and strap the watch on over your sleeve

Watch Size Guide 

Of course, when it comes to answering the question of what is the right watch size for your wrist, there are additional factors that may come in play. Take a look as well at the case’s thickness (this usually falls between six to 10mm, and bear in mind that more complicated movements can lead to a thicker case), the bracelet’s width (determined by the measurement between lugs, which comes out to about half the diameter size), and bracelet or strap length, which can be adjusted by a trusted jeweler or watch dealer.

But as with anything as intimate as a watch, it all comes down to your preference and personality. Now that you know the rules, you can get out there and break them.    

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Nana Caragay
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