Sorry Guys, Size Does Matter: You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Wrist and Other Things your Watch Retailer Won’t Tell You
Last year, I wrapped a Moritz Grossmann 37 Arabic around my wrist. I’ve been a fan of the watch ever since discovering it in 2020 while under house arrest (along with everyone else) and treating my cabin fever with online window shopping.
And I’m happy to report that it did not disappoint. The opportunity to see it in the metal, to examine it under the scrutiny of Dubai Watch Week’s bright lights, to hang out with the man who put it together, and to pretend – if only for a minute – that I owned the watch was, to all intents and purposes, a spellbinding and tantalizing experience. There’s a lot to love and plenty to gush over, so let’s get to it.
There are the hands and how they’re in a league of their own, the solid silver dial, the “Made in Germany” stamp and all that implies. Then there’s movement and its architecture, classically correct and finished to perfection.
And let’s not forget the violet screws, the freehand engraving, the sapphire pivot jewels nestled in gold chatons, and the elaborate solarization on the ratchet wheel with each of its teeth individually beveled – Poinçon de Genève, eat your heart out!
That’s often the way with these things: The closer you look, the more you’re impressed.
But I didn’t have to look closely at all. Not with the 37 Arabic. All I had to do was wear it. Ultimately, what won me over wasn’t how its components stood up to a jeweler’s loop, but how the watch sat on my wrist. It was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a perfect fit.
Perfect fit (for me, at least) is a prerequisite to buying a watch – that and having enough money. You can argue that there’s no such thing, but there is “too big” and “too small.” The latter, as demonstrated by Daniel Craig’s tailor throughout five Bond films, is forgivable. The former, however, is a serious offense, resulting in what I like to call “the clown shoe effect,” where oversized apparel lends the perpetrator an air of cluelessness and buffoonery.
When it comes to looking dope, one can never be too careful. As you can imagine, this can be limiting if your wrist is on the smaller side, especially when shopping for sports watches, which tend to be bigger and occupy the lion’s share of the market.
The small-wristed watch customer knows how the vertically challenged theme park visitor feels: demoralized. It goes something like this . . .
You go see a watch in the metal, hoping that it lives up to your expectations. You’re wearing a piece from the same brand – that ought to let them know you’re serious. The salesperson hands you the watch. You strap it on. Immediately, something is amiss.
Many things, in fact.
Cue the telltale signs of a poor fit. The lugs protrude off the edge of your arm. It’s fat and top-heavy, so – depending on stance and angle – it either hangs from your wrist like a chunky padlock or towers over it like a suspension bridge.
You push the watch further up your arm, throwing an extra millimeter or two at the problem. No bueno. It’s undeniably too big.
Still, you turn to the mirror and check yourself out. You look like an idiot. The salesperson says you’re pulling it off, but you can tell from his face that you’re not. Having had enough disappointment for one day, you hand the watch back, slink out of the store, and double down on the sub-40mm filter option the next time you scour the web for cogs.
But case diameter alone doesn’t tell the whole story. Other factors come into play here: Case shape and thickness, lug shape and length, and bezel-to-dial ratio. A vast dial, combined with a thin bezel, will make a watch look bigger. If the watch is on a bracelet, as opposed to a strap, you need to mind those end links. Do they flank out like a fighter jet’s wings? If so, you’ll struggle to fill that watch out.
Is it of the integrated bracelet variety? Even more space to fill. Is the case-back domed? More still. That goes double if your arm is more cylindrical than it is flat. Ideally, you want the case-back flush to your skin, the lugs hugging your wrist, and plenty of real estate around that bezel. These are the general guidelines, tried and true, nothing new.
Yet, many veterans of our hobby are blind to them. I see them at trade shows, wearing watches far too big for their wrists, seemingly unaware of how silly they look. What, they don’t know any better? Of course, they do! But they don’t care.
True watch people, who are genuinely passionate about horology, love watches for what they are, not for how they make them look, what kind of impression they make, or what kind of attention they draw.
They’re not putting an outfit together; they’re assembling a collection. They’re not trying to impress their in-laws; they’re trying to form relationships with industry folk. They’re not looking for a gateway to high society; they’re looking for their place in the watch community.
Suffice it to say, they’re as far from superficial as you can get. On the surface, that seems like a good thing, but the extreme end of anything is bad.
For one thing, disregarding “fit” flies in the face of precision and carefully considered proportions, which are fundamental to the art and science of watchmaking. For another, it ruins the class photo, so to speak. Insert George Costanza’s We’re Living in a Society meme here.
When you wear a watch that’s too big, not only do you look like a dope but you also make the person standing next to you (that’s me) look bad. Worse still, it makes the watch itself look bad. How do you think that makes the people who made it feel?
I’m going to stick my neck out here: Neither Greubel nor Forsey wants to see their +47mm Double Tourbillon on your 14cm wrist. It’s like seeing a toddler in their mother’s heels. Cute when you’re a kid, unbecoming as an adult.
Speaking of which, a luxury watch is arguably the most “grown-up” of accessories, your first often signifying your transition from adolescence to adulthood. That and losing your virginity, which, ironically, is difficult to achieve if you don’t know how to dress yourself.
Nonetheless, you owe it to yourself and to those around you to dress like you have children, not like your children have dressed you.
I know what you’re thinking: who is this guy and why is he lecturing me on what to wear? Who does he think he is, the Ryan Gosling to my Steve Carell? No. I’m just a humble scribbler, thinking out loud and writing it down. So, don’t take it from me, take it from Mark Cho, the co-founder of The Armoury and co-owner of Drake’s.
Aside from being in the business of dressing people and a savvy watch collector in his own right, Cho conducted a survey on this very subject, the results of which I haven’t the space to explore here. To him, watch size is worthy of discussion. He brings it up a lot. “I love most [modern] Pateks,” he said in a WatchBox interview, “I just wish they were all 30-50% smaller.”
Size, more than anything, dictates whether he buys a watch or not. If it doesn’t fit him, he doesn’t want anything to do with it. If it’s too big, no myriad of complications, degree of finish, design features, brand name, historical significance, rarity or scarcity will part the velvet rope that guards his collection.
Some might say he’s limiting himself. I say the limitations are real. But it’s what he said, during the aforementioned interview, that hit home for me: “Not everything in the world is for you.”
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