Although there are many things to consider when choosing a watch, the most important factor is its size.
A watch’s size is immediately noticeable.
A large watch that looks good on a person with a large wrist will draw attention to someone with a slender wrist. It can even make their wrist look smaller in proportion.
I’ve spent a couple of days looking for information to help you find a watch that fits you perfectly. I condensed everything in this guide.
The guide will give you a starting point for an ideal watch case diameter for your wrist size. I’ll teach you how to measure your wrist and give you a few other watch characteristics to keep an eye on.
By the end, you’ll be able to find a watch that fits and looks great on your wrist.
Let’s get started!
Ideal Watch Sizes: A Starting Point
To find a watch that looks good on you, you need to think about the watch’s proportions in relation to your wrist.
The most common size metric provided by the retailer is case diameter. We will learn more about case diameter later, but for now, you should know it’s the width of the watch.
The diameter in relation to your wrist size will dictate how the watch will look. If you know your wrist size, find it in the graph below to see the corresponding case diameter.
If you don’t know your wrist size, skip ahead to learn how to measure yourself and come back when you’re done.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when considering where you fall on the graph.
First, the recommendations in the table are not meant to be hard and fast rules. There are many things to consider when looking at a watch’s size, which the rest of this post will go through.
The second point to keep in mind is that fashion and trends play a part in what watch sizes are popular at any moment. For example, large watch cases have been in fashion for men in recent years.
A watch bigger than what is recommended in the table may be desired if you are trying to be on-trend.
Finally, if you are buying a watch as a gift for a man, I recommend you stick with the mid ranges in the table. That way, you know that the watch won’t be way too big or way too small.
How to Measure Your Wrist
If you don’t know your wrist size, let’s get that now.
To measure your wrist, you need a flexible measuring tape like the one tailors use. Alternatively, if you don’t have a measuring tape, you can use a string or a slim strip of paper and a ruler.
- Make a loop with the measuring tape and put your hand through. Pull the measuring tape until it is snug around your wrist. Measure either over the wrist bone or just below it towards your elbow. Try to measure where you comfortably wear a watch.
- With your wrist facing up, open your hand. Opening your hand will expand the wrist slightly. Be sure that it isn’t too tight or too loose and take the measurement.
If you are using a string, wrap it around your wrist twice, and mark both lengths of string at the same point. With the string laid flat next to a ruler, measure the distance between the two points you marked.
If you are using a strip of paper, wrap it around your wrist and mark the paper where the end overlaps. Then measure the strip of paper from the end to the point you marked with a ruler.
Now that you have your wrist size and rough guidelines on a watch size that will work let’s go a bit deeper, starting with watch cases
The watch case is the housing of the watch, and they come in different sizes and shapes. The most common shapes are round, oval, and rectangle.
The width, or diameter, of a watch case (excluding the crown) is generally provided by the manufacturer or retailer. The diameter is measured in millimeters (mm) and can range in size from 24mm to over 46mm.
The watch industry has traditionally created watches for women with sizes of 26mm to 29mm. Men’s watches tend to measure from 34 mm to 47mm or more.
Though modern trends skew towards larger cases, classic and antique wristwatches tend to run small.
Of course, nothing is keeping a woman from wearing a 47mm watch or a man from wearing a 26mm watch. Wear what fits your personality and style.
The thickness of a watch’s case can make a watch seem bulky or sleek. It is also measured in millimeters and is the distance between the watch’s cristal on the watch’s face and the case back.
Thickness tends to run from 6mm to 18mm.
Mechanical watchmakers used to compete with each other to create the slimmest watch possible. A slim case was a sign of a high-quality watch.
Typically, with a mechanical watch, the more complications (additional features) a watch has, the thicker the case tends to be.
With the move towards larger watches and quartz movements in recent decades, thick cases are mainly for looks rather than necessity.
Lug Distance and Lug Shape
The lugs of a watch are the protrusions from the watch’s case where the straps attach. The lug distance is the length from the end of the lugs on top to the end of the lugs on the bottom of the watch case.
Lugs can be straight or curved down around the wrist.
In many cases, the lug distance and shape are more important in determining a good fit than the case diameter.
This is because if the lugs of a watch are long and straight, they may stick out past the wrist, making the watch uncomfortable and look too big.
Curved lugs tend to be best for people with thinner wrists. Curved lugs won’t protrude, and the watch won’t stick up at the curves of your wrist.
Curved lugs can make a watch that might otherwise be too big for your wrist still look good.
The band or bracelet of a watch can add comfort, style, and durability. It can also affect the visual proportions of the watch.
The size and the material should be considered when selecting a timepiece.
Watchband and Braclet Size
The band or bracelet is measured by its width, where it attaches to the case. The width is dictated by the lug width, which is the measure between the lugs.
The width is typically about half the watch case’s diameter.
A thinner watch strap will look better if you have a slender wrist. If you have a large wrist, wide bands and bracelets will look good.
This is entirely up to your preference and style, though, and is by no means a strict rule.
Watch Band Material
Watchbands come in rubber, leather, and fabric (or NATO) varieties.
The band material can make a watch seem larger or smaller, and some look better on different size wrists.
Metal bracelets tend to make a watch look heavier and beefier, even if they’re the same size as bands made of a different material.
A large watch case is usually well complimented with a metal bracelet. Also, they typically look good on a person with a larger wrist.
Leather and fabric watchbands tend to have the opposite effect.
They can make a watch seem lighter and slimmer. These bands look great on any sized wrist, even very slender wrists, because of their soft appearance.
Rubber straps can be big and rugged or slim and sleek. Depending on which you opt for, they can affect the overall proportion of the watch.
Other Watch Characteristics
A few other characteristics can make a watch seem larger or smaller than it actually is.
A white dial (the watch’s “face”) can give the appearance that the watch is larger when compared to a dark dial.
The size of the watch’s index (the number and hour markers on the dial) and hands can also make a watch seem bigger.
A bezel is a feature that can really make a watch seem smaller than its diameter. The bezel is an outer ring around the dial typically found on dive watches.
Because the bezel reduces the dial’s diameter, a watch without a bezel that is the same case size will look larger than one with a bezel.
Style should also be considered when choosing a wristwatch. Some watch styles are meant to be bigger on the wrist.
For example, aviation and dive watches are typically larger than dress watches. A classic modestly sized dress watch will slip under a dress shirt due to its thin case.
Finally, pushers and the watch’s crown can add an appearance of bulkiness to a watch. A timepiece with pushers will visually seem larger than one without.
Also, if the pushers and crown are oversized or stick out far from the case, the watch will appear larger.
The Bottom Line and Next Steps
As you’ve seen, knowing the case diameter size that will fit your wrist is the foundation for choosing a watch.
On top of this, the lug-to-lug distance and the shape of the lugs can affect how the watch fits. Remember to keep that in mind if you have slender wrists.
Visually, the band and bracelet can make a watch look and feel completely different on the wrist. Opt for beefy bracelets if you have thicker wrists and leather or fabric straps if they are slender.
You aren’t married to the strap or the bracelet when you buy a watch, though. They can be easily swapped to give the watch a completely new look.
Finally, keep in mind that pushers, crowns, bezels, and even the color of the dial can all make a watch look bigger or smaller than others with the same diameter.
Now that you know what watch size and characteristics will look good on you, check out this list of the best affordable watch brands for buyers with tight budgets.