Robust diver, sporty chronograph, sleek dress watch, or a simple all-rounder? There are endless options when it comes to selecting a timepiece. We are really spoiled for choice as watch enthusiasts. However, having so many options also comes with some downsides. For starters, you don’t just have different watch types to choose from, but also a range of sizes; it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the vast selection out there. But fear not, I’ll let you know what really matters when picking out the perfect watch. Spoiler alert: Case diameter isn’t the best indicator of whether a watch will suit your wrist, and it shouldn’t be the deciding factor when buying your next timepiece.
1. Forget Diameter: It’s All About the Lug-To-Lug
The first thing potential buyers often look at when checking out a new watch is its case diameter. Every manufacturer lists the case dimensions high up on their spec sheet. Ironically, the diameter doesn’t really give you that much information about whether a watch will fit your wrist. Of course, diameter and thickness are relevant to some extent, but a much better indicator of a watch’s real size is the lug-to-lug measurement, i.e., the surface of the case that comes into contact will your wrist. If this measurement is smaller than the surface area of your wrist, the watch will fit you, 100%. If, however, it is bigger than your wrist, the watch simply won’t fit. Thus, a 43-mm watch with a lug-to-lug that is roughly the same size as your wrist width will suit your arm better than a 41-mm watch with a larger lug-to-lug. You don’t necessarily need to know your wrist’s exact measurements, either. Find somewhere you can try on a watch and look to see whether you can still see some of your wrist above or below the lugs. The less skin you see, the greater the lug-to-lug. Then, start looking for articles or videos that mention the lug-to-lug measurements of different models. With the exception of Breitling, most manufacturers haven’t yet realized how vital this information is for potential buyers and don’t list it with the rest of the watch’s specifications. As a rule, however, watches with a lug-to-lug between 47 and 49 mm will fit most wrists.
While the lug-to-lug is the most important thing to pay attention to, there are three other factors to look out for. After all, you want to find your perfect watch, right?
2. Watch Type
There is a massive difference between wearing a sports model like the Omega Speedmaster, an all-rounder like the Rolex Datejust, or an elegant Jaeger-LeCoultre. Sporty watches with a diving or tachymeter bezel generally appear smaller than those with steel or fluted bezels. While a 41-mm sports watch may look just fine on a more slender wrist, a 41-mm Rolex Datejust with a fluted bezel, sunburst dial, and Jubilee bracelet may be a bit much.
3. Dial Color
It goes without saying that dial color plays a decisive role when selecting a timepiece. Dark dials, especially black, make a watch look smaller, while their lighter counterparts, especially white, make a watch look larger than it actually is. Is the smaller version of a certain model too small, but the larger version too large? Well, the smaller version with a white dial may be the best option for you.
Another small, but vital aspect of any watch purchase is the band selection. Wearing a watch on a steel bracelet will make it appear larger on the wrist. Leather and NATO straps, on the other hand, can make a watch appear smaller. If a watch is slightly too big for you, try switching out the band. It can make a small, but noticeable difference in fit. While wearing a NATO strap is rather causal, leather can oftentimes transform even the sportiest of sports chronographs into an elegant dress watch. I have recently discovered Cordura straps for my own timepieces. I think they make great alternatives to steel bracelets and give the watch an irresistible sporty, yet elegant look.
5. Find Your Perfect Watch
At the end of the day, you need to make sure that you buy a watch that you really like and are comfortable with. Do you like oversized watches? If so, don’t let anyone talk you out of wearing your jumbo-sized timepiece. Do you prefer slim watches that border on jewelry? Great! Tastes will always vary. However, if you want to know whether the watch of your desire will fit your wrist well, always look for the lug-to-lug measurement. Watches like the 46-mm Breitling Navitimer or the 44-mm Omega Speedmaster Apollo 8 look great on many wrists despite their generous diameters due to their relatively small lug-to-lug measurements. So, don’t be immediately put off if you see a large diameter on your dream watch. As long as the watch doesn’t protrude far beyond your wrist, it may still work. But remember to also pay attention to the type of watch you’re dealing with. While sports watches look good in a larger size, dress watches are often better kept a bit more reserved. Factor in smaller details like the dial color and band choice as well, and you will be well on your way to finding the perfect watch for you.