For the last two decades, the world of horology has been obsessed with the idea of oversized timepieces. Perhaps driven by Panerai’s Sylvester Stallone-fuelled meteoric rise to stardom in the 1990s and 2000s, large watches have been ‘in’ for quite some time, but this trend doesn’t suit everyone. So, for those with small wrists or who prefer smaller watches in general, here are some tips on choosing the right watch for you.
Prior to the relatively recent move towards large watches, small watches were in. For example, before the Royal Oak’s launch in 1972, the vast majority of vintage watches would have been capped at about 36mm, particularly watches from high-end brands like AP, Patek, Vacheron, and so on. Rolex did produce some larger 40mm watches along with several other brands producing tool watches, but for the most part, it is pretty easy to get a stylish vintage watch that is quite a bit smaller than the modern watch sizes we use today.
As long as you stick to the early 1990s or before, the vast majority of watches that you buy will be smaller than 40mm. Think about the Rolex Datejust, the Rolex Explorer, the Cartier Tank, the JLC Reverso, or basically any dress watch out there – these were all mainly produced in sizes smaller than 36mm. Brands like Omega, Universal Geneve, and many others even produced watches that were even smaller than 36mm, with the Omega Geneve available in several sizes.
Use Shape To Your Advantage
Another tip when choosing a watch for a small wrist is to use case shape to your advantage and allow it to maximize the size of the case on your wrist. Watches with interesting case shapes often appear much larger than they are, and so they can easily be worn on a small wrist while also increasing the perceived size of the watch. Some examples are rectangular watches, they usually have much smaller measurements than you would assume, but they look fantastic on nearly every wrist size. The Cartier Tank, JLC Reverso, and Rolex Prince are some great examples.
Furthermore, square, octagonal, or tonneau cases also allow the watch to appear much more significant than they are. Brands like Franck Muller, Audemars Piguet, Richard Mille, Girard Perregaux, Bell & Ross, and several others all use these case shapes that you can wear rather comfortably as you can pick a small size and it will still appear large and fill out your wrist nicely.
Perhaps one of the least-used tips for wearing watches on a small wrist is to buy a watch that fits, but make sure it has a bright dial. Bright dials stand out a lot more than their darker counterparts and, as such appear much more prominent on the wrist than they actually are. Colors like white and silver are great, but so are other colors like yellow, red and so on. Typically speaking, the brighter the dial, the larger it will make your watch appear. So you can easily wear something like a 36mm Rolex Oyster Perpetual with a yellow dial, and it will look incredible.
Our final tip for choosing a watch for a small wrist is to choose a watch with an integrated bracelet. Integrated bracelets seamlessly join onto the watch case without the use of traditional lugs, much like the Patek Philippe Nautilus or AP Royal Oak. Integrated bracelets make the watch appear larger as they lack the clear line where the case ends and the bracelet starts; this creates the illusion that the watch is larger than a watch with a traditional bracelet design where the clear break is apparent.