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Finding the right fit with a fine timepiece goes well beyond watch band sizes or even overall watch sizes. It’s more complicated and subjective than that. So how do you choose? What factors do you need to consider? Are there some watches you should just avoid? Let’s answer some of these questions and more.

I Found the Perfect Watch… Maybe

First, it should be conceded that there are no real rules, nothing in cement, no strict regulations you need to follow in finding the right size watch. If you think a watch looks good on you, that’s probably enough.

And while there are some general guidelines when it comes to size, these have grey areas and personal aspects to consider. One size watch may be great for one person and totally wrong for another even if the wrist and hand proportions of the wearers are nearly identical. So let’s start with wrist size.

Measure Your Wrist

Tag Heuer Formula 1

Risking statement of the obvious, your wrist size will likely be a determining factor in the size of the watch you wear (but not always!). Knowing your wrist size is especially important if you are shopping online and won’t have the opportunity to “try before you buy.” The best way to do this is to use a tailor’s tape to measure where your watch will sit, generally below the wrist bone. If you don’t have a measuring tape, you can use a dollar bill, which measures about 16mm in length. So measure away! Now that you know your number, where does it fall in the scale? We can place your wrist size into:

1: Thin, from 14mm to 16mm

2: Slim, from 16mm to 17mm

3: Medium, from 17mm to 18mm

4: Large, 18mm and above

Matching Your Wrist to the Case Diameter

After you know the size of your wrist, finding the right watch is just a matter of matching case proportions, right? Well, sort of, maybe, but not always. While matching the case of a watch to the proportions of your wrist can be a good way to select your right size, it could also create a clash with your personal sense of style.

Hamilton Khaki Navy

So this is by no means etched in stone, but we can generally find that case size best corresponds to wrist size as:

1: Thin wrist, 38mm case or less

2: Slim wrist, 38mm case to 40mm

3: Medium wrist, 42mm case to 44mm

4: Large wrist, 46mm case and above

How Thick Should Your Watch Be?

Personal style and how you’ll wear the watch come into play here. So does the type of watch you want. For example, dress watches are usually on the thinner side and serve more formal purposes (as they are slim enough to fit under shirt sleeves). Dive watches and pilot watches are thicker and for sportier occasions.

In general, it’s a good idea if the case thickness and diameter are proportional, each increasing or decreasing in size with the other. If you are looking at a thin watch with a 38mm to 40mm diameter, chances are it will have a proportional thickness of 7mm. A big face watch with a diameter of 44mm will often have a thickness of 9mm or over.

Choosing Your Band Width and Material

Tudor Heritage Black Bay

Physical comfort is a factor here. If you like your watch a little loose, you are going to want to select something thinner that more easily moves up and down your wrist. Usually, watch bands are proportional to the case and about 50% of the diameter. So a case with a diameter of, say, 40mm would fit well on a band of 20mm. This only goes so far as you don’t want a band that’s too skinny, or the reverse, many watch wearers like a hefty band that might be slightly outside the half proportion to the case. And as with case diameters, large bands usually work best on large wrists and the same for thinner bands and smaller wrists.

If you are going for a slim look, a leather strap is an optimal choice. Even if they’re the same width as leather, a metal band is bulkier and will always wear heavier. There are exceptions, including an ultra-thin Milanese metal band. Leather and fabric straps have the added advantage of easy adjustment, as all you need do is find the right hole for the right fit. With metal bands, you’ll likely have to go to the jeweler to have links added or removed when sizing for the right fit.

Details of the Dial

One aspect you might not think to consider when sizing up a watch is the dial. While, of course, the elements of a dial don’t change the diameter they can give that appearance. The more subdials, hands, and indices a watch has the bigger it will feel. Conversely, more minimalist watches feel smaller simply because their faces are less busy. Again personal taste comes into play here, but usually, a busier dial looks better on a larger wrist and smaller wrists are better suited to watches with fewer features.

Tag Heuer Carrera

But after all of that measuring, you still may decide that your perfect timepiece conforms to none of these size guidelines! And that’s just fine. Put a big statement watch on a dainty wrist or adorn a massive wrist with something small and subtle. Your watch is your declaration of personal style and you may wish to tell the world you don’t care about size.

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