Ultimate Watch Size Guide

The Ultimate Watch Size Guide: Factors Influencing The Size Of A Watch

It’s not so easy to know exactly what watch you should get for your wrist size. To make things even harder, some people on the Internet talk about Small, Medium or Large watches (and wrists…) but that does not translate to actual sizes.

And they don’t tell you exactly what you should pay attention to. Your quest is over, I put everything I have observed and experienced in this ultimate watch size guide!

What watch size should I get for my wrist?

Because of my small wrists, I have had my fair share of questions, doubts, findings, fails, and wins. I know what it is to buy a watch that is way too big for your wrist.

But that was because I didn’t know better. The secret lies in getting the right watch size for your wrist and not falling for the oversized watch trend.

My preferred ratio is when the watch case has a case size of 60 to 75% of the size of the flat surface of your wrist. To get a rough estimate of the size of the flat surface of your wrist, just measure your wrist size (in millimiters) and divide it by 3.

Also, the lug to lug distance of a watch will play an important role here (learn what it is and how to measure it in my watch case size article).

I consider a watch as not too big and not too small when the lug to lug distance is 75 to 95% of your wrist width.More than 100% will make your watch overhang your wrist and look not so great.

Now, these are rough estimates, again. Some men have flat wrists, some men have rounder wrists. Some guys prefer small or vintage watches, some prefer bulkier and sportier timepieces. It’s okay, we don’t have to love and wear the same watches!

Here is a complete watch size table to help you find the perfect watch for your wrist size:

InchesCentimetersWatch Case Size
Lug To Lug Distance
5.50 ”14.0 cmFrom 27.9 to 34.9 mmFrom 34.9 to 43.7 mm
5.75 ”14.6 cmFrom 29.2 to 36.5 mmFrom 36.5 to 45.6 mm
6.00 ”15.2 cmFrom 30.5 to 38.1 mmFrom 38.1 to 47.6 mm
6.25 ”15.9 cmFrom 31.8 to 39.7 mmFrom 39.7 to 49.6 mm
6.50 ”16.5 cmFrom 33.0 to 41.3 mmFrom 41.3 to 51.6 mm
6.75 ”17.1 cmFrom 34.3 to 42.9 mmFrom 42.9 to 53.6 mm
7.00 ”17.8 cmFrom 35.6 to 44.5 mmFrom 44.5 to 55.6 mm
7.25 ”18.4 cmFrom 36.8 to 46.0 mmFrom 46 to 57.5 mm
7.50 ”19.1 cmFrom 38.1 to 47.6 mmFrom 47.6 to 59.5 mm
7.75 ”19.7 cmFrom 39.4 to 49.2 mmFrom 49.2 to 61.5 mm
8.00 ”20.3 cmFrom 40.6 to 50.8 mmFrom 50.8 to 63.5 mm
8.25 ”21.0 cmFrom 41.9 to 52.4 mmFrom 52.4 to 65.5 mm

So for example, the perfect watch size for 6 inch wrists would be 38mm or smaller. With some models, 40 to 42 mm could still work, depending on the bezel size or the hour marker circle size (read on for more info on these).

But if you want to be safe, choose a watch that has a 38 mm case or smaller.

Conversely, the perfect watch size for 7 inch wrists would be from 36.5 to 44.5 mm. In some cases, you might stretch it to 46mm but that’s about it.

The good thing is: because you have a wrist size that is very close to the average wrist size for a man, you will have a much easier time finding watches that you like. Manufacturers tend to release models that will suit the biggest portion of the population.

Always remember: in any case, you don’t want the lugs to overhang the width of your wrist.

How to measure a watch case size

I covered this topic extensively in my How To Measure A Watch Case Size article. Make sure to read it to get all the subtleties of a watch size.

But if you’re in a hurry, here is how you do it: with a set of digital callipers, measure the watch case from one side of the case to opposite side, without including the crown.

Because on most watches the crown sits à the 3 o’clock position, it’s often easier to measure a watch case from the 2 o’clock to the 10 o’clock position.

How to measure a watch case size.

If you don’t have callipers, you can use a transparent ruler to get an approximation of that size. The size reading won’t be perfect, but it will give you a good idea.

How big is a 38mm watch?

I cannot stretch this enough: the watch case size is not everything! That single dimension is not the whole story!

Pretty much all articles and guides on the Internet are way too simplistic regarding watch sizes: they just tell you to not get a watch above 40mm in diameter, with 38mm being the sweet spot. But is it?

A 38 mm diver like the Seiko SKX013 (check it on Amazon or read my full review of the Seiko SKX013) would look tiny on a 7.5 inch wrist. Conversely, a 38 mm dress watch like the Hamilton Intra-Matic (check it on Amazon) would look perfect.

The other way around is true too: the Seiko SKX013 looks perfect on my 6 inch wrist, but the Hamilton Intra-Matic looks quite big (but still okay) on me. It’s all about how it looks on your wrist. 38 mm, in and of itself, doesn’t mean anything.

Now, while getting a 38mm watch is a safe choice most of the time, it’s not nearly enough to make a watch work for you. I have 42mm watches that still look good on me, while some 40mm watches look absolutely huge. We’ll see later in this article why.

Also, you have to take into account your tastes. I prefer modern watches. The problem is: most modern watches are on the bigger side, with 40mm being about the smallest you can get (unless you go to more luxurious brands).

So if you’re like me, you will have to accept that some watches will look quite big on your wrist. And that’s okay if you stick to the upcoming points.

However, if you like vintage watches, rejoice! You have plenty of models ranging from 30mm (or even less !) to 38mm. Most are pretty cheap in comparison the value they offer, and they can make great investments too.

You’ll find a watch suiting your taste without a problem, and you’ll be sure that it will fit your wrists perfectly. Just don’t go overboard and get a 30mm watch if you have 7 inch wrists: it might begin to look really tiny on you.

Try to keep the watch case size in your range (see the watch size guide table above, depending on your wrists size and preferences).

But don’t exaggerate and get a small watch because you read that this is what you should do. You’ll end up with what some call a “boy’s watch”: a watch that is too small for you.

Factors that affect the subjective watch case size

Remember: the case size is only a small portion of the watch size equation. Many other factors will change your perception of a watch size.

The lug to lug distance

A really important aspect of a watch size is the lug to lug distance. This is almost as important (if not more) as the watch case size in itself.

The lug to lug distance is the distance between the lug (or tip) of the watch at the top of the watch head and the the lug at the bottom of the watch head.

The difference between lug to lug and lug width on an Orient Ray II

The lug to lug distance should be as small as possible to work with your small wrist. Try to keep the watch head within the limits of your wrist width as much as possible.

The reason is simple: we want the watch head to fit within your wrist width.We don’t want it to stick out or overhang. It just doesn’t look good.

If you have small wrists, you might have a hard time finding watches that fit within your wrist width.

My wrists are so thin that most watches visually touch both ends of my wrist. There is just no way around this for me, given my tastes and budget. But I try to keep that lug to lug distance as short as possible.

A watch that overhangs your wrist does not look good…

So, what’s a good lug to lug distance for your wrist?

The lug to lug distance of a watch will suit your wrist when it is 75 to 95% of your wrist width. The variation accounts for the different wrists shapes and personal preferences.

You see, some of us are blessed, some not so much. The weird thing is that your wrist size (or circumference) does not relate directly to your wrist width.

If you have a flat wrist, you’re lucky. Most of the circumference of your wrist will serve as the flat area where your watch will sit, allowing for a larger lug to lug distance.

But if you have thicker or rounder wrists (or if your wrists are very small like mine) well, you’ll have to settle for smaller timepieces. Don’t fear, there are still plenty of great mens watches for small wrists.

(Again, to have an estimate of your wrist width (its flat surface), you can easily measure your wrist size in millimiters and divide its size by 3. And remember to check in the watch size guide table above what lug to lug distance will work on your wrist.)

Now, an interesting thing is that the lug to lug distance is not in direct proportion to a watch size. Some 41mm watches have ridiculously long lugs, with a 50mm lug to lug distance (I’m looking at you, Tudor Black Bay!).

Some are the exact opposite. A notable example is my beloved Citizen Promaster Nighthawk: 42mm in diameter for 46.5mm lug to lug distance only!

The Citizen Promaster Nighthawk and its short lug to lug distance compared to the case size – Check it on Amazon

So always try to know (or measure by yourself) the lug to lug distance before committing to buying a watch. And remember: a small watch doesn’t always have a short lug to lug distance.

The good thing is: the other way around is true too!

The shape of the lugs: flat vs curved

Something else to know about the lugs (even if it seems pretty obvious): some are almost flat, and some are more curved.

If you have smaller wrists, you want to get a watch with curved lugs as they will hug your wrist better, and not stick out like marshmallow roasting sticks.

And if you really like a watch with flat lugs, just make sure that the lug to lug distance is still within your wrist width for the best results.

Flat lugs vs curved lugs. Smaller wrists want curved lugs, larger wrists can choose to their hearts content.

Trust me: I’ve bought 3 watches with a 50mm lug to lug distance and flat lugs. The watch would not sit flush against my wrist at the lug tip, leaving a big and gap between the tip of the lug and my wrist.

Not to mention that they overhung… Not only was it painful to look at, but it was really uncomfortable. Don’t make the same mistake.

The hour markers circle

Okay, now we’re getting serious. Remember when I said that the watch case size is not everything? Well, here is a non so obvious reason why.

The hour markers circle size is another important factor that makes a watch look bigger or smaller. Maybe you read or heard some people telling that a “42 mm watch wears like a 40 mm”.

This is because the hour markers circle size is small for the watch case.

This is not really a physical dimension, but it’s one that is most definitely visible when you look at the dial of a watch.

The hour markers circle size is measured from one tip of an hour marker on the dial to the tip of the opposite hour marker.

Again, you can get more information about this in my How To Measure A Watch Case Size article.

The hour markers circle size changes your perception of the size of a watch.

As you can see on my Citizen Promaster Nighthawk (on the left), the crystal is huge. It fills most of the 42 mm case, yet the hour markers circle only measures 26 mm.

On the other end of the spectrum, that 42 mm Hamilton Pilot Day Date Automatic (Amazon link) has a whopping 35 mm hour markers circle size. Yet it has the exact same case size than the Citizen!

I love the Hamilton, but it looks huge on me – even with its 48 mm lug to lug distance.

The Hamilton has thick lines at the edge of the dial that really stand out in real life (more than the numbers). That’s why I measured the hour markers circle there.

As soon as I began to get this measurement on watches – either in real life or on pictures – I could know if a watch would suit my wrist (granted the case size and lug to lug distance was good too).

On my 6 inch wrist, I find that 30mm is as big as the hour markers circle can get. I only get a watch with a greater hour markers circle size if all the other boxes are ticked and I really, really, really like it.

So, watch out for this hour markers circle.

The bezel

Watches with a bezel have a smaller hour makers circle, and so will look smaller. A 40mm watch with a bezel will always look smaller than a 40mm watch with no bezel.

For example, my Orient Ray 2 has a case size of 41.5mm. Yet it looks smaller than my Seiko SRPB41, measuring only 40.5mm.

Why?

The Orient has a 25mm hour markers circle, while the one on the Seiko is 32mm! (I know I said 30mm is the maximum for me, but I don’t care, I really, really like it :P)

The Orient Ray 2 (on the left), while bigger, looks smaller that the Seiko SRPB41

If sports watches are more your thing, finding a watch that will suit your small wrist should be fairly easy. Sports watches often feature a bezel.

The two most common bezel types are the ones you find on dive watches and chronographs.

  • The first one features a rotating bezel counting the elapsed time underwater by 5 minutes increments.
  • The second one is a tachymeter, giving you a speed by timing the time you take to drive one mile.

There are other bezels out there, but they will all reduce the hour markers circle size, so pick your favorite one.

Some dress watches feature a bezel too, but not as thick and prominent as the one you might find on sports watches.

If you’re really into the more dressier side of watches, pay attention and get a watch with a bezel (that is part of the case, most of the time), if possible.

Rolex Explorer
The Rolex Explorer – Check it on Amazon

For example, the Rolex Explorer above (which looks stunning, by the way) has a fixed polished bezel that will reduce the size of the dial. And consequently, the hour markers circle as well.

The chapter ring

Sometimes, the rotating bezel is not on the outside of the watch, but rather under the crystal. Inside the case, it’s not called a bezel, but a chapter ring.

And guess what: a chapter ring also changes the perception you have of a watch size. It will give you the same benefit as a bezel, but with a different look: you’ll get a much bigger crystal.

Just be aware that a watch with a bigger crystal will still always look bigger than a watch with a smaller crystal.

But once you know that, it all depends on the look you’re after. Bezel or chapter ring? It’s up to you.

Many watches have chapter rings, including watches with bezels. Some are thin, some are large. Some are fixed, some are rotating.

It doesn’t matter, they have the same effect: they keep the hour markers away from the edge of the case. So that the subjective size of a watch with a chapter ring will be smaller.

One of the most pleasing chapter rings you get (in my opinion) is the one you find on some pilot watches: the slide rule.

It looks good and it’s super useful (to convert currencies while abroad, for example). Another popular chapter ring is the compass you find on hiking watches. Again, pick your favorite style.

A slide rule and a compass, both being a rotating chapter ring in this case.

The color of the dial: dark vs light

If you take two exact same watches – one with a light dial and one with a dark dial – the one with a dark dial will always look smaller. This is because of the way our brain perceives the light reflected by objects.

A watch with a light dial and the same one with a dark dial. The one with the darker dial will appear smaller in real life.

Of course, you don’t have to get a black watch just because it looks smaller.

But if you have smaller wrists and you like light dials, you should get a watch with a smaller case size and hour markers circle size than you would normally get to compensate that perception.

The case thickness

Thin watches for the win!

One last thing about the watch case itself. A watch will always look a bit smaller if it’s thinner. The effect is not as visible as having a small case size, lug to lug distance, hour markers circle, or dark dial, but it certainly helps.

You’ll have an easier time getting a thin watch by getting a dress watch (quartz or mechanical). Most quartz watches are super thin too.

You’ll get the added benefits of having a watch that fits easily under the cuff, and that is lightweight and comfortable to wear.

Thick watches (of more than 12mm) tend to be really top heavy, especially if you wear them on a band or strap.They might turn around your wrist and will always look a bit bigger.

Wrapping up

So there you have it! I hope this guide will help you find the perfect watch for your wrist.

Don’t forget: case size, lug to lug distance, lug shape, hour markers circle, dial color and case thickness all play a part in the overall impression of a watch size. You want to make sure to check them all.

Now that you know everything about watch sizes, make sure you actually measure your wrist properly! It’s always a bad surprise when you get a watch online and that it happens to be too big for your wrist…

Thanks for reading!