How to Measure Wrist Size for Watches | Perfect Guide
Daniel Louwrens23 October 2023 | 9 min read
A good friend of mine recently opted out of the copy-and-paste life of smartwatches and messaged me and said, “Hey, man. I want a watch. What do I buy?”
My mind lit up like the Fourth of July as a grin larger than life grew across my face.
I rambled on for about 30 minutes about history, the importance of mechanical movements, the stories of Gerald Genta, the hassle of buying a Rolex, the cataclysmic MoonSwatch events, and then I realized something that was rather jarring.
My friend, bless him, was about a foot shorter than I am. I had just shared the simplistic elegance of a Big Pilot, which he seemed to love, and then I had to break it to him – size does matter.
Watch sizes are more hotly contested than American politics, and if you say the wrong thing or (God forbid) wear the wrong thing, you’re about to be met with more “Should’ve been this” and “Should’ve been that” than a wedding planner’s office.
But that begs the question – how do you actually measure your wrist, and how do you size your own wrist?
Size Does Matter
Sexual innuendos aside, we’ve all seen a little kid rocking a stunning G-Shock that might be marginally too big for them. It’s cute. Dial that up to an adult wearing a watch that extends way past their own wrist and what you end up with is a bit of “Look at me” or “I’m overcompensating”.
Conversely, wearing a watch that is slightly too small is actually not that frowned upon. The saying is pretty simple – don’t wear a watch that’s too big, but you can wear one that’s small.
Case size is more often than not the only ‘size’ people are referring to, but in reality, there are a few different dimensions we need to look at when compared to your wrist measurement:
– Case Size: When measuring any case (a round case, mostly), your prime dimension will be the case size, extending from one side of the case to the other.
A small case might be considered anything below 36mm, while anything above 40mm might be considered larger
– Lug-to-Lug: This measurement is one people often forget, but can make even a large watch the ideal watch fit due to the way the case sits.
As the name suggests, this is a measurement from one set of lugs to the other and will tell you how much real estate the watch will have across your wrist.
Prime example, the Longines Zulu has a very large lug-to-lug, meaning it wears quite broad, an important consideration when paying heaps of money.
– Case Thickness: If you’ve ever handled a chronograph, you will notice that movement types and different shapes go hand in hand – somewhat.
A thicker watch case will be needed to house a more complicated movement. Or, if your specific needs from your watch include tritium tubes, your glass might be raised, therefore making a thicker ‘case’ (see the Marathon GSAR)
– Lug Width: The least important one when it comes to finding that perfect size is lug width, which is simply a denotation as to how wide of a strap you can use.
That said, a very broad strap doesn’t look great on a thin wrist… Also, opting for more common widths means you have a greater chance of using multiple straps on multiple watches.
All of these will have an influence over the final decision you make, but before we do that, we need to get an accurate measurement of your wrist.
Other Factors that Will Influence Watch Size
There are other factors that will influence the relative size of your watch but are not often spoken about with the other metrics.
An integrated bracelet watch might have the ideal watch size, but because of the way the 1st links might fit into the extended lugs, you might find it wears a lot broader than you might expect.
A thicker bezel will make a watch seem a lot bulkier, and this is why divers are often seen as huge, even though a similarly sized dress piece will not seem as large.
The latter will feature way more real estate for the actual dial, which is something I prefer. The watch brands have more opportunities to show some of their craftsmanship.
A large crown and large crown guards will logically also influence the size. The right-size watch might be destroyed with the wrong crown – see the folks who complain about the huge Big Pilot crown.
The shape of the case will also influence how it fits, perfectly shown by the Seiko Turtles. The exact size will be similar to other divers. However, it will be vastly different from others.
Lastly, the case material and what band you have will also impact how a watch wears. If you buy a new watch and it’s a new material, you will soon notice that it is immensely different from your other watches.
Titanium is lighter, whereas gold is heavier. Leather straps might make you sweat more in summer, whereas a rubber strap is perfect for summer.
As a general rule, your personal style is most important. Using these ‘rule of thumb’ templates might guide you in the right direction.
How to Measure Wrist Size for Watches
The reason why we measure our wrists is to have that baseline idea of what fits and what does not. Case in point: if you have a large wrist, that could mean anything. Large as in… Game of Thrones the Mountain large or Chris Hemsworth large? The same can be said for small wrists.
By having an accurate circumference of your wrist, you can communicate that with others when conversing about watches, what to buy, what fits, and what doesn’t. So, let’s take a rather thorough approach to measuring your wrist!
1. Materials Needed:
– Flexible measuring tape or a strip of paper
– Ruler or measuring tape
– Pen or pencil
– Scissors (if using a paper strip)
(Ensure you have all the necessary materials ready, including a flexible measuring tape or a strip of paper, a ruler or measuring tape, a pen or pencil, and scissors if you’re using a paper strip.)
– Start by wrapping the measuring tape or paper strip around the wrist where you would normally wear a watch. This is typically just above the wrist bone
– Ensure that the tape or paper is snug against your skin but not too tight. You should be able to slide a finger comfortably under the tape or paper
– If you’re using a flexible measuring tape, note the measurement where the end of the tape meets the rest of the tape. If you’re using a paper strip, mark the point where the strip meets itself or hold it in place
– If you used a flexible measuring tape, use a ruler to measure the length from the beginning of the tape to the marked point. If you used a paper strip, measure the length using a ruler
– Note down the measurement in either inches or centimetres, depending on your preference or the specifications of the watch brand
Simple, right? Well, here is an even simpler way of doing it (which might not be as accurate)
1. Use your hands: Simply wrap your index finger and thumb around your wrist and take note of where they touch
2. Use String: Like before, use a string to measure this distance on the inside of your hand to the point where your fingers crossed
3. Measure: Using a ruler, simply measure what the distance is, and boom!
(Using both of these, there is about a 13% difference in my answers and a 9% in my wife’s measurements).
Picking the Perfect Size of Watch for You
Now that you know your wrist size, how do we actually apply that to the perfect fit when it comes to watches? Well, first, let’s denote two things!
1. First, you should pay your dues and watch this video by Teddy Baldessare (a legend in the industry)
2. Understand that these are purely estimations and your personal preference will play a huge role
<6 Inch Wrist (<15.24cm)
This is considered along some of the smaller wrists in the playing field, but that doesn’t mean you have to for the tiniest watch.
Since this could be any number below 6 inches, the actual size of your wrist will determine which smaller watch would be the perfect one to purchase.
With that said, you’re probably looking at watches in the 30 – 36mm range, with the upper end almost giving you an ‘oversized look’.
Popular models in this segment include the Rolex Datejust, Timex Expedition North, Omega Aqua Terra 34, Cartier Santos-Dumont Small, and a collection of different Casios.
What you will find is that certain styles are more challenging to find at this size, such as a proper diver.
6 – 7 Inch Wrist (15.24 – 17.28cm)
This is a vast segment of the watch population, so you’ll be able to find a suitable watch in no time!
You will also have the opportunity to pull off some vintage timepieces without them looking out of place at all.
The ‘best option’ for you would be a bog standard 36mm. However, the range you should be able to play in ranges from 34mm – 38mm.
Again, this is the sweet spot for most, and some of the most popular models include the Rolex Day-Date, Tudor Ranger, Seiko Presage SRP841J, Baltic Bicompax 002, and a collection of Royal Oaks.
You could look at larger watches. However, make sure that lug-to-lug plays in your favour.
7 – 7.5 Inch Wrist (17.28cm – 19.05cm)
While many would consider this ‘large’ with the onset of larger watches in the 2000s, this is purely considered high-medium these days.
While you could look at vintage offerings as well, some might be a rather snug fit due to vintage offerings being minute compared to contemporary counterparts.
For you, the right range would be around 38 – 41/42mm. This is what some would consider as larger, and finding the right timepiece will be quite easy in the current market (but this is coming to an end by the looks of the market).
Options include the Rolex Day-Date 40, Tissot Le Locle Powermatic 80, Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight, Sinn 556 I, Oris ProPilot x Caliber 400, and the IWC Portugiese.
7.5 – 8 Inch Wrist (19.05 – 20.32cm)
Now we’re getting big, now we’re on the ‘big’ men’s watches.
Let’s just get this out there, you will struggle with smaller watches. Yes, you can wear smaller options, but they might sometimes look out of place if your band or strap isn’t properly sized.
With that said, the ideal size for you would be anything between 40 – 44mm, but you can try a 38mm dress piece if you’re keen.
Options include the Rolex Day-Date 40, Rolex Submariner, Piaget Polo S, NOMOS Tangente Sport Neomatik 42, some G-Shocks, and a host of different Seikos. Most watch brands will have a diver that sits in this segment, so have your heart’s desires.
>8 Inch Wrist (>20.32cm)
And now we’re at the big(gest) guns. You probably have a hard time finding clothes anyway, and your watch might be the same.
That said, you can also just go, “Give me the biggest!” – it’s what I do. You could wear anything from 40mm upwards, meaning there are literally thousands of different watches for you to consider.
Options include the Rolex DeepSea, IWC Big Pilot, Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore, Breitling Emergency, and every single G-Shock (win!).
The easiest way to find a watch that fits… is to actually go ahead and try it on. Go to your local retailer, engage with them, ask them to try something on, and they’ll be more than willing to help you.
The perfect watch is out there, but you might need to go find it. Overall, doing this will also teach you about sizes, and you can use this information to actually use it in other events. The more you learn, the more you can apply.