Look into any watch shop window and it’s clear that larger watches are the norm, not the exception. They’re not really a new trend, either. The arrival of the 21st century ushered in a vogue for new styles, pushing demand for larger watches further than it had ever been before and many watch companies embraced the advantages of producing larger movements inside bigger cases.
Brands like Audemars Piguet, Hublot and Panerai have moved the marketplace beyond traditional definitions of “large” or “oversized”. Many, if not most, other brands have followed suit, offering 42mm+ models.
So how big is a large watch? Everyone will have a different view on this but let’s try to agree that sports watches (or any non-dress watch) that measures over 44mm are large, while dress watches larger than 40mm also fall in this category.
When talking about large or oversized timepieces, most people tend to think of men’s watches, but there has also been an increasing demand for larger ladies models over the past few years. More and more women are choosing to wear watches traditionally aimed at men, such as the Rolex Submariner and the Omega Speedmaster. Manufacturers have noticed this too and have responded by introducing ladies models in larger case sizes.
Showing It Off
For many, the main purpose of wearing a large watch is to make a statement, but there are functional advantages too. For example, the increased legibility of a larger dial will greatly help in situations where a quick glance at the watch is needed to record the time. It also enables more information to be displayed simultaneously, so adding complications like a chronographs and a flight computers won’t cramp the dial as much.
If you’re thinking about moving to an oversized watch, the key is to test the water and try as many on as you can. Compare several different models and make sure the watch feels and looks right when you’re wearing it. You’ll find some are cleverly designed with curved lugs so that they don’t swamp the average wrist. We would also recommend starting out with a more restrained design. This way you won’t be shocked by the size and a complicated dial at the same time. Think of it as easing your way into oversized cases. When you’ve got used to the initial change in size, adding a more complicated watch later down the line won’t be such a drastic change.
Choosing a simpler design will have benefits in an office situation if you plan on making an oversized watch your daily wearer. Ideally it should be either black or white to make outfit pairing easier and be able to slip discreetly under a jacket sleeve during that important board meeting.
So, is biggest best? Well as with most contentious topics in the watch industry, there’s no definitive answer. What is certain is that big watches are here to stay and they deserve the same levels of respect as their smaller sized cousins. For those of you either on the fence or fully opposed to oversized watches, they’re certainly worth taking a closer look at. Who knows, you might be pleasantly surprised!
Big name big watches
Rolex have approached things in a typically Rolex way, deftly negotiating the interplay of brand heritage and market demands. They have continued to produce their bread-and-butter models such as the 36mm Datejust and the 40mm Submariner, while simultaneously responding to changes in tastes with larger pieces like the Sky-Dweller, Explorer II, and the Datejust 41.
Panerai were among the first brands to go large. The unmistakable frontage of their Radiomir and Luminor lines, based on Italian military issue pieces, have proven hugely popular with collectors and fashionistas. A strong stable of limited edition pieces runs alongside a core collection; this, and the passionate following of ‘Panerista’, helps both their collectability and their value in the pre-owned market.
Franck Muller’s intricate, unique designs, remain a firm go-to for lovers of artistic watch design. Whilst they’re not all, strictly speaking, large watches, models like Conquistador, Master Banker and Casablanca pack a huge amount of wrist presence with their unusual shapes and sometimes playful graphic design elements.
Breitling’s big watches are full of purpose and beautifully over-engineered. They’ve made a name for themselves among the pilot-classes by producing watches for navigators, airmen and rescue teams. The Navitimer and Chronomat models have been cornerstones of the Breitling range for years, and have stayed bang on trend throughout.
IWC. The iconic Portuguese was the precursor of today’s trend for large watches. Astonishing to think that this watch was introduced in 1939 when most watches were about 33mm. It’s size comes from the fact that the original version housed a pocket watch movement for perfect readability and the precision of a marine chronometer. At 44mm today’s version still stands and yet somehow manages to remain understated.
Where do we go from here? Large watches have likely reached the limits in terms of what it’s practical to wear in civilian life. And many brands are now releasing smaller models, or smaller versions of their larger models, as a trend for vintage styling gathers pace.
For the watch lover and collector that means an even larger number of options to choose from.