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Old-timey watch size ... small!!

Doc4

I'm calling the U.N.
Moderator Emeritus
Gregory Peck in the 1947 film Gentleman's Agreement.

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I've owned wristwatches from the '20s, '30s and '40s that ranged in diameter from 26 to 32 mm. Watches really did not start getting bigger (36 mm) until the late '50s. By the time 2000 rolled around, watches were getting out of hand, with many in excess of 45 mm. Fortunately, that trend now seems to be slowing with slightly smaller, more refined watches coming to market.
 
I've owned wristwatches from the '20s, '30s and '40s that ranged in diameter from 26 to 32 mm. Watches really did not start getting bigger (36 mm) until the late '50s. By the time 2000 rolled around, watches were getting out of hand, with many in excess of 45 mm. Fortunately, that trend now seems to be slowing with slightly smaller, more refined watches coming to market.
I agree. I seem to have observed brush knots increase in size along with watches, to sizes that would not long ago have been considered absurd. I wonder what it says about the psychology of the modern male. Perhaps I am over thinking it. 👍
 
Great image, thanks for posting. At least their ties aren’t too weedy. Some of my wife’s cocktail watches are larger that that specimen - 20 mm maybe? I like the Bon Ami product placement as well! I have smaller wrists but generally favor a watch around 40 mm +/-. I’ve read that the marketers are trying to push smaller watches 30-35 mm again to keep watch fashionistas on their toes - and with their wallets open. I’m not biting myself.
 
I agree. I seem to have observed brush knots increase in size along with watches, to sizes that would not long ago have been considered absurd. I wonder what it says about the psychology of the modern male. Perhaps I am over thinking it. 👍
I wonder if it is not a combination of factors.
  • The modern fashion aspect, which I think in part is an indirect reaction to women wearing larger watches (to project strength or gender equality or just fashion trends), which causing men to react in turn and wear larger watches. It has gotten to the point that if the watch face + lugs don't completely cover the top of the wrist it might be considered too small. There is also the celebrity idol aspect, with some people coping Sylvester Stallone, etc.
  • That generation(s) ago there was more manual labor or "working with one's hands" and that has something to do with with the trend. A larger watch will bang around and physically get in the way more frequently. Older watches were less durable and shock resistant (witness those classic Timex it takes a licking commercials) which needed to be smaller than the wrist in order to help shield it. There were no "cheap" watches generations ago.
  • Maybe there was more pride in a watch maker showing how small the movement could be made? It would be easier to build if there was more space inside the case. The quartz revolution upset that aspect...if it ever existed.
 
I wonder if it is not a combination of factors.
  • The modern fashion aspect, which I think in part is an indirect reaction to women wearing larger watches (to project strength or gender equality or just fashion trends), which causing men to react in turn and wear larger watches. It has gotten to the point that if the watch face + lugs don't completely cover the top of the wrist it might be considered too small. There is also the celebrity idol aspect, with some people coping Sylvester Stallone, etc.
  • That generation(s) ago there was more manual labor or "working with one's hands" and that has something to do with with the trend. A larger watch will bang around and physically get in the way more frequently. Older watches were less durable and shock resistant (witness those classic Timex it takes a licking commercials) which needed to be smaller than the wrist in order to help shield it. There were no "cheap" watches generations ago.
  • Maybe there was more pride in a watch maker showing how small the movement could be made? It would be easier to build if there was more space inside the case. The quartz revolution upset that aspect...if it ever existed.
Interesting ideas but I was thinking more along the lines of young men these days feeling in some way emasculated, and lacking ways to express their, possibly what they are told is toxic, masculinity. In the office where I work I have never seen so many young men who are ridiculously over muscled and obsessed with body image in what I consider is an unhealthy way. This is not fitness it is purely extreme bulking up. Local news reports suggest rapidly increasing use of steroids amongst young men and all the social and mental problems that accompany it. They never seem satisfied, are very insecure, and..... they wear massive watches. It is very sad indeed. Like I say, perhaps I am over thinking it.
 

Legion

Moderator Emeritus
I think it was because men, or at least watch buying men, were more likely to be wearing a suit, or at least a button down shirt. A small watch fits under a shirt cuff better.

My smaller dress watches only come out if I am dressing in a suit.
 
As a point of reference, the Longines "Hour Angle" watch that Lindbergh wore to help him navigate his 1927 trans-Atlantic flight measured only 28 mm (and maybe even a bit smaller) in diameter.
 

tankerjohn

A little poofier than I prefer
Lots of good points made already. I’ll add a couple thoughts.

- Men were smaller in general in the mid-20th century. Many fewer men were obese and nobody worked out in the modern sense. It seems natural that as men got bigger, bigger watches fit more proportionally.

- Larger utility watches, like divers and chronographs, caught on with the general public and led a trend increasing watch sizes across the board. But most men in the 40’s and 50’s didn’t wear dive watches or racing chronos. I think it really began in the 60’s, where you had James Bond sporting a Submariner, GI’s in Vietnam buying Seiko divers, and of course the Omega Speedmasters worn by the Apollo astronauts. Then in the 70’s, everything got big - ties, collars, lapels, bell bottoms, etc.
 
If you look at the Patek Phillipes form about 10 yrs ago they look like kiddie watches. 32-33 mm. I have a Baume & Mercier 39mm that is just right for me. When watches get smaller (less than 40mm I should be set.
 
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