6 of the best big watches giving big luxury 6 of the best big watches giving big luxury

6 of the best big watches giving big luxury

Tom Austin

Through the last 20 years or so, we’ve seen wristwatch trends come and go, and one rather prominent one at the turn of the century was big watches. You know the kind, kicked off in part by hip-hop music videos filled with gigantic iced-out Jacob & Co Five Time Zones, all 47mm of them, and very much in-your-face. Through the noughties, the trend stretched further, with Panerai interest at a fever pitch. Luckily, as time has moved on, our appetite for larger watches has somewhat subsided, however, this has led to another problem. What if you have wrists that are comparable to tree trunks? I’m somewhat well-endowed in the wrist department (thank you grandad), and while many people will tell you “Wear what you like, size doesn’t matter!”, I can assure you, with 20cm wrists – it matters. It’s frustrating because there are so many watches I’d truly love to enjoy. A Cartier Tank, or in some cases, a 36mm sports watch, just don’t work, and I’m sure I’m not alone. So what choice do we have? Fortunately, there are some very cool big watches out there, usually measuring 42mm and over, and you don’t have to go back to 2003 to find them. Just to pre-empt any Panerista complaints – we see you, but it’s the obvious choice.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

audemars piguet royal oak offshore selfwinding chronograph black ceramic

Two decades after the famous Royal Oak had arrived in the Audemars Piguet catalogue, AP needed something fresh. It might be hard to believe today, but in the late 1980s, AP was going through somewhat of a crisis, where its image only seemed to be appealing to the older collector, and the younger crowd was in search of something different. AP’s designer Emmanuel Gueit came to the rescue in 1989 by presenting a conceptual sketch of the Offshore, in all technicality a beefed-up Royal Oak on steroids.

Finally in 1993, following some pretty damning criticism from the Royal Oak designer Gérald Genta, the AP Royal Oak Offshore was released. Nicknamed “the beast” due to its weight and Hulk-like proportions, the Offshore was a hit, and indeed drew in that younger audience. Fast-forward thirty years, the Offshore we have today is available in endless configurations, from a simple 42mm three-handed diver or a 43mm chronograph to the whopping 44mm ceramic grand comp. The watch is thick, robust, angular, and aggressive, with notable wearers including the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dwayne Johnson, and LeBron James – none exactly diminutive. Our pick for everyday wear would be the Selfwinding Chronograph ref. 26420TI, a titanium beast of a watch, featuring a blue “Méga Tapisserie” dial and interchangeable rubber strap in matching blue, or its stealthier black ceramic chronograph counterpart similar to Arnie’s. Price: A$41,000 (titanium), A$84,400 (ceramic)

Cartier Drive de Cartier

Cartier Drive de Cartier

Think Cartier, and you think of fine, slender watches that ooze old-money style and sophistication. Generally, if your wrists are over 7in, unless you go for an extra-large Santos, your choices are fairly limited, especially when it comes to their dressier pieces, or so you would think. Released in 2016, and now mostly discontinued, the Drive de Cartier is the dress watch for those who prefer something a little larger. The Drive offers everything you would expect of a fine Cartier dress watch, however, in a 41mm case. It’s bold, with all the usual Cartier design elements present, such as the blued sword hands, Roman numeral, guilloché dial with a secret signature at 7 o’clock, and the cabochon-set crown. It’s more than just a pretty face, as the Drive came in numerous variations, such as a super-thin three-hander, a version with a retrograde second time zone and day/night functions, and even a rose gold version with a flying tourbillon. The Drive is and was a truly underappreciated watch, especially given its introduction price point of US$6,250 for the stainless steel model, and even today, good examples can be found well under that figure. As a big-wristed guy who would struggle to rock most Cartier watches, the Drive poses an interesting value prospect, being able to wear a find Cartier dress watch that fits well and doesn’t break the bank. That’s a winner in my book. Price: starting from US$6,250

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch

IWC Big Pilot Little prince wrist 2

They don’t come much bigger than this, a 46.2mm military aviator’s watch with a huge character to match its size. The Big Pilot’s story begins in 1940, when IWC first made timepieces for military navigators, producing oversized B-Uhr flieger watches with pocket watch movements and distinctive, cockpit-style dials. In 2002, IWC launched an official successor to the famous aviator’s watch, which became the IWC Big Pilot. The latest watch features a humongous 46.2mm steel case, wrapped around one of the most legible matte black dials in the business. Large lumed hour markers circulate the dial, with a power reserve sub-dial at 3 o’clock, and massive sword hands. Another distinguishing feature carried over from the originals is the oversized onion crown, designed to allow pilots to operate it easily when wearing gloves. Inside the watch beats the in-house IWC 52010 movement, a self-winding automatic with a 4Hz beat rate and and a whopping 168 hours of power reserve. At almost 16mm thick, you would think it’s not easy to wear, especially seeing as dials like this tend to make a watch look bigger than it is, but this isn’t the case. The Big Pilot is actually a fairly comfortable wear, and of course lends itself well to being worn on larger wrists, especially with the studded calfskin strap. I don’t fly a plane, and I’d hazard a guess that most of you reading don’t either, however, pilot’s watches play a big part in the watch world, and the IWC Big Pilot is one of the best you can buy, even more so if you’ve got a big wrist to put it on. Price: starting from A$20,300

Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea

Rolex Deepsea Sea Dweller 136660

Big missions mean big tools, and if you’re going to the bottom of the ocean, you’re going to need something that can do it. Rolex has a history of pushing the limits with water resistance, and of course, depending on who you listen to, started with the first water-resistant watch to make it across the English Channel, attached to the wrist of Mercedes Gleitze, the first British woman to make it across unaided in 1927. Things for Rolex have come a few steps on now, with the brand producing watches that boast some of the strongest water resistance levels on the market. At first glance, it could be a Submariner, with all the distinctive Submariner traits, such as the black ceramic bezel, highly legible dial layout, and Mercedes hands. But one big giveaway that this is something very different is its size. At 44m wide and 17.7mm thick, it’s a brutish chunk of steel, so no wonder it can withstand around 5,500 psi of pressure at 12,800ft below sea level. Its underwater escapades are such that filmmaker and deep-sea explorer James Cameron even has a special dial named after him, with a blue-to-black graduation. If you can get a hold of one, the Deepsea Sea-Dweller is an excellent execution of burly robustness, matched with heritage and refinement, and of course, ideal for the larger wristed wearer. Price: secondary market prices vary in the mid-A$20k range

Hublot Big Bang Meca-10

Hublot Big Bang Meca 10

So what do you get if you want something big, but different? You get a Hublot. The Big Bang was introduced in 2005 as an oversized watch that managed to scoop awards and became a roaring success for the brand, the product of then-CEO Jean-Claude Biver’s influence, reviving the brand from the plateau it had found itself at in the mid-2000s. You can’t be shy if you wear a Big Bang Meca-10. It’s a 45mm block of ceramic, machined into that ever-familiar Hublot porthole case design with industrialised details such as the micro-blasted finish, visible case screws, and of course, the typical Hublot skeletonised movement. The movement itself, although it may not look it, is an old-school manual winder, with twin barrels and a 10-day power reserve, and does the job just fine. The watch also comes in titanium or gold, in case the ceramic is too low-key for you. The Big Bang is and always will be a statement piece, and love them or loathe them, Hublots have an an undeniable presence on the wrist. Price: A$36,300

Zenith Defy Extreme

Zenith Defy Extreme

The other big sports chronograph in this list, the AP Royal Oak Offshore is not only perhaps not in everyone’s price range, but due to current allocation games and AD quests, is sadly not that easy to come by. However, another brand offers a fantastic alternative, and it’s Zenith with its Defy Extreme. Developed in the late 1960s, the Defy was a collection of rugged sports watches with design characteristics that were beyond their years at the time. Having gone on through the years refining the designs, Zenith released their latest large sports chronograph, the Defy Extreme, in 2021. Crafted in brushed black titanium, the 45mm case features the distinctive 14-sided bezel, faithful to its predecessors, along with its angular tonneau shape, finished with an exhibition caseback showing off the El Primero 9004 inside. Of course, the party trick here is that the movement is one of the few movements that can record elapsed time up to one-hundredth of a second. Considering the features, materials, and finishing the Defy Extreme comes with, this is a pretty complete, and large, package for just over A$30,000. Price: starting from US$18,000