There’s a famous Bond scene in Octopussy where Roger Moore’s 007, clad in his customary white tuxedo, sits down to play a spot of high-stakes backgammon. His adversary – the malevolent Kamal Khan – is surreptitiously cheating, using a set of loaded dice. Unfazed, Bond accepts Khan’s 200,000 rupee wager and, using a Fabergé egg as collateral, promptly switches the dice to throw a perfect double six. Moore shrugs off his triumph with his usual expression of wry bemusement. “It’s all in the wrist,” he insists.
It’s a throwaway line, but it turns out that the wrist is indeed regarded with inordinate significance in certain quarters. Some people believe that it really is “all in the wrist”, with the complex joint that bridges the hand to the forearm credited with determining everything from your sex life (or lack thereof) to your gym gains and choice of wristwear. More specifically, it’s the precise size of your wrist that counts.
Does your wrist size dictate your choice of watch?
Let’s start with the most relevant category for Time+Tide readers. Assuming you want your watch to complement your appearance, rather than become a Flavor Flav-style accessory, then case size and proportion matter. You may be enamoured by the rich fumé dial of that Panerai Radiomir Mediterraneo. But given its 45mm case, if your wrists are the width of a snooker cue, the overall effect will be less “Italian stallion” and more “small kid playing dress-up in his dad’s wardrobe”.
Probably the world authority on the vexed relationship of wrist-to-watch size is Alessandro Perta. He’s a lifelong watch-lover whose six-inch wrists inspired him to start the website The Slender Wrist. To figure out how most men size up, Perta began to gather data from polls on watch forums, eventually collecting the wrist sizes of 1563 men.
“The average wrist size of a man is 7.25 inches or 18.42 cm,” he reports on his website. “Fifty per cent of men have a wrist that is bigger than 7.25 inches and 50 per cent have a wrist that is smaller. Eighty per cent of men have a wrist size bigger than 6.75 inches or 17.5 cm, and 20 per cent of men have a wrist size bigger than 7.75 inches or 19.67 cm.”
How this all translates to your choice of watch is obviously subjective. But given that Perta has investigated the question in such depth, his answer is worthy of appraisal.
“My preferred ratio is when the watch case has a case size of 60 to 75 per cent of the size of the flat surface of your wrist,” he writes. “To get a rough estimate of the size of the flat surface of your wrist, just measure your wrist size (in millimetres) and divide it by three.
“I consider a watch as not too big and not too small when the lug to lug distance is 75 to 95 per cent of your wrist width. More than 100 per cent will make your watch overhang your wrist and look not so great.”
Does your wrist size determine the size of your arms?
While you might pay lip-service to the idea of “functional fitness”, deep down pretty much every man would quietly like to have bigger arms. Most of us could benefit from adding some extra heft and definition or, let’s face it, just using our neglected gym membership more than three times a year.
But some guys get serious. Following a strict program, they eat clean, train hard and guzzle bucketloads of protein shakes. But even for these devoted gym rats there are still limits to your physical #gainz. You can follow The Rock’s training plan religiously, but you’re unlikely to end up with 21-inch arms. The reason? Yep, once again, it’s the size of your wrists.
That’s because ultimately the dimensions of your frame will set the outer limits of how much muscle you can stack on. The Rock is a 6’5 man mountain and can therefore gain significantly more muscle mass than someone with the build of Woody Allen.
As a result, bodybuilders know that gym goals should be less about size and more about symmetry and proportion. Steve Reeves was a legendary bodybuilding champion who came up with a formula to determine the golden ratio for muscle to bone. He believed the simplest way to calculate the maximum potential size of your arms involved measuring your wrist. Your optimal arm size, Reeves suggested, should be 252 per cent of your wrist size.
Bear in mind, Reeves’ formula presents the outer limits of what’s possible and would be an insanely ambitious target for even the most single-minded bodybuilder. Nevertheless, the basic principle still holds weight: the bigger your wrist size, the greater your potential for overall muscle.
Does your wrist size affect your sex life?
Finally, we turn to the most worrying category of men fretting about the size of their wrists. “Incel” stands for “involuntarily celibate” and is a weird sub-culture of self-identifying men who essentially believe they will never get laid. Unfortunately, this often seems to manifest itself in anger, misogyny and, in extreme cases, unprovoked violence.
Congregating in the dark corners of the internet, Incels view themselves as a cursed minority who are different from “Chads” (attractive men). What distinguishes an Incel from a Chad is a variety of physical characteristics that, they believe, stops them from ever attracting a potential sexual partner. Certain key markers of perceived masculinity are the main source of their anxiety, including strong jawlines, pronounced chins, beefy arms and reasonable height. But wrist size is another major cause of concern.
Incels’ angst over wrist size is sufficiently prevalent to have even coined its own term. “Wristcels” believe they are celibate specifically because of the paltry width of their wrists.
The Incels wiki page explains what the term actually means to these deluded souls.
“A wristcel refers to someone whose romantic overtures tend to result in nonredamancy due to having thin wrists. Wristcels tend to be laughed at for their self-consciousness about their wrists and for having body dysmorphia. However, eye-tracking technology revealed women do tend to notice a man’s arm width. Cues of physical dominance such as upper body bulkiness and arm thickness (not even necessarily strength) also play a major role in men’s intrasexual competition (intimidation of other men) which decides their access to women. One study has found an assortative mating correlation of r = .55 (p < .01) for wrist circumference in a sample of 205 U.S. citizens from Ann Arbor.”
Male insecurities clearly take many different forms. But if you do harbour some genuine concern in this department then here’s Time+Tide’s two-step plan of attack.
- Remind yourself that no one else actually cares about the size of your wrists.
- Pull focus away from your imagined vulnerability by wearing a truly magnificent watch that no one can ever take their eyes off.