OPINION: We’ll take scaled back diameters, but don’t scale back the offering in the processSean Roberts
I’ve always believed that in order to promote change, those who do not immediately benefit from it must be its staunchest ally. Though I have no issues with a watch sized above 40mm, those in the watch community who want smaller sizes need all the support they can get. Because in the current landscape, it seems as if brands are often leaving these individuals with a ridiculous choice; wear a watch that they feel is too big on their wrist or settle for an overall scaled back version of the brand’s larger offerings.
It was only a few days ago that you would have found me squarely planted on the opposing side of this argument. To me, many of the comments online where someone complained about a watch being too big could be chalked up to excessive and over-exaggerated trolling. With a plethora of 40-42mm watches out there, how could these complaints hold any merit? Doesn’t that range cover most wrist sizes?
However, as I started to take a closer look at the catalogues of multiple brands, one thing became clear. As watches gets downsized, some of their features get tossed along the way. Decreases in water resistance. In-house movements replaced with outsourced offerings. Automatics replaced with quartz. These are specifications that represent many of the things that make the watch appealing in the first place.
Take a look at the Alpine Eagle from Chopard.
The 36mm version comes with the 09.01-C movement inside. That movement has a slower frequency and smaller power reserve when compared to the 01.01-C inside the 41mm version.
Both cases are large enough to fit the 28.80mm diameter 01.01-C movement.
There is also the new Riviera line from Baume & Mercier. The dials on their 36mm versions are absolutely stunning with mint green and azure blue colours within the bunch. Yet, these are only available in quartz and not with their amazing Baumatic movement, which has a 5-day power reserve.
Both instances represent missed opportunities for the brands to bring haute horology down to those with smaller wrists.
A further dive into this issue also sees that women are disproportionately affected by these decisions. On brand websites, many of the male labelled larger offerings contain automatic movements. As you move on to the female labelled offerings, the numbers are switched, with a large percentage of those offerings only being sold as quartz. For years, I’ve questioned this trend only to be told the same line that “women tend to buy quartz watches because they are easier to maintain”. Yet everything I’ve seen myself, challenges this idea.
For example, I recently purchased the Seiko Presage SRPF55 (Blue Martini) for my wife. The textured blue dial looked amazing and at 34mm, I felt it was a great choice for her first automatic. In her first month with the watch, she would always hand it to me so it could be set and wound. Yet one day, I took the time to show her the process. Ever since then, she’s handled it on her own with the watch now dominating the time on her wrist when compared to the quartz watches in her collection. I honestly believe that this isn’t a fluke and that if given more automatic options, many women would flock to those models.
At the end of day, in the eternal argument of watch sizing, I believe brands should pay more attention to what they are offering at smaller sizes. If not to address the inequity between offerings, then because it makes financial sense. On average, a watch with a mechanical movement will sell at a higher price and my interactions with buyers, both on social media and in-person, show that they are willing to pay the premium. I just hope that as time progresses, brands are willing to answer the call.