What size watch will look best on your wrist?

Watch sizing can be a complicated topic, and there’s no hard rules. A lot of the ‘look best’ part comes down to personal preference. Some people with small wrists are perfectly comfortable wearing a behemoth diver that others may consider outlandish looking on them. There are many people with large wrists that are only comfortable wearing petite watches, believing anything larger looks gaudy.

With that said, there are some generally accepted guidelines to follow while you’re still developing your own preferences. 

Be sure to check out our interactive watch sizer, the Watch Comparator.

Go to the Watch Comparator

Measuring Your Wrist

Before we go any further on this topic, it’s going to be important to know your own wrist dimensions. This doesn’t need to be particularly exact, as the size of your wrist can vary a bit depending on temperature, activity level, or other factors.

First, find the location on your wrist where you’ll be wearing the watch. For most people, this will be the narrowest part of the wrist, just below the knob formed by the end of the ulna arm bone. 

Wrap a measuring tape around the wrist.

Measuring wrist circumference.

Now take either a flexible measuring tape (like the kind commonly used in sewing) or a piece of string and wrap it around this part of the wrist. It should just be tight enough to lay comfortably on the skin, without sinking in to the skin at all. If you used a measuring tape, just read off the measurement from the tape. If using a piece of string, mark where the end of the string meets, and then bring the string over to a ruler.

Should I be measuring in inches or centimeters??

If you’re an American, inches will probably be most useful. Case sizes are usually given in millimeters, so you’ll always see Americans saying things like ‘I’m wearing a 42mm watch on my 7.5inch wrist.’ Confusing, yes, but that seems to be how most people I’ve come across use these measurements.

Measuring top of wrist.

Measuring top of wrist.

Another useful measurement is going to be along the top of your wrist. This will help get an idea of how big the lug-to-lug size could be without overhanging. You’ll want to remember this one in millimeters, as that’s usually what the lug distance is given in.

Also pay attention to the shape of the top of the wrist. Is there a large flat space, or does it curve over? My wrist curves, causing even my small 38mm diameter Amphibia with 47mm lug-to-lug distance to produce a bit of a gap on either side. 

The Watch

What makes a watch appear large or small?

Case Diameter

Case diameter is important, and usually the measurement that’s most easily available while shopping for a new watch. Dive watches come in a very large of diameters. Watches marketed towards women tend to be quite small, half the size of watches targeted for men. For example, the Invicta Women’s Mako Pro Diver is listed as only having a case diameter of 24mm. I don’t really have any size recommendations for women, beyond just to make sure you can actually read the time on the watch! I know a dive instructor who has a very small dive watch that she can’t read anymore, especially when underwater.

Most dive watches for men are in the 36-46mm range, with some extra large ones going past 50mm. The Seiko ‘Baby Tuna’ has a case diameter of 47mm, and is considered a very large watch. While it’s purely personal preference, generally men with smaller wrists (6-7″) wouldn’t wear anything larger than a 42mm case, with 45mm+ looking good on wrists of 8″ or more.

Case diameter is not the only thing that needs to be taken into consideration however.

Bezel Size

The size of the bezel in relation to the overall diameter can have a large impact on how big a watch looks. A watch with a big, thick bezel will actually look smaller than a watch with a small bezel, assuming the overall diameters are the same.

Lug-to-Lug Distance

Possibly more important than even the case diameter, the lug-to-lug distance has a huge affect on how a specific dive watch will look when worn. Remember the measurement of the top of the wrist I had you take earlier? If the distance between the lugs is larger than this, they’ll overhang the wrist, causing the watch to look much to large, even if it has a small case diameter.

Shape of the Lugs

Watch lugs come in lots of shapes and sizes. Some stick out straight, and are better for people with a large, flat topped wrist. Others have a significant downward curve, perfect for sitting snugly on top of curved wrists like mine. If the lug shape doesn’t match your wrist, it can cause an otherwise reasonably shaped watch to look disproportionate. 


Get what you like!

Seriously, it really is all personal preference. It is helpful to keep the above guidelines in mind though as you shop for watches, especially if you’re doing it online and can’t physically try the watch on before buying. In time, you’ll find what size and shape of watch you think looks right on your wrist, and that’s really all that matters.

You can use the interactive Watch Comparator for more help judging watch vs. wrist size.

Go to the Watch Comparator

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Writer, sailor, photographer, kayak guide and SCUBA diver. Based on Bainbridge Island, Washington State, USA