Big watches. Big mystery. A few years back, a 40mm diameter watch case size became the new normal. Back before Woodstock, a man’s dress watch was 32mm. Young’uns don’t know it wasn’t always like this. Or perhaps they think men were pygmies a generation or two back. The times, they changed. But why? . . .
First, I admit I’m one of those hidebound traditionalists who thinks 34mm is the right size. I’m old enough to have been born into this notion. People will call me an emaciated hipster, and there is truth in that. I do have smaller wrists. (I feel like “Oscar Klosoff, wrist size: 6.5” should be listed after my name in every article.) Hopefully, I won’t find out how much weight gain’s required to swell appreciably near a joint.
Anachronistic? Guilty as charged. I only like change when I find coins on the ground. For all the durability and legacy talk that comes from the mechanical watch proponents, watches a generation or so old are generally considered unwearable by modern enthusiasts. Can’t we just turn back time and keep things from changing? Apparently not.
Sylvester Stallone Made You Do It?
The conventional wisdom explaining big watches: the Sylvester Stallone Panerai myth (frequently promulgated by RF). Color me skeptical. Are there any other styles that have been affected by action stars that are now septuagenarians? Terminator Gargoyles sunglasses. Red headbands?
We’re to believe that just this one outlier trend stuck around for over two decades. I’m not buying it. What are the real reasons – or at least more plausible, possible reasons?
Obesity Crisis -> Big Watches
It’s a first world problem, but people are bigger nowadays. They’re more wider than they are taller. It doesn’t take an advanced study to know that fatter people equals wider wrists, and proportions need to be adjusted. Old Sly has beefy limbs from weight routines beyond 12 ounce curls.
But fat people have always existed, and no special accommodations were previously needed. Al Capone was stocky enough but sufficed with a Rolex Prince sized like a Cartier Tank. Watch collectors have long been old fat white guys (OFWG’s) as well. It’s not like other fashions are accommodating the plus sized, and scrawny people wear these 40mm+ watches too.
Staring at screens, wrecking our eyes
In a similar societal trend, our collective vision is probably deteriorating worse than past generations. (I mean eyesight, just to be clear.) We all stare at electronic screens at a near distance way too much and it is taking its toll. Is this trend born of corneal and macular degeneration?
Despite the O in FOWG being for old, I doubt it. Vision correction is better than ever as well. Besides, this is style, a game of the young. An old man will buy a car meant for a young man but not vice versa.
Masculinity Crisis -> Big Watches
Are we not men? Apologies to either female reader, but we’re generally talking men’s watches here. Women’s watches are less affected, which further discounts the age and obesity rationales. I’m not saying that women are getting older and fatter, but I’m not not saying it either.
I was going to make an argument about males feeling neutered by modern society and culture grasping at an exaggerated symbol of masculinity, as begat the lumbersexual trend a while back. Maybe I’m blaming the victim here.
Regardless, it’s likely that watches endured a sort of runaway selection where bigger meant more manly (meant more desirable) and a little cyclic reinforcement took things to ungainly extremes. To be evolutionary, the male presents and the female selects. Cherchez la femme!
The ability of a watch to fit under a fitted shirt cuff is of major importance to me; I wear long sleeve buttoned shirts almost year round. I’m in the minority there. Common male garb seems to be the underwear that is T-shirts, or some other short sleeve knit. This might tie into the obesity thing, as that would explain why they don’t get cold.
This could just be the marketing trick of varying styles to increase consumption. In the mid 1990’s several brands sold something literally labeled as “THE BIG SHIRT” because big, baggy, puffy was the style. Within a generation the powers that be have switched it so that every shirt is tagged ‘slim fit’ – despite the populace getting ever fatter.
Watches don’t need replacement that often (unless you lend them to a toddler). Factories need to stay in business and designers must innovate new, truly desirable looks or features to maintain demand. Not really, but some still try. The lazy route is to just bump up the size if that tricks people into thinking their watch is outdated.
There may be an extra layer of duping going on. If people are convinced that these largely empty watch cases actually constitute a beefier or more premium device, prices can rise while, in most cases, only some additional cheap metal casing and plastic spacer plastic has been added.
Big Watches, Bad Taste
This is my subjective, holistic, opinion that entails most previous theories. I could be elitist and cite Paul Fussell’s term of prole drift: “an inevitable attendant of mass production, mass selling, mass communication, and mass education” that leads to continual cultural debasement.
Support for this comes from the people that openly favor humongous watches and deride traditional proportions. They rarely speak of beauty, function, or technology. The common refrain is “hur hur you got a small wrist! I’m a real man, need big watch!”
I wish I had a cheerier, more charitable answer. I do not. The unified theory is based almost entirely on crassness. And the worst part is that I find myself agreeing with those snooty hipsters over at the Dinkee. Worse yet, perhaps, is that there is no way to reverse this. The pendulum may swing the other way at some point, but it seems out of my, and your, hands.
If any tour guide or docent in a museum or historical house gives the line about low doorways and small beds being because colonists were short people, please set them straight. The average height has only shot up in the last century or less, and outside some freakish Scandinavian countries, it’s just not that extreme.
Roofs and doorways were low because heating was a bitch when you had to chop firewood, and every inch of headroom also meant more work and material to build the house and less chance of it being all that sound. Beds were short because they did not fully recline because of a belief that this was bad for breathing.