Watches Go Compact

For decades, models from IWC, Panerai, Bell & Ross and other brands have been gaining weight and girth, reaching or exceeding the wrist-dwarfing 50mm mark. Jay Z sports a blingy 44mm Hublot Big Bang and Arnold Schwarzenegger weightlifts a hulking 60mm Panerai Radiomir. But the tide is turning.

This year, Vacheron Constantin introduced a 37mm version of its Overseas model, which normally clocks in around 42mm. Omega recently unveiled a 38mm Speedmaster (traditionally 42mm).

“Forty millimetre is probably the new 43,” says James Lamdin, founder of the New York-based watch website, Analog Shift. “The consumer is evolving away from needing to be showy and is interested in being a little understated.”

Smaller cases represent a return to a more traditional look.

“If you look at Andy Warhol or Truman Capote, their Cartier Tanks were, like, 34mm,” says Matthew Hranek, men’s style editor of Conde Nast Traveler, and a small-watch enthusiast since he inherited his father’s 36mm Rolex Datejust in 1985.

Much like Warhol’s signature navy blue jeans or Capote’s black tuxedo, a modest timepiece delivers classic style without offending anyone. A small watch “proportionally looks nicer” says Hranek, adding that a petite timepiece — such as one of his favourites, a 36mm Rolex Explorer — works equally well with a T-shirt and jeans as it does with a suit.

A scaled-down case inevitably means a pared-down face. Smaller watches must dispense with complications such as moon phases, timers and extra time zones.

The real beauty of a small and therefore complication-free timepiece? It makes it simpler to track the hours. Reading your watch, says Eric Wind, senior watch specialist at Christie’s, “can be easier and faster with something that is time-only and nothing else”.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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