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How Should a Watch Fit? 5 Key Things to Know

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Person with a silver watching adjusting the fit

There are so many kinds of watch brands and styles these days. But how do you know which size and type will look best on your wrist? Using these key guidelines, you can steer your purchase toward the watch that will look like a million bucks on your wrist, even if it’s only a fraction of the price.

 

Factors to Consider about How a Watch Should Fit

While the watch you ultimately choose is subjective to your own taste and desires, there are a few guidelines to consider to ensure it is also the best size and type for your wrist. 

  1. Lug-to-Lug Distance: Lugs refer to the ends of the watch that are nearest to the sides of your wrist. It is the part of the watch where the band inserts into the watch itself. As you can imagine, a watch with a larger lug-to-lug distance than the width of your wrist may appear too big and have too much watch that hangs over your wrist, appearing ill-sized for the size of your wrist. Also, a watch with too small a lug-to-lug distance will appear too small for your wrist and ill-proportioned. This is perhaps the largest criterion for a right-sized watch and should be carefully considered prior to purchasing. If the lugs extend beyond your wrists, or you can see space between the lugs and your wrist from a side view, you likely have too much lug-to-lug distance in your watch. Part of what affects lug-to-lug distance, however, is the watch size itself so be sure to take both into consideration (in point #4 below) when purchasing.
  2. Strap Fit: The second biggest consideration is the length of the strap itself. Much like the guidelines for bracelets, watches are perfectly sized when you can fit one finger under the strap while wearing it. If you can’t fit one finger underneath it, the watch is too tight and may leave impressions on your wrist and just be downright uncomfortable to wear. Wearing a watch that’s too loose is not advisable since it may not contribute to the polished and refined appearance you're aiming for. Additionally, a loose watch can get banged around on surfaces and other things, making it susceptible to knicks and future repairs, too.
  3. Watch Shape: There are several shapes of watches to consider, thankfully! Not every watch comes in the original, classic circular shape anymore (though these are still very popular choices). Each shape, however, makes a different statement and will fit your wrist very differently as well. Circular and square watches, for instance, will fit most wrists well if the lug-to-lug distance is appropriate. Circular watches make a more classic statement, as they were the original shape as watches transitioned from pocket timepieces to those worn on a wrist. Cartier was the pioneer in square-shaped watches, serving as a solution originally for aviators looking for an in-air solution for watching clocks while flying without having to reach for a pocket watch. Square-shaped watches remain popular today. Rectangular watches came on the scene in the Art Deco period in the early 1900s and can be a very dainty, elongating style to adorn the wrist (also known as “tank” styles). But there are many more choices in shapes from oval to tonneau (barrel-shaped) to octagonal and cushion-shaped (square cases with rounded corners) and a long list of asymmetrical shapes. The big rule of thumb for choosing the best shape for you again goes back to the lug-to-lug distance for the best fit. The sky is the limit for what shape you choose these days!
  4. Case Back and Diameter: Two measurements that are often overlooked on a watch are the diameter of the watch (the distance from the left of the watch face to the right, not including the crown) and the case back depth (the distance between the top of the glass case and bottom of the watch from a side view). These are two things that can add chunkiness to a watch and can make a difference in how your watch ultimately fits. In both cases, the rule of thumb for selecting the right dimensions depends on the circumference of your wrist. Smaller wrists under 6” will generally look better with smaller depth (under 10 mm) and smaller diameter (less than 38 mm across) watches. Larger wrists (7.5” or more) can easily handle a larger depth watch (12-14 mm or more) and a much larger diameter (42 mm or more) thanks to having more “real estate” to display them on. 
  5. Overall Watch Size: The overall size of your watch refers to the vertical distance of the watch from top to bottom (usually the number that smart watch sizes are advertised in, ranging from 38-50 mm). This, in conjunction with the lug-to-lug measurement, are perhaps the two most important variables in finding a watch that fits just perfectly as the guiding rule of thumb is that a watch (including its lugs) should not hang over the edges of your wrist. Therefore, it is important to take both things into consideration when shopping for a new watch. If the lugs are longer or larger, then you may need to purchase a watch that is shorter (36-40 mm). If the lugs are shorter, you may be able to purchase a larger watch size (40-44 mm).

 

3 Ways to Tell if your Watch is Too Large

Leaning on the five key factors above, it is much easier now to see if your watch exhibits any of these warning signs that your watch is too big: 

  1. The lugs extend beyond the edges of your wrist. Remember, there shouldn’t be any space between your wrist and the lugs visible from the side view. 
  2. The depth of your watch is too high. If the height of your watch off your wrist looks too chunky in comparison to the overall depth of your wrist, the depth is more than you need.
  3. It slides around your wrist. Remember, rule number one is that you should only be able to fit one finger in between a watch and your wrist.

 

3 Ways to Tell if your Watch is Too Small

Conversely, you can use the same five key factors above to tell if your watch is too small. Use these three tests to know if your watch is too small:

  1. You can’t fit one finger under the strap. It’s a simple test. If you can’t get one under it, your bracelet watch or strap can be uncomfortable.
  2. It doesn’t look proportional on your wrist. If there is too much distance between the watch face and the edges of your wrist, you have chosen too small of a watch for your wrist.
  3. If your watch leaves indentations on your wrist. If your watch is leaving a link-laced indentation on your wrist every day, this is a surefire way of knowing it’s too tight.

 

How to Get the Perfect Fit for Your Watch

If you’ve already bought a nice watch and you’re reading this now and thinking your watch doesn’t fit the way it should, don’t panic! There are ways to remedy an ill-fitting watch with a few simple tweaks. 

  1. Add or remove links. An obvious but not always easy solution, adding or removing links can be easy to do and there are many solutions for this. However, the best and most reliable way is to take the watch to your local watch jeweler and have them take care of it.
  2. Adjust the strap. If you have a leather or other material style of watch band, the easiest way to shorten the fit is to purchase a replacement strap. If you have a mesh metal watchband, generally there is a clasp that slides along the band itself and allows you to set it wider or narrower using a spring bar tool to release the clasp. 
  3. Buy a new strap. The easiest way to adjust the size of your watch is to simply buy a new strap. This is also the best option for solving for a watch that’s too tight as it is difficult to lengthen many watches (unless you’ve removed links from a bracelet watch before and can now add them back in or if your jeweler has the ability to match the links in your watch). Remember when purchasing a new one to be sure you can fit one finger between your wrist and the watch this time!

If you’ve already purchased a watch, the best way to make any adjustments to your watch is to visit a jeweler and explore what adjustments can be made to improve the fit. 

 

Secure insurance that fits, too!

Once you perfect the fit of your watch, now is also the time to be sure your watch is insured to protect it from theft, loss, and potential damage. Instead of adding jewelry to a home insurance policy, consider a standalone policy that not only protects you against theft and potential damage, but unlike most homeowners policies, also protects against disappearances. Check your rate using the button below!

 

 

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Jewelers Mutual was founded in 1913 by a group of Wisconsin jewelers to meet their unique insurance needs. Later, consumers began putting their trust in Jewelers Mutual to protect their jewelry and the special memories each piece holds. Today, Jewelers Mutual continues to support and move the industry forward by listening to jewelers and consumers and offering products and services to meet their evolving needs. Beyond insurance, Jewelers Mutual’s powerful suite of innovative solutions and digital technology offerings help jewelers strengthen and grow their businesses, mitigate risk, and bring them closer to their customers. The Group insurers’ strong financial position is reflected in their 37 consecutive “A+ Superior” ratings from AM Best Company, as of November 2023. Policyholders of the Group insurers are members of Jewelers Mutual Holding Company. Jewelers Mutual is headquartered in Neenah, Wisconsin, with other Group offices in Dallas, Texas and Miami, Florida. To learn more, visit JewelersMutual.com.