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5 easy read watches that are NOT oversized

Pulsar PJ6007

This is a list of watches with legible displays that pass a very specific test.

The test is this:

If, while driving or walking, you can tell the time from your watch at a glance in less than 2 seconds, the dial passes the legibility test.

The vast majority of watch dial designs fail this test just because they're designed more for fashion than function.

Before listing off some watches that are actually readable and aren't too big for their britches, two questions answered.

How big is too big (what does oversized mean)?

An oversized man's watch as far as I'm concerned is any non-diver over 39mm in case size. For me personally, it's anything over 38mm because I have smaller wrists. For larger wrists, add a millimeter.

How small is too small?

It depends on the watch shape.

For round watch cases, 35mm is the bare minimum for a man's size these days. While it's true that vintage men's watches go to as small as 33mm, 35 is the minimum from what I see these days.

For the rectangle shape, the Cartier Tank pretty much sets the standard. The Solo model has a 27mm case. Most men would consider that women's size, but the rectangle gives the illusion of the case being larger than it really is. The women's Cartier Tank is actually 24.5mm (or less) in case size.

In other words, yes, you can totally get away with a 27mm case if the shape of the watch is rectangular. Remember, Cary Grant wore a Tank in North by Northwest. If he can wear one, so can you.

An example of a man's round 35mm watch with an easy-read dial is the Timex Easy Reader T20041. This is a cheap watch and if you're in America, it's probably at your local Walmart. You'd think 35mm would be really small for a man's watch, but it really isn't.

What's the problem with the Timex Easy Reader? It totally looks like an old man's watch. Simple, basic and functional, but with an uninspired, boring design to it...

...but don't let what I say deter you from getting one. If you like that Timex, by all means, get one. It is a top seller because a lot of guys like it.

Here are 5 easy-to-read watches that aren't oversized and actually look good

Frederique Constant Slimline FC-245M4S5

Frederique Constant Slimline FC-245M4S5

I'm starting off with a ritzy (as in expensive but not too insanely priced) Frederique Constant model. It's labeled as a slimline and they mean it, because this watch is just 5mm thick. Really thin is usually 7mm, and this goes 2mm below that.

The FC-245M4S5 is a 37mm size day-date that has a white face and black hands which makes for great contrast. This thing can be read very easily.

I would not call this an everyday watch. It's pretty much for dress use only. It would look silly wearing this while, say, buying a lotto ticket at the local convenience store.

Mondaine EVO Big Date

Mondaine EVO Big Date

From the link you'll see several versions of this watch, including a black dial version. Obviously, this watch is stupidly easy to read, and does so in a way without looking ridiculous.

This watch with its 35mm case does address a very common complaint by watch wearers. On any watch with a date window, if there isn't a magnifier lens on it (or "cyclops" as Rolex calls it,) wearers will say the date is too small to be read. The Mondaine is one of the very few analog watches with a truly big date window with big numbers.

I wonder why more watch companies don't do this? It's actually a really good idea.

This watch, unlike the Frederique Constant, can be used as an everyday wearer. However, you have to like the dial design to want it; it's a style that's not for everyone.

Orient Tri Star

Orient Tri Star

An automatic self-winding watch with day-date that you can read easily and has a nice 37.5mm case size for under 65 bucks? That's an Orient Tri Star.

One of these days I am going to buy one because it's too good of a deal to pass up. The Tri Star has a look and style that the more you look at it, the more you want it. From the link you'll see other dial colors. Black dial, gray dial, red dial, green dial and so on.

For some strange reason, the gold really works on the dial of an Orient Tri Star. I can't even explain why. It just does.

This watch is absolutely good as a daily wearer. Buy it, beat the hell out of it and just use the thing. Just make sure to get one with some good contrast between the gold hands and the dial. I suggest getting one with black, dark polo green or dark navy blue dial.

Does an Orient Tri Star stand the test of time? Many owners of them say that yes, they do.

Hamilton HML-H70455533

Hamilton HML-H70455533

Guys who know Hamilton will pretty much agree that this brand owns the field watch segment. When you want something very readable with a military flavor to it and nice fit and finish throughout, you get a Hamilton. This one in particular has a 38mm case size.

I call this a "cowboy watch" because it looks like something a rancher would wear. That, and I can't really see this watch working well for dress. For everything else, yeah. But not for dress. Military field watches aren't meant for that sort of thing.

Pulsar PJ6007

Pulsar PJ6007

This is the watch at top with "railroad approved" on the dial, and it has an interesting story behind it.

"Railroad approved" is a real thing. It's supposed to be an established vision standard where a train conductor who wears one should easily be able to read the dial very easily, day or night. Ball watches are famous for this with their Engineer and Trainmaster series (with super-high price tags included.)

It has been said that the Pulsar is one of the best railroad style watches for the money, simply for the reason you get exactly what you pay for; it's priced very fairly for what it is. While the luminescence isn't top drawer, the rest of the watch is.

Here's the really interesting part. Pulsar is owned by Seiko. Seiko makes the SNE045, which is almost identical to the Pulsar and uses an automatic movement (the Pulsar is quartz.) But for some ridiculous reason, Seiko put silver hands on a white dial with the 045. This makes absolutely no sense because it strips away all the readability of the dial.

In other words, the Pulsar, even though it's half the price of the Seiko, is the better watch because it has a white dial with black hands.

The case size of the PJ6007 is 36.8mm, just shy of 37mm. This can easily be a daily wearer, and you could even get away wearing it with a suit if you had to.

Which is the best all-around of the 5 above?

If you haven't guessed by now, it's the Orient Tri Star. Easy to read, right size and a right style that works anywhere, whether casual or dress.

Like I said, I'm probably going to get one someday. Tough to beat what you get for the money...

...although that Pulsar is looking mighty good, too.

Published 2016 Apr 3

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