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The curse of the small and flat wristed, and how to work with it for watch sizing

Infantry IN-019

There are certain rules I follow to work with how my wrist is shaped these days.

I got into watches in 2011. Then a few years later, I lost a bunch of weight and kept it off. Something I didn't expect to happen was that my wrist shrunk in size.

Back when I was fat, I didn't take a wrist measurement, but after I slimmed down I did.

The way you're supposed to take a wrist measurement for watch sizing is with a tape measure. The thickest point of the wrist is measured slightly loose to accommodate for watch band movement.

My wrist when measured tight is 6.5 inches, but when measured properly for a watch is 6.75 inches. That's only slightly smaller than the average man's wrist size of 7 inches.

No problem, just wear the watch tighter, right? Wrong. I have one of those wrists that's flat on top. And unfortunately, this is the absolute worst wrist shape when trying to find a watch that fits correctly.

Guys with regular rounder wrists that measure 7 to 7.5 inches around can basically wear any watch they want. But if the wrist is under 7 inches in size and a flatter shape, to say it's a challenge finding a watch that fits correct is an understatement.

Things I do to get watches that actually fit my wrist correctly

"Down under" NATO strap method

The photo above shows a watch I basically never wear, the Infantry IN-019, a dirt cheap diver - although I wouldn't dare take it in the water. This watch has a 42mm case size and 50mm lug-to-lug measurement. It fits me, albeit just barely.

In the standard way a NATO strap is worn, the excess and loops are positioned above the head of the watch. The alternative is to place that stuff under the wrist. For the small-and-flat wristed, this makes the NATO strap look a whole lot better.

The down under way of wearing a NATO strap can and usually does make big watches wear a lot better on small-flat wrists.

No leather, no resin

Steel bracelets and fabric straps work great on small-flat wrists.

With leather it's totally hit-or-miss. Mostly miss. The softer more pliable leather is usually the best bet, but the tradeoff is that it wears out quickly. I simply avoid it.

Resin straps almost never fit my wrist correctly unless it's something very thin and bendy. For example, the strap on the Casio CA53 fits great, but the Casio AE1000 strap does not.

Fabric works great on small-flat wrists simply for the fact you get the proper bend right at the watch case where the strap starts. This is why I can wear the G-SHOCK DW9052V without a problem. But the resin strap version of the same watch? Can't wear it. Doesn't fit right.

I have had good luck with steel bracelets provided the lug-to-lug of the case is under 51mm in length.

Hip to be square

I do regularly wear square shaped digital Casio timepieces that have a steel bracelet on it. They fit great, and square cases sit better atop a flat wrist compared to round.

Round cases, at least on my wrist, seem to move around too much even if the size is correct. Square cases for the most part stay put.

"Stubby" lugs are the best kind

Short, stubby lugs result in a shorter lug-to-lug measurement, which is exactly what a guy needs to find if he has a small-flat wrist.

Generally speaking, the Seiko SKX series is the standard example of something a man with a small-flat wrist can wear without a problem. Whether it's the 007, 009 or whatever SKX it is, you will see those short stubby lugs and know you can wear it.

I will eventually be picking one of these up. It's a 42mm, but the stubby lugs totally makes it work.

And yes, the Infantry IN-019 I have is a similar shape and lug design to the Seiko SKX. But the Seiko is obviously vastly superior in basically every way.

"All dial" is bad

If you see a watch where the bezel is really thin, that's an "all dial" watch.

This Skagen watch for example is all dial:

Skagen SKW6082

It's nice minimalistic piece that has a nice elegance to it, and it has a 40mm case size with short stubby lugs. But the drawback is that thin bezel. This means when a small-flat wristed man wears this, it looks like he's wearing a dinner plate on the wrist. Not a good look.

Compare that to the Timex Weekender Chrono:

Timex Weekender Chrono

True, the lugs aren't stubby, but the bezel is much thicker. This watch looks smaller than the Skagen, but it's not. It's the same 40mm case size. That's how much of a difference bezel thickness can make in appearance.

It's also a huge plus that straps can be changed out very easily on the Timex. Throw on a NATO, steel bracelet, whatever, it will basically take anything.

This is another one I will be picking up at some point.

Study, study, study

I do tons of research before buying any watch and scour the internet for texts, images and videos before making the decision to buy. And even after I buy, I make darned sure I can return it easily if I find it doesn't fit right.

Most of the timepieces I buy aren't available to try in stores, so I have to buy online. Because of past research, I've avoided buying mistakes. That alone makes it worth it to spend the time researching, because it's really crappy to buy a watch, have it arrive in the mail, get all excited and then immediately disappointed because the stupid thing doesn't fit the wrist.

Published 2017 Dec 29

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