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Opinion: There's No Better Watch Size than 34mm
A discussion rooted in years of collecting and experience with vintage watches
Sizing is objectively one of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a timepiece. Personally, I like to view the size of the watch in context. For example, a 44mm Seiko diver and 23mm Tank Louis both are appropriately sized. Although, not every collector shared the same views on this subject.
There are a few sweet spots with sizing balancing comfortability and design - think Day-Date.
Today, I’m here to make the case that 34mm is in fact one of the best sizes for a watch to be. We’re breaking this article down into three main discussion points - Timelessness, Comfortability, and Design.
If you happen to agree with this stance, you’ll discover a whole world of collectable, underappreciated timepieces worth a second look.
Mid-century design is often viewed in the most classic light. Collectors realize you can never go wrong with pieces from this era, noting that most of today’s iconic watches saw their inception between 1950 to 1970.
Many of these mid-century icons were manufactured in 34mm. Seamasters, Dates, Oyster Perpetuals, even some Polerouters feature this case size, and they are just as lovable today as they were 50 years ago.
An example of a beautiful 34mm Seamaster / Credit: Pinaplwtchs
Their designs are inventive, yet never meant to be overbearing. This balance of class and character is made possible because of their conservative case sizes. As a result, enthusiasts to this day admire the fit and finish, and if you’re like me, you prefer it to anything on the modern market.
Watches are usually meant to make a statement. Their an extension of our interests and character. They show you have a profound interest in both the mechanics and art behind a fine timepiece, and they even help us find those who share in similar interests.
Alas, though, I constantly hear how 34mm watches are too small. That they don’t look right on a man’s wrist, being more akin to a ‘boy’s watch’.
Truthfully, though, I strongly disagree.
You see, nothing wears quite as comfortable as a 34mm watch. They look appropriate on wrist, yet don’t feel too petite or overbearing.
A neo-vintage Air King 14000 reference / Credit: HWC
This goes back to the ‘sweet spot’ conversation from earlier in the article. 34mm pieces balance this yearning for design and desires of comfortability very well. You’ll even notice a ‘just right’ feeling when you strap one on.
The proportions of a watch’s design elements are a subliminal characteristic that provides perhaps the most satisfaction for its wearer. When these elements enhance each other, there’s a certain culmination of cohesiveness surmounting some to icon status (think Speedmaster or Datejust).
Typically it’s the watches more conservatively sized that achieve this feat. Day-Dates and Tanks never ran into obstacles being 36mm and 23mm respectively. Even a Cartier Baignoire isn’t out of place on a masculine wrist.
What’s the common theme here? Some designs require certain case sizing. You may not notice this at first glance, but as of recent, its common to hear how the push towards larger cases makes some designs just feel ‘off’. 34mm watches, on the other hand, rarely encounter this issue.
Don’t believe me? Consider a humble Rolex Oyster Perpetual, Tudor Prince, or even Omega Seamaster. Hold the vintage example in one hand, and its modern counterpart in the other. Aside from obvious differences in their construction, you’ll notice an undeniable sabi with the vintage pieces that’ll never be achieved by the modern ones.
Beauty through age / Credit: Pinaplwtchs
I feel that people often forget how explosive a 34mm watch can be. It doesn’t take a dinner plate on your wrist to make a statement. No, collectors nowadays often forget how daring and elusive the designs packed into these little cases are. From gilt honeycomb dials to Breguet numerals, there’s more character in my 60 year old Seamaster than any modern Omega will ever achieve.
Small dial intricacies like an underline allow these 34mm gems to punch well above their weight / Credit: Pinaplwtchs
While a lot of my perspective is subjective, I do have some experience with a host of different timepieces. I often feel collectors put more emphasis on stats, wrist size, and societal expectations than the actual feel they get from the watch.
When you let go of these arbitrary parameters, and just experiment with something around the 34mm mark, you’ll discover why this was the most common watch size for decades. Not to mention, there’s a whole world of more conservatively sized watches just waiting to be experienced.
The classic 6694 reference is a perfect place for collectors to start / Credit: HWC
My word of advice - don’t restrict yourself with sizing. Try out a 34mm, whether it’s an oyster or Polerouter, and you may find that it wears leagues better than you’d otherwise imagine.
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