It is funny how some things stay with you over the years. It must have been about 15 years ago when I was working a part-time job in an upscale men’s clothing store while in college. It was the middle of summer when a man entered the store. He was casually dressed in a nice pair of shorts, a polo shirt, and sportive shoes. He was not very tall, but had a muscular build, despite being well in his fifties. With a big mustache and strong hairy arms, he was very manly in his appearance, yet what was around his wrist might come as a surprise. It was an automatic Cartier Tank Francaise Yearling in yellow gold with a brown alligator leather strap.
While the Yearling was the largest Tank Francaise you could get, it is especially by today’s standards a very modestly sized watch. One would expect that this would take away from his masculine appearance, while it did the exact opposite; it only confirmed it. The trend for larger watches took off in the 1990s. Fueled by the renaissance of watchmaking, it where Panerai and Audemars Piguet, the latter with the Royal Oak Offshore, set the pace of more substantial watches. What started as a trend, quickly became the new normal. Today most men still prefer a watch 40mm in diameter and higher. Smaller watches are often labeled promptly as being feminine.
Small is a Cartier thing
While Cartier has built up a reputation as the undisputed king of form shaped watch, they ruled even more supreme when it came to elegant watches, for ladies, but even more so for men. This is all about proportions, and although back in the day in line with the ruling trends, had this become an important ingredient of some of their most legendary designs. Cartier did begin to make larger watches as well, starting with the Tank Americaine in 1989, as it still is a company that needs to generate a profit to ensure that it continues to exist, but small has never been out. This is perhaps most evident from the recently introduced Santos Dumont, which is small, thin yet full of character.
Today quite a few men need a little nudge in the smaller direction when shopping for another watch. This is not surprising as many of them have grown up in an era in which wristwatches evolved to sometimes monstrous proportions. Yet when a smaller watch takes its place on the wrist, it is often surprising to realize how well such a watch looks on the wrist. Then many also come to the conclusion that it is not the size of the watch that makes the man.