TG watches

Richard Holt on the arms race for watch size

Top Gear (UK) - - CONTENTS -

If a sports car driver from the Six­ties was mag­i­cally trans­ported to the present day, he would think we had all gone power crazy. Back then, 200 horse­power was con­sid­ered a lot, and 300bhp was as high as you could go. But now you can get that much in a fron­twheel-drive hatch­back, and the power of hy­per­cars has ac­cel­er­ated beyond pre­vi­ously imag­in­able scales.

If the time trav­eller de­cided to pop into a watch shop, he would also think that things had gone a bit men­tal. But with watches, it is not about power, but size. A cou­ple of gen­er­a­tions ago, the av­er­age bloke’s watch had a dial not much wider than your thumb.

A 40mm di­am­e­ter dial was con­sid­ered very large.

But some­where around the Nineties, things be­gan to change. The watch was no longer for telling the time, it was for telling peo­ple about what kind of per­son you were. And as peo­ple do not like to do them­selves down, watches got fancier, and they got big­ger.

Be­fore long, 40mm went from XXL to be­ing con­sid­ered barely av­er­age. Foot­ballers were the most notable cham­pi­ons of the vast watch trend – not con­tent with driv­ing pimped-up cars, they favoured a watch so big you could use it as a he­li­pad.

As ev­ery­thing went su­per-sized, what about the chap that fan­cied some­thing a lit­tle more dainty? Well, there are al­ways women’s watches. Al­though they are un­likely to be called that – a lot of watch com­pa­nies avoid la­belling ac­cord­ing to gen­der, be­cause it risks of­fend­ing the slen­der­wristed man, not to men­tion the big-watch-lov­ing woman.

The quest for ever more pow­er­ful cars seems like it is not go­ing to stop un­til some­one finds a way to make it all il­le­gal. But the era of the ever-ex­pand­ing watch face does seem to fi­nally be over. High-end firms are of­fer­ing smaller watches again, and com­pa­nies lower down the price range are be­gin­ning to fol­low. Watches are far from go­ing tiny again, but we have at last ac­cepted one thing: a watch the size of a Fris­bee is big, but not clever.

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