Richard Holt on the arms race for watch size
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.