Choosing a watch in the digital era is predicated on style rather than practicality. After all, most of us have a watch that also makes calls in the palm of your hand at all times (psst, it’s called your cell phone).
Women’s watches have come a long way from their initial styles. From oversized faces to bedazzled bands, modern women’s watches come in a variety of designs and shapes. With all of the options available, it can be difficult to narrow down which watch is best for you.
Ultimately, style is personal and individual, meaning it does not have to be dictated by silly rules or guidelines. That being said, watches can be pricey, and if you prefer a few suggestions before making a significant investment in this accessory, we got you. We spoke to watch experts about sizing and materials and used their insight to put together a timepiece style guide.
Read on to find how the size of your wrist should impact which watch you should take home.
Meet the Expert
Find Your Wrist Size
First things first, figure out the size of your wrist. In order to best do this, we recommend using a flexible measuring tape, but if you cannot find one, a piece of paper will do fine.
Wrap the measuring tape or paper around the area that the watch would sit. If using paper, mark the spot where the two ends meet and measure that distance with a ruler.
According to MedlinePlus, the average women’s wrist size is between 5.5 and 6.5 inches or 15 to 16.5 centimeters. Anything smaller than that is considered thin and anything bigger is on the large size.
Watch Case Diameter
The conventional wisdom surrounding watch style is that the smaller your wrist, the smaller the watch case. The thinking is that a small wrist will look crowded and overwhelmed by a chunky case. Conversely, if you have a larger wrist, try a larger watch case.
A standard women’s watch case is 26-29 millimeters while something on the small side usually ranges from 23-25 millimeters, and the large can go up to 42 millimeters.
That being said, the previous sizes that were expected has changed according to Ryan White, the Senior Creative Director at Fossil. “At Fossil, our women’s range of watch sizes goes from 28mm to 38mm. However, we have oversized ‘boyfriend’ watches and also offer smaller men’s sizes at 40mm that today we would consider more unisex.”
Ruthie Underwood, the Vice President of Creative Design at Shinola, echoes this sentiment.
“As consumer taste has begun to lean to more gender-neutral offerings, it isn’t uncommon for women to also want a watch that is more masculine to match the ongoing trend of menswear,” she says.
Additional details on your watch (think script size or rhinestones) also make a difference in the look of the watch face. For example, watch faces with large numerals or bold designs can also make your watch face larger than it is. Small numerals and dainty designs have the opposite effect.
“For a more feminine style, you can opt for a timepiece that leans more towards jewelry with delicate hardware and elegant details, such as a mother of pearl dial or diamond accents,” says Underwood.
Still unsure of what size works for you? White suggests trying on a few styles in store to get a better sense of what you like.
“Both leather straps and bracelets can be adjusted to fit appropriately, regardless of face,” says White.
Watch Band Styles and Materials
Another factor to keep in mind before buying a new timepiece is the watch band style. White thinks that lifestyle is an important factor for picking out your next watch band.
“It is important to have an idea of what size watch you want to wear, but there's also a time and place (pun intended) for lots of different watches," says White. "We think of it as building a part of your accessory wardrobe now.”
For example, a rubber band suggests a more casual, sporty look while a metal watch looks a bit more formal. If you are looking for something purely for utility, look into rubber styles, but if you need something to wear at your next event, maybe look into metal bands.
Metal: Thanks to brands like Rolex and Omega, we tend to associate metal bands with luxury. For more high-end events, we recommend breaking out a metal watch. They also are fairly easy to clean and last for a long time. However, these are typically not as comfortable as leather or rubber straps and can be harder to find your exact fit.
Leather: Perhaps the most classic watchband material, a leather band will never go out of style. Leather forms to your wrist with continued wear, so you can get a perfect fit over time. It also is a bit of a situational chameleon. Regardless of the event, a leather band is sure to look sophisticated and appropriate. However, leather straps do wear out, so try to avoid getting them wet.
Rubber and Plastic: There is a reason that fitness trackers and sports watches include rubber and/or plastic bands. They are durable, absorb shock, and wick moisture away from the wrist. These are considered a more casual band, so you can wear your watch during your day to day activities.