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Watchmaking moves towards smaller diameters

Many would recognize that, among the earliest wristwatches, the most iconic is Cartier "Santos". Designed in 1904, it did not have a circular, but a rectangular case, which measured 24.8 x 34.8 mm.

This watch was commissioned to the reknown French maison by Alberto Santos-Dumont, a Brazilian aviation pioneer, who requested a timepiece that could be used in flight, without taking his hands off the controls.

 

Courtesy:  Diario do Litoral, Alberto Santos-Dumont 


The case size had to be small enough to be worn comfortably on the wrist like a bracelet and the dial must be easily readable. Indeed, the “Santos” was the result of a great effort to balance conflicting needs: portability and functionality.

Still, the success of Cartier project might almost seem counterintuitive over 100 years later. In fact, throughout the twentieth century, the size of cases grew bigger and bigger, with an acceleration from the 1970s onwards. Then, the average diameter spanned between 36 and 37 mm. In the 1980s the first 38mm cases emerged, and in the following twenty years the average dimensions increased further, especially with sports and military watches. Today, 40-42mm are considered the norm, with 'oversized' cases getting close or reaching the 50mm threshold (as is the case, for example, of Breitling Superocean - 48mm and Panerai Luminor Turbillon - 50mm).

 

The Watch Downsizing

 

However, something has changed recently: the race for large diameters seems to have lost its momentum. Exceeding 42mm, in fact, makes the case increasingly disproportionate even for wrists of ordinary dimensions. Raising the bar over this threshold, therefore, becomes an exercise of mere fashion which, as such, is fickle. For this reason, from 2020 we have noticed a consolidating trend that favors diameters between 38 and 41mm (e.g. the Tudor Black Bay 58 - 39mm,the Audemars Piguet [RE] master 01 - 40mm).

This shift surely makes new models more attractive across the board and gradually blurs the boundaries between purely male and female watchmaking.

 

 

Of course, we cannot just be spectators of these developments. Also our community raised the need for smaller size models, which still maintain the design and distinctiveness that have always characterized Venezianico's collections. Evolution and innovation are in our DNA and, therefore, our upcoming projects take these requests into account. The first is being released soon...we can't wait to show it to you!