This is an edition of the newsletter Box + Papers, Cam Wolf’s weekly deep dive into the world of watches. Sign up here.
Last month, we wrapped up 2023 with our very fun, second annual GQ Watch Survey. Forty-six members of the Watch Illuminati weighed in on the best brand, watch, and collector of the year. And despite busting out my new Max Büsser-themed monthly calendar for 2024, there was one takeaway from the survey I couldn’t get off my mind. Nearly everyone seemed to agree that slimmed-down watches were taking over: collectors were wearing them with greater frequency and watchmakers were making more of them. So, I set out to investigate: Are watches actually getting smaller?
To figure this out, I collected data from the biggest men’s releases over the past five years—over 230 in all!—from the five top watch brands, according to Morgan Stanley’s most recent annual report. (I skipped over Cartier because of its long commitment to the small-watch way). The argument I’ve heard a lot is that as traditionally smaller vintage watches continue to be the apple of so many collectors’ eyes, the Swiss titans have used these as inspiration to downsize their modern releases.
It’s also no secret that many passionate collectors want smaller watches. Mark Cho of The Armoury conducted a survey on watch sizes over multiple years and many of the 2,400 respondents believe they have dainty wrists and therefore want teenier tickers. The most desirable size for Cho’s respondents was a slender 36 millimeters! Still, Cho expressed skepticism that anything would change or was changing: “I actually wonder if brands think about it at all because, to them, stuff is selling just fine so why bother?” he said last year. Looking at the—admittedly non-exhaustive—data I collected, that instinct is right on. Here’s the graph charting out the size of watches released from since 2019:
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