Empty watch caseAn empty watch case with spring bars fitted

Ask a woman if size really matters. Yes, it does. Size matters. Whether you’re endowed with a fully functional, high-performance tool or not – size matters. Of course, what’s in the package and how you use it matters too, but the size of a watch (yes – we’re talking watches!) matters a great deal. Case material, finish, style, and shape all require a great deal of thought before choosing the right watch. But in a vast and highly-saturated market of watches from designer to high-end, where does one start?

Beginner’s guide to choosing the right watch case

Here are a few basic tips to point you in the right direction when choosing the best watch case for you.

Case diameter

If you can try a watch on for size – do it. Because not all watches of the same size look and feel the same on the wrist. A watch diameter will normally measure from the outside edge of the bezel from left to right without accounting for the crown (unless specified). That may not seem like a big deal, but case size all depends on whether you’re looking at a dress watch with a discreet crown or a pilot’s watch with an oversized, easy-grip crown. Square, oval, round, rectangular, cushion and tonneau-shaped cases look different on the wrist despite sometimes measuring the same diameter.

If your wrists are broad, a standard 40-42mm watch may get lost on your wrist. If you have a slender wrist, you run the risk of a huge block of steel swallowing your wrist whole. When looking at square watches, bear in mind that the diameter of the watch is the same as its vertical measurement. So, the diagonal measurement from the bottom left to the top right of the case can be pretty hefty!

Case length

The length of a watch case compared to another can vary greatly. This measurement begins at the tip of the north lug and finishes at the end of the south lug on the same side. Therefore the case length of a smaller-sized watch can sometimes be longer than a broader watch and vice versa. Note: this measurement has nothing to do with lug width. The lug width is the distance between the right and left lug and is used to determine what strap width your watch takes.

Case materials

There’s a whole host of case materials to explore if you’re new to the watch world. If you’ve been collecting for a while, you’ll likely know what you want in a watch. If not, here’s a low-down on the benefits of each case material…

316L stainless steel watch cases

This is the most common material used in watches of all types from budget to high-end. Stainless steel is not only easy to machine, but it’s also corrosion-resistant, durable and the chemical composition of 316L makes it more robust for wearing long-term. Rolex uses a different kind of steel – 904L steel, and although this highly polished alternative has the potential to be more resistant, the difference between the affordable 316L and Rolex’s preferred 904L is minimal (apart from the price tag).

Bronze watch cases

Zelos Hammerhead – photo by Zaltek Reviews

Bronze cases are becoming an increasingly popular option for pilot’s watches. The alloy creates its own patina over time, giving a pilot’s watch that vintage feel of a bygone era. Patina management in the watch industry is becoming all the rage right now. It’s what many watch forums are discussing, so we expect to see more of these rustic-looking wristwatches on the market in the future.

Platinum cases

If budget shopping isn’t of relevance to you, a platinum watch might be. This avant-garde material is luxurious and heavy, so it’ll certainly feel substantial on the wrist from a value point-of-view. Platinum watches have a bright white lustre compared to stainless steel, often creating a contemporary look on the wrist.

Gold cases

If you like to climb mountains and go deep-sea diving, gold watches may not be the most practical option in a wristwatch, but they will look refined enough to add sophistication to virtually every outfit in your wardrobe. 18ct white rose and yellow gold watches look opulent and lavish. Precious metals are commonly used in premium dress watches and will appeal to those who aren’t limiting themselves to a budget.

Gold-plated cases

For a more affordable option, gold-plated watches create the indulgent look of a high-end watch but reduce the price considerably. Many luxury brands use gold plating as part of their manufacturing process, incorporating it into the indexes on a dial, the crown, bezel and bi-colour bracelet options.

PVD and DLC cases

PVD or DLC coated cases create a dynamic, modern look on the wrist. Many manufacturers used these treatments to create stealthy sports watches, pairing them with a matching black rubber or black coated metal bracelet. PVD treatments involve subjecting the metal surface of a watch to a vacuum environment and vaporizing it. DLC coating refers to a treatment that involves blasting carbon particles onto the watch’s metal surface.

Titanium cases

For a lightweight feel on the wrist, titanium cases are stronger than stainless steel but lighter, making them great options for those investing in one watch for wearing all day every day, as well as gym-goers and sporty individuals.

Wristwatch Review UK

Here at WRUK, we aim to help you navigate the world of watches, so watch out for the next parts in our beginners guide series.

By Nina Scally

Aside from juggling nappies, tantrums and failing at pastry-making, Nina has been writing for the luxury watch industry both as a hobby and for a living for the past 8 years. Writing to a male-dominated audience can be challenging at times. But she likes a challenge. Just not pastry.

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