We can’t hide the fact that, since 15 years, watches have drastically increased in terms of dimensions – in thickness for sure, but mainly in diameter. It is now common to see a dress watch with a 41mm case and a dive watch with a 44mm diameter. This is kind of a norm nowadays. Or maybe it was…? More and more, we see watches being downsized. New generations of existing models are going smaller – not hugely, but slowly diameters are stagnating or even decreasing. Do I think that smaller is better? Yes. And to demonstrate this, let’s look at the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m in its new 39.5mm version.
This year, just before Baselworld 2016, Omega announced a new collection for its iconic dive watch, the Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m – a rugged dive watch, with professional specifications, capable of being used and abused by proper divers. Because of this vocation, this watch was previously available in 42.5mm and 45.5mm cases, both relatively thick (over 16mm), simply because we are in front of a dive watch, meaning a strong case, with additional rotating bezel. But additionally, Omega showed to us a 39.5mm version of the PO 600m, which, after reading at the press release, was intended to be a ladies’ watch – something that most of us, watch journalists and bloggers, immediately denied, to call this watch “unisex” or even to be the perfect size for a daily use. Just for the story, the Planet Ocean already had a ladies’ version at 37.5mm.
The 39.5mm Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m, worn by Marco Gabella from Watchonista
Why am I going there? You see, if I take myself as an example, I do have a small wrist. I’ve measured it several times and, that’s a fact, I’m below 17cm / 6.7inches – and no worries, I’m not complexed. However, I can ensure you that I’m not the only one in this case. On certain markets, such as Asia, it is known that the average size of the wrist is lower. Thus, the demand for smaller watches is also following the same trend. But this is not even the central point here. Even if you have a larger wrist, is a 46mm watch the best option, especially on a daily basis, in a business environment? Not sure – and that’s a fact that the head over me, Frank Geelen, will validate.
The 39.5mm and the 43.5mm editions of the Omega Planet Ocean 600m
Back on the point of interest of this article, the 39.5mm Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m. When we received the news prior to Baselworld 2016, we, at the redaction of Monochrome-Watches, immediately thought that this watch was not going to be a watch made for women only. Indeed, 39.5mm sounds like a nice diameter… for a man. This was definitely worth a try – a try that I extensively had, when Omega showed us the new Deep Black version of the Seamaster Planet Ocean. Well, the comparison was difficult, as moving from a 45.5mm watch to another at 39.5mm. That’s 6mm less, and in the watch world, it’s like going from a Bentley SUV to a Lotus Elise. The most surprising is that, in the end, we are talking about the same watch: same overall design, same dial, same bezel, same case, same vocation, same display… Same but better? Maybe not better, but clearly more to my tastes, and here is why.
I do prefer the 39.5mm Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m because it’s more comfortable, especially when worn on the metallic bracelet. Well, a watch is supposed to wrap around your wrist, not to sit on top of your wrist. When you take a 45mm watch on a wrist like mine, it does not embrace the curvature of the wrist. You have a void under the lugs that creates and makes the watch potentially unbalanced. With a smaller watch, the caseback sits on the flat part of the wrist and the bracelet or the strap sits flat too, at its beginning, to then wrap around the wrist. This is the comfortable position. And to obtain that, you need to try watches and to see what is the size that suits you better.
For the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m, in my case, the 45.5mm edition is clearly way too large. The lugs simply outstrip my wrist and the strap / bracelet has to go down straight at 90 degrees. The 43.5mm begins to be better and, if I take this watch on the rubber and fabric strap, it feels even better. However, the best option in terms of comfort clearly, undoubtedly, is the 39.5mm. Look at the photos and you’ll understand why. No need to explain the comfort in words. This is visible when worn.
Then comes the question of the elegance – more subtle, more personal. This might sound a bit trivial to talk about elegance with such a dive watch – because yes, the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m is first of all a very efficient dive watch. However, you’d be wrong to forget about it, simply because most of the owners will wear this watch at least during weekends or even on a daily basis. Few of them, if not approximately none, will use this PO 600m as a real diving instrument. What does it mean? You’ll wear this watch on holidays, during trips to the seaside, at the beach, at the club or even for professional meetings. Then, elegance and discretion are two important factors. And here, the 39.5mm Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m makes a lot of sense.
It is not a matter of design here, because we told you, 39.5mm or 45.5mm editions share the same overall look. It is a matter of proportions and look on the wrist. Except if showing off is your thing – no judgment, to each his own – a bit of discretion is never bad. In most circumstances, being discreet is seen as a mark of good taste. The Seamaster PO is already a rather bulky watch, with a large bezel, large indexes and large hands. Even in this 39.5mm edition, it has a 14.16mm height – and over 16mm in the 43.5mm version. So combining this with a too large diameter might not be very elegant. Then, there’s the visual perception. Do you think that having a jacket in XL if you size M is elegant? Well, it might be the same for a watch. A 45mm watch on a 16cm / 6.5 inches wrist looks too big. No debate. The same kind of observations can be made for the aesthetics than for the comfort. If the void created between the lugs and your wrist is not helping to balance the watch, it won’t help this watch to be elegant either. If the lugs exceed your wrist, it will (that’s my personal opinion) be seen as if you borrowed your 2m high friend’s suit… not very sharp looking.
So, now we should answer the question in the title, is smaller better? In the case of the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m, I would say yes. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the 43.5mm edition and the 45.5mm was a great surprise when I tried it first. It’s even on my personal wish list, but it will be combined with several other watches, some smaller and more elegant, for business use. However, if I take the example of someone with a restrained collection, who will intensively wear this Planet Ocean, for professional or leisure purposes, I’d advice to go small, for all the reasons I mentioned before, and this, even if you have a 19cm wrist. Of course, as always, the best is to try, to feel and to seek for advices – ask your wife or girlfriend, they usually are good judges…