In an industry where larger, more robust cases have reigned supreme since the early 2000s, a fascinating trend has emerged in recent years – men wearing small Cartier watches. However, this trend is certainly nothing new. If anything, we would call it a “comeback,” of which we are already seeing a ripple effect as other big names on the market adopt the bigger-isn’t-always-better aesthetic.
For example, just this year at Watches and Wonders Geneva 2023, several watches stole the spotlight with cases measuring smaller than the modern standard of between 40mm and 42mm. The list includes the Tudor 54 with a 37mm case, the show-stopping Rolex 1908 at 39mm, and the Vacheron Constantin Overseas, among many others. In 2021, the Rolex Explorer returned to its 36mm roots, sizing down from 39mm. Additionally, men wearing smaller watches coincides with the increasing popularity of vintage watches. While larger watches are still very much in style, there is a shift in the market, and Cartier is right at the center of it all.
Watch size is purely subjective. Some subscribe to the idea that no watch is ever too small – if you like it, wear it. Then there are the purists who believe there are limits to what looks “good” on the wrist for both men and women. Watch type, wrist size, and personal preference will ultimately influence how you think a small Cartier watch will look on your wrist.
Let’s explore which factors are contributing to the small watch trend.
Size Doesn’t Necessarily Matter
Small watches don’t always mean less impact on the wrist. Despite its size, the case shape, bezel thickness, and even lug width can change how small or large the watch appears. Cartier has a penchant for unusual watch case shapes, like the coveted Tank Américaine. Although it sounds small on paper, the Américaine has immense character with its straight brancards and longer case. For example, the current production model WSTA0043 is just 19mm across the width of the case. By most standards, it would be deemed incredibly small if the case was round. Considering the watch is just under 35mm long, ref. WSTA0043 wears larger and looks quite suitable on the male wrist.
With that in mind, we can’t completely ignore wrist size. According to The Slender Wrist, 95% of men polled in watch-collecting forums have a wrist measuring between 5.85 and 8.65 inches. The average wrist size is 7.25 inches. However, several platforms have conducted similar research with different results. Still, that’s a broad range, but small Cartier watches look phenomenal on just about any wrist. If you have a small to average-sized wrist, the resurgence of small watches is undoubtedly refreshing.
Everything Old is New Again
Demand for vintage watches is rising, fueling interest among men for small Cartier watches and other vintage-sized timepieces. Decades ago, standard men’s watches were smaller, measuring between 32mm and 36mm. Anything larger than that was considered taboo and unnecessary. Today, a smaller case size only adds to a vintage watch’s charm and refinement. Of course, there’s also the distinctive “inherited” quality of a vintage watch that looks like it’s been passed down from generation to generation. This aesthetic is unmatched by many of the polarizing modern timepieces produced by the likes of Panerai and Breitling. Avid luxury watch collectors would argue that they’re more comfortable, too.
The Rolex Submariner was the most Googled watch in 2023. While it is virtually impossible to walk into your local authorized dealer and purchase one, the Submariner is relatively easy to find on the grey market. The same can’t always be said about Cartier watches. They’re more exclusive. The fact that you won’t see your Cartier out in the wild as often as other more common timepieces, like the Rolex Submariner, is another reason why small Cartier timepieces are becoming increasingly popular with serious collectors.
Smaller Watches Are Less Expensive
Depending on the model, small watches are more affordable because they don’t use as much material. This factor adds to the growing appeal among men for smaller watches. For example, the small model Tank Louis Cartier ref. W1529856 retails for $10,200, and the large model ref. WGTA0067 retails for $11,500. A difference of $1,300 is trivial considering how important size is, but the fact remains that smaller watches are often less expensive, especially on the grey market.
Evolving Ideas Surrounding Traditional Masculinity
When we refer to men wearing smaller watches, that also includes what might be considered traditional women’s Cartier watches. In current pop culture, influential men in the media have been experimenting with boundary-breaking fashion, including women’s accessories. You might disagree, and this concept might not be entirely why men wear small Cartier watches. Still, it does challenge society’s view of what men’s fashion is capable of. This trend has made it seem less taboo for men to choose a smaller-sized watch based on nothing else other than personal preference.
Does Size Matter? See our Watch Size Guide
Famous Men Wearing Small Cartier Watches
Celebrities are another driving force in the rising popularity of small Cartier watches. Styled by the best in the business, famous men are the embodiment of impeccable taste. There’s no better exposure for a brand than on the red carpet being photographed for the entire world to see.
Actor Jeff Goldblum has been spotted on the red carpet with a classy gold Cartier Tank Solo on his wrist. Featuring a modest size and profile, the sleek Cartier only accentuates his look. It doesn’t take away from it, a concept many small-watch enthusiasts can get behind.
Action star Sylvester Stallone famously bolstered Panerai’s popularity on the consumer market in the 1990s by wearing one of the brand’s iconic cushion-shaped cases in the film Daylight. Moments like this in pop culture have made it standard for big, tough guys to wear even bigger and tougher watches. 6′ 4″ Jason Momoa breaks societal norms by wearing the sleek Cartier Tank Louis, which almost looks more like a cuff. Although not technically a “small” Cartier, Momoa’s watch isn’t quite what we would expect from the towering actor.
Cartier ambassador and award-winning actor Rami Malek has strolled many a red carpet with a small Cartier strapped to his wrist. One, in particular, is the Cartier Tank Américaine large model measuring 26.6mm x 45.1mm.
Tyler, the Creator
One of the most impressive small Cartier watch collections belongs to rapper Tyler, the Creator. He has wholeheartedly embraced the diminutive luxury watch trend. You can read more about his eclectic collection here, featuring the coveted Cartier Crash, elegant Baignoire, Obus, and Petit Cylindre.