Before this trend of “inflated” watches, there was a variety of choice for case size diameter, from different brands and even within the same brand/model. Then, for reasons of fashion and the emergent markets (one could argue the size of movements for specific cases) large watches became the norm.
Even Rolex, with its yet conservative product development strategy, went after the trend, presenting larger options (Explorer I from 36mm to 39mm; Explorer II from 40mm to 42mm), or when keeping the same case diameter (take for instance the “fat lug” submariner). Of course timepieces must evolve, modernise, this is not the topic of discussion.
The fact is that 42mm was the new 40mm and watchmakers upgraded their offering. This resulted in a series of beautiful creations, however oversized for many users (although right for others). My point is that small wears well in large writs, whilst the opposite is not true.
I know Pilot watches are supposed to be huge (50mm), as Divers are supposed to have plus 200 meters water resistance. Is this really a valid argument for 99% of desk watch users? Brands can make them wearable and consumers still appreciate the historical accuracy. It's like those dive watches with ridiculous 240mm long rubber straps (intended to be worn over diving suits) that for the purpose of one being able to wear the watch must be switched for aftermarket alternatives.
In watch forums we got used to read the average-sized-writs trend-conformed influencers and enthusiasts trying to convince themselves of the larger watch virtues. Lug-to-lug length, case shape and thickness, dial/bezel ratio, all became references for if the watch would wear within acceptable comfort, aesthetics and boundaries.
It now seems that smaller sizes are back, but this is mostly being applied to classic remakes. Major watchmakers are listening to collectors online buzz (interesting change) to pull their vintage star designs out of the draw (the omega 1957 trilogy and the Heuer Autavia are great examples).
On a related topic, there are a few micro-brands exploring this opportunity (Dan Henry and Baltic - stories to follow).
The first recreation by Dan Henry of the 36mm Exactus Super Compressor came in 44mm (followed by a 40mm version). But even in the case of Dan Henry (well respected vintage collector) the average size watch in his vintage only collection is 41mm.
We must wait to see if the market is in fact turning.
Food for thought.