Watches Life on the 36mm Parallel

Watches & Wonders 2023

3 min

Robin Swithinbank Journalist & Author

Why the latest Carrera is all the watch most of us will ever need

Some 15 years ago, I bought my first mechanical watch. I was new to watch buying, green as they come, and counting my pennies, too. I’d come across the watch online. It was a beautiful thing, a vintage piece from the 1960s, a rich period for design that has the same hold over me now as it did back then. Better still, I could afford it.

It arrived a few days later and to my disappointment, it looked absurd on my wrist. At 35mm across, it was tiny by the standards of the time, and tiny on me: being two metres tall and with the wrists of a neanderthal, there’s not much under 40mm I can wear. In my naivety and hurry to secure the piece, I’d simply not done the math.

Tastes are cyclical, particularly when it comes to watch case sizes. Back when I made my vintage miscalculation in the late 2000s, watches had mushroomed into the higher end of the 40mm zone. But it’s clear now that for most men, 39mm is a sweet spot, no matter the suggestion of shrinkage.

  • TAG Heuer Carrera Date (WBN2313.BA0001)

Around that, some will always prefer 42mm, while there are many whose wrists commend something more discreet, around the 36mm mark. In recent times, that figure has become the de facto measure of a unisex watch – a universal size that pretty much anyone can wear with confidence. Just not me.

This, we should note, is no modern confection. In the early 1960s, Jack Heuer’s Carrera arrived at 36mm, a size he deemed perfectly sufficient for ambitious young careerists – at the time, men, chiefly.

Those proportions proved more than enough to holster the watch’s function, too. Six decades on, the balance of the original Carrera’s bicompax chronograph dial remains one of the finest examples of product design ever to grace watchmaking.

Onto this 36mm Parallel, if we can call it that, comes the new Carrera Date – four watches, each 36mm in diameter, distinguishable by their dial colours: silver, blue, green and gloriously provocative pink. As time and date watches, they continue the Carrera’s modern paradigm, stripping it of its chronograph and instead making a virtue of its elegant, versatile, not to mention familiar profile.

In our fluid age, they’ll serve a broad church, much like Jack’s original 60 years ago, which through time has been worn by plenty of women, too. Which should be reassuring: if any of us ventures to the 36mm Parallel, there’ll be no reason for us to leave.

Robin Swithinbank Journalist & Author