Fellow men, we must unlearn a (recently) learned behavior: We must relinquish the notion that any watch smaller than 40mm wide somehow emasculates us.
As I covered right here on InsideHook in an op-ed that, given its fiery, take-no-prisoners tone, makes me think maybe I was off my (proverbial) meds that day, this notion is a fairly new one. Prior to the 1990s, really (and the early 2000s, especially), 40mm was large for a watch. There was the famed Rolex Submariner, of course, and the slightly larger Speedmaster, but these were actually exceptions. Watches — men’s watches — were smaller.
And this was normal. Early Patek Calatravas? 31mm. WWII-era field watches for fighting men? 31-32mm, for the most part. 1960s-era skin divers? 37mm. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual of the 20th century? Largely 34mm. I could go on, but you get the picture: With the exception of dedicated military and other tool watches that were oversized for the sake of legibility, huge men’s watches are a modern invention. After all — they’re often not terribly comfortable, and the average men’s wrist seems to be sub-7” anyway!
So, please, FFS, stop with all this, “I just can’t pull off anything smaller than 40mm.” Um, bubbeleh, yes you can — you sell fucking insurance for a living. (Or whatever.) The next time you find yourself stacking up outside a house in Islamabad with a Special Forces “A-team,” you can come talk to me about your need for an oversized tool watch.
Why You Should Embrace Wearing Small WatchesAfter all — they mostly used to be small
For now, I would highly recommend checking out the watches we’ve listed below. They’re some of the best small(er) watches available, and each one positively kicks ass. They look great on smaller guys, sure, but they look even better on larger guys. Just trust me on this. Get with the horological picture, and embrace the sub-40mm life.
Here’s another small piece that took the watch world by storm back in 2017. An unabashed, nearly one-for-one remake of a timepiece from the 1960s, the Timex Marlin is a 34mm, hand-wound, inexpensive little beater of a dress(y) watch on a black leather bracelet. Though it debuted in a silvered dial with funky black Arabic numerals, it’s since become available in other iterations, and the model family has expanded to include larger, automatic versions. We personally still dig the 34mm executions — especially the one with the cool “California” dial.
- Diameter: 34mm
- Movement: Hand-wound
- Special Features: Dead-ringer for a 1960s-era dress/everyday watch; cheap
- Price: $209+
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
Perhaps the OG “small watch” of the 2010s, the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical was released to almost universal acclaim in 2018 — proof that even the most hardened Predator-hunting, big watch fans see the appeal of a smaller field watch. Based on Hamilton’s military designs from the 20th century, the “K.F.M.” is now available in more iterations that you can shake a stick at, but its basic specs remain the same: a 38mm case in some kind of stainless steel; a hand-wound movement; and a luminous dial with 24-hour scale that closely recalls Vietnam-era mil-spec watches. Though it’s now available on a bracelet, we highly recommend a strap version for more vintage vibes.
- Diameter: 38mm
- Movement: Hamilton H-50 handwound
- Special Features: Design that perfectly recalls American mil-spec field watches
- Price: $575+
Aquastar Model 60 Re-Edition
The “skin diver” design of the mid-20th century has resurfaced with a vengeance lately, with numerous brands reissuing past models that used similar, blocky cases with short lugs, no crown guards, and stark dials. The latest such watch to grab our attention is the 37mm Model 60 from Aquastar, one of the OGs of the “bought-it-in-a-dive-shop-with-my-fins-and-snorkel” dive watch scene. With 200m of water resistance, an excellent, Swiss automatic movement, a unidirectional dive bezel, vintage-colored lume, and various strap options, it’s an excellent option for a more affordable, vintage-styled tool watch.
- Diameter: 37mm
- Movement: La Joux-Perret G100 automatic
- Special Features: 200m of water resistance; all-business design
- Price: $990-$1,149+
21 New Watches That Should Be on Your RadarFrom a highly irreverent (and affordable) British timepiece to a reissue of a pilot’s watch classic, these are our favorite timepieces.
NOMOS Club Campus 38 Night
Try to picture a smaller, thoughtfully designed, Bauhaus-inspired everyday timepiece, and your mind probably wanders to something from German brand NOMOS. Though it’s admittedly tough to single out one reference in a sea of beautiful watches, the Club Campus 38 Night is emblematic of much of what we love about the brand: With its thin, polished, steel case; long lugs; hand-wound, in-house movement; and gorgeous, modern “California” dial with sub-seconds, it sits someplace between “everyday” and “dressy.” The best part about this 38.5mm beauty? The value: Even with its in-house movement and great design, it’s less than $2,000.
- Diameter: 38.5mm
- Movement: NOMOS Caliber Alpha hand-wound
- Special Features: Handsome “California” dial; in-house movement
- Price: $1,650
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Four
Released at Watches & Wonders 2023, this was a watch that many didn’t see coming given the ever-expanding presence of the (slightly redundant) 39mm Black Bay Fifty-Eight in Tudor’s catalog. Nevertheless, many were thrilled with the addition of the Fifty-Four, which is named for the year in which the Tudor Submariner reference 7922 debuted, and not its diameter. Much like this vintage piece, the watch measures 37mm, though unlike its 1950s-era brethren, this one sports a COSC-certified, in-house automatic movement with a 70-hour power reserve, “snowflake” hands, and a bracelet boasting the brand’s cool T-fit system. For channeling your inner post-War adventurer, there’s no better, smaller tool watch.
- Diameter: 37mm
- Movement: Tudor Manufacture Calibre MT5400 automatic
- Special Features: Optional “rivet” bracelet with T-fit; unparalleled sexiness
- Price: $3,625 (rubber); $3,850 (steel)
Panerai Luminor Due Luna
So let’s get one bit out of the way, right away — the Due line, by nature of its dimensions, is not the hard-wearing, deep-diving Panerai that an Italian frogman would’ve strapped to his wrist whilst blowing up Allied shipping in 1941. However, a 38mm Panerai of any type is a notable object, and the fact that the Luminor Due Luna adds a poetic complication in the form of a moon phase subdial opposite a small seconds totalizer only adds to its charming appeal. (Plus, it still features the model family’s unique crown guard system, cushion case, and “sandwich” dial design.
- Diameter: 38mm
- Movement: Panerai Calibre P.900/MP automatic
- Special Features: Classic Luminor case and dial; moon phase
- Price: $9,600
Chopard L.U.C. 1860
Far and away one of the best looking dress watches of the past few years, the 36.5mm Chopard L.U.C. 1860 in Lucent Steel may just be a perfect timepiece. Outfitted with a salmon-colored, hand-guilloché dial and powered by the L.U.C Caliber 96.40-L movement — which is visible via a sapphire caseback — it’s a striking piece of watchmaking that recalls historical designs while offering the convenience of automatic winding. Still, the presence of a micro-rotor means that this piece is thin at just 8.4mm, making it perfect for pairing with a suit or, on the right strap, a tuxedo.
- Diameter: 38mm
- Movement: L.U.C Caliber 96.40-L automatic
- Special Features: Guilloché dial and beautifully finished movement
- Price: $23,200
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Music Edition 37MM
Last time I spoke about small watches, I mentioned that the Royal Oak Offshore ushered in an era in which watches became too big (IMO). However, A.P. does offer smaller versions of the Offshore in 37mm, mostly gem-set and marketed to ladies. However however, there’s one 37mm edition that’s just too cool for school, and that men should consider as well: the Selfwinding Music Edition 37MM. Though also available in a larger size, we think this beautifully sized timepiece — with its VU meter-inspired dial, matching blue “constellation” strap, and titanium construction — is perfect for all and sundry.
- Diameter: 37mm
- Movement: Audemars Piguet Calibre 5909 automatic
- Special Features: Wildly cool “VU meter” dial
- Price: $30,600
J.N. Shapiro Resurgence
Maybe you’ve got the scratch and are willing to throw down for something exquisite? Then feast your eyes on the Resurgence from J.N. Shapiro, a watch made almost completely in-house — in America. Historically significant, drop-dead gorgeous, handmade, limited…this thing is in a class of its own. Measuring 38mm wide, it features stunning engine-turned patterns in customizable colors matched to an engine-turned mid-case, plus a hand-wound movement available in a variety of finishes. If A.L. Breguet were to come back from the dead, he would surely buy Josh Shapiro a beer and say, “Bravo!”
- Diameter: 38.5mm
- Movement: J.N. Shapiro Resurgence R1, R2, and R3 handwound
- Special Features: Pretty much everything about it
- Price: $70,000+
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