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These Are the Best Small Watches for Men Under 40mm

A watch should be framed by your wrist, not enveloped by it.

best watches
Gear Patrol

There’s been much written about the “sweet spot” for watch sizes. Ten years ago, the conventional wisdom skewed between 40mm and 42mm. Today, things have widened a bit, to include watches down to around 38mm. Why the drop in millimeters?

I’d argue it’s largely about comfort. You see, the way a watch sits on the wrist is hugely affected by its diameter, which is mostly what we mean when we refer to a watch’s size. But there’s more going on here: the way a watch wears has just as much to do with its thickness, also measured in millimeters; and its lug-to-lug length, literally measuring from the tip of one set of lug to the other, has much to do with whether you want to take it off at the end of the day or sleep in it. And, generally, a watch with a smaller diameter width will also be slimmer, and have a shorter lug-to-lug length.

There are exceptions, of course. But they don’t sway me, personally. I have what you’d call average-sized wrists, and I wear a 35.5mm vintage Zodiac Sea Wolf every day. It’s great. The crown doesn’t dig into my hand, and, when I camp, I wear it to sleep, no problem. Here’s the other side of things, the one I think a lot of guys think about but don’t mention, when they talk about why they don’t wear small watches: No one has ever seen this watch, taken it into their hands, and said, “But it’s so small!” Men wore them this small throughout the middle of the 20th century, and I’m not buying that we’ve “moved on” from that size. Fashion is cyclical, after all.

The truth, I believe, is that any size between 35mm and 38mm offers plenty of size of legibility and simply looks good, even on a larger wrist. But don’t take my word for it. Try on any of these watches, all under 38mm in diameter, and you’ll see that a small watch might just be the best watch.

Casio
Casio F91W-1
casio.com
$18.95

Nerds Rule! The classic dweeb watch has become cool, proving that having thin wrists and being good at math can be perfectly sexy. Oh, and it costs less than twenty bucks. Eat your heart out, Bill Gates.
Case Size: 30mm x 30mm
Thickness: 8mm
Movement: Casio quartz
Price: $19

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Bertucci
Bertucci 10500 A-1R
amazon.com
$50.15

The oft-overlooked tough watch brand makes many durable watches for outdoorsmen. The new A1R Field Comfort might be slightly thicker than many other watches on this list, but its polycarbonate 36mm case is incredibly light at just 1.3 ounces.
Case Size: 36mm
Thickness: 12.2mm
Movement: Japanese quartz
Price: $55

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Courtesy
Seiko 5 Men's Watch
amazon.com
$146.71

The Seiko 5 is as ubiquitous as it gets: it comes in all sizes, shapes, and colors. This means you can find many of its iterations in case sizes below — and sometimes well below — 38mm. Some are meant for sport, some for diving, and some are more formal, but all deliver incredible value, such as this SNZG09K1 field watch.
Case Size: 36mm (varies)
Thickness: 12mm (varies)
Movement: Seiko automatic 7S36 (varies)
Price: $146 (varies)

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Timex
Timex Marlin 34mm Hand-Wound
timex.com
$199.00

Timex’s Marlin is a hell of a great watch to have around: it’s mid-century on a budget, available in a number of great colors (the silver dial is our favorite, especially on mesh), and, particularly for those with smaller wrists, it’s a great dressy watch to match with all sorts of looks.
Case Size: 34mm
Thickness: 10mm
Movement: hand-wound mechanical
Price: $199

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CWC
CWC G10
cwcwatch.com
£249.00

Here’s another military watch with some serious chops: the Cabot Watch Company has made mechanical and quartz watches for the British military since the 197-s. The G10 is a modern execution of a model from the 1980s, with a solid quartz movement and a slight cushion-shaped case.
Case size: 38mm (with crown; 36mm without)
Thickness: 10mm
Movement: ETA quartz 955.102
Price: ~$351

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Marathon
Marathon General Purpose Mechanical
Marathon amazon.com
$360.00

Speaking of military chops. Marathon’s MGP is built to military spec, with a thick sapphire crystal, tritium tubes for legibility in the dark, and an ultra-light, 34mm case made of ultra-light high-impact fiber. (You can get it in a quartz version, too, if you so choose.)
Case Size: 34mm
Thickness: 11mm
Movement: Seiko NH35 automatic
Price: $360

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MkII
MkII Watches Hawking
mkiiwatches.com
$499.00

Philadelphia-based MKII is a maker of much-sought-after homage watches. This one is inspired by the JLC and IWC MK 11, made for the British military between the 1940s and 1980s. This is actually MKII’s second version of the watch—Bill Yao shrank it from 40mm.
Case Size: 37.8mm (not including crown)
Thickness: 12.75mm
Movement: Japanese-made SII NE15 automatic
Price: $499

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Hodinkee Shop
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
hodinkee.com
$525.00

Hamilton’s Khaki Field Mechanical is an homage to the MIL-W-3818 the brand made during the ’60s. It’s one thing to look like that watch, but the Khaki feels like a classic field watch, too. It does this by using an old-school, hand-winding movement as well as a relatively small — bigger than the original, but still decidedly small today.

Case Size: 38mm
Thickness: 9.5mm
Movement: ETA 2801-2 hand-winding
Price: $525

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Shinola
Shinola The Guardian 41.5mm
shinola.com
$725.00

The Runwell is synonymous with Shinola. But the oft-forgotten Guardian, with its rounded square case, has a more interesting look and comes in a 36mm size. (Maybe think of it as a less formal, more affordable alternative to a Cartier Tank.)

Case Size: 36 x 36mm
Thickness: 10.8mm
Movement: Argonite 715 quartz
Price: $675

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anOrdain
anOrdain Model 1
anordain.com
£1,750.00

This Scottish company turned a lot of heads in 2018 with their enamel-dialed Model 1. The new version is the same watch we know and love with a slightly reworked case and dial. What's more: it also comes in special fumé variants.
Case Size: 38mm
Thickness: 11mm
Movement: ETA 2824-2 automatic
Price: ~$1,700+

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Hodinkee Shop
Oris Divers Sixty-Five 36mm Mens Watch
watchesofswitzerland.com
$2,275.00

The original Oris Divers Sixty-Five is a darling of the watch nerd community: the look, the price, the brand, are all near perfect. In 2018 they released a 36mm size, which is candy for smaller-wristed dive watch fans. And they’ve got it in several different configurations.
Case Size: 36mm
Thickness: 13mm
Movement: Oris 733 automatic (Sellita 200-1)
Price: $1,275

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Tudor
Tudor Black Bay 36
tudorwatch.com
$2,950.00

The Tudor Black Bay dive watch, while sharp, clocks in at a chunky 41mm and almost 15mm of thickness (though the Tudor Black Bay 58 is smaller). Which is why Tudor (and Rolex) fans rejoiced in 2016, when Tudor released the Black Bay 36mm, which recalls vintage Tudor and Rolex models from the '50s, '60s and '70s.
Case Size: 36mm
Thickness: 10.5mm
Movement: ETA 2824-2 automatic
Price: $2,950

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Nomos Club Campus Neomatik 39
hodinkee.com
$2,980.00

NOMOS’s Club line dropped in 2016, offering slightly smaller size, traditional case shape, and decently affordable prices for the chic German brand. The Club Neomatik might be its best example: at 39.5mm and just 9.3mm thick, it’s got maximum comfort and ultra-clean design.
Case Size: 37mm
Thickness: 8.4mm
Movement: NOMOS DUW 3001 automatic
Price: $3,040

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Breitling
Breitling Navitimer Automatic 38
breitling.com
$4,450.00

Historically, Breitling has made some pretty big, complex-looking watches, but lately, the brand seems to want to offer some toned-down options. One example is the time-only Navitimer 1, which has the same basic look of the classic Navitimer chronograph, but in a smaller, simpler package.

Case Size: 38mm
Thickness: 9.9mm
Movement: ETA 2824-2 automatic
Price: $4,450

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Hodinkee Shop
Grand Seiko Automatic GMT SBGM221
hodinkee.com
$4,600.00

Had a tough time finding a smaller, more elegant GMT? Well, look no further: This one's got a perfectly sized 39.5mm case, a gorgeous dial, and the automatic Grand Seiko Caliber 9S66 with 72 hours of power reserve.

Case Size: 39.5mm
Thickness: 13.7mm
Movement: Grand Seiko Caliber 9S66 automatic
Price: $4,600

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Rolex
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 34
$5,300.00

Folks in the know view vintage Oyster Precision and Oyster Perpetual models from the 1950s — and their 34mm diameter — as the ultimate value play. So why would you ignore the modern equivalent? That’s not the 36mm version of the Oyster Perpetual — it’s the 34mm.
Case Size: 34mm
Thickness: 11.7mm
Movement: Rolex 3130 automatic
Price: $5,300

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IWC
IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36
iwc.com
$5,150.00

As Jason Heaton noted back in 2016, the launch of the Pilot’s Automatic 36mm was the most genuine pilot’s watch from IWC in a while — for the first time, the dimensions of the watch were not blown up to a modern-sized 40mm. Instead, they stayed closer to the original. The result is a watch that your grandpa really would’ve worn.
Case Size: 36mm
Thickness: 10.7mm
Movement: IWC 35111 automatic
Price: $5,150

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Jaeger-LeCoultre
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic Monoface
jaeger-lecoultre.com
$5,750.00

Yes, it was invented because wealthy British colonialists needed a way to protect their watches while playing polo…but we say it’ll survive because it comes in a small size that’s just right. That, and because it’s damn cool.
Case Size: 35.78mm
Thickness: 7.4mm
Movement: JLC calibre 846/1
Price: $5,750

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Panerai
Panerai Luminor Due 38mm
panerai.com
$6,200.00

If you dig the Panerai aesthetic but not the idea of have a hulking, 44mm or 37mm behemoth on your wrist, then this is the Italian naval-inspired watch for you. (Unfortunately this one is only water resistant to 30m, however, so you're gonna have to relegate it to land use.)

Case Size: 38mm
Thickness: 10.8mm
Movement: Panerai P9000 automatic
Price: $6,200

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Zenith Chronomaster Revival El Primero A385
hodinkee.com
$8,400.00

The vintage reissue done right. A recreated gradient dial, a 37mm steel case, and an automatic, in-house chronograph movement would make this El Primero a "buy" already, but it's the ladder bracelet that truly ties the whole package together and makes for one hell of a watch.

Case Size: 37mm
Thickness: 12.6mm
Movement: Zenith El Primero caliber 400 automatic
Price: $8,400

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