Big watches still rule the timepiece landscape, but, like dinosaurs and SUVs, their days may be numbered. Much to the relief of small wrists (and those who don’t need to compensate with their wristwear), a growing crop of reasonably sized watches are popping up. While 40mm would have been considered gargantuan 40 years ago, nowadays it suits most wrists well and looks appropriate with a variety of apparel. Here are our favorite six watches with diameters at or below 40 millimeters. Big watches, watch out.

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Hamilton Intra-matic Auto


Nearly identical to its 1960s forebear, the Intra-matic features a high-domed crystal (now sapphire instead of acrylic), radiant domed dial and curved hands to complete the retro look. At 38 millimeters, it would have bordered on big in 1968 but is just right for a dress watch today. The size is reasonable, and at less than $1,000, so is the price.

IWC Ingenieur Automatic


For all the high-tech materials and complications IWC showcased in its revamped Ingenieur line, it’s the humble Automatic that steals the show. Faithful to its 1970s Genta-designed origins with its industrial aesthetic and integrated bracelet, the Inge wins points for being a near-perfect 40 millimeters and for making use of a solid caseback and anti-magnetic movement holder.

Rolex Explorer


For five decades after Sir Edmund Hillary wore one up Everest, the Rolex Explorer stayed true to its no-date simplicity, Arabic dial and 36mm diameter. Then Rolex bowed to modern tastes, endowing the Explorer with a solid link bracelet, Oysterlock clasp and, most significantly, a 39mm case. With its robust, Parachrom hairspring-fitted movement, the Explorer is still the watch we’d wear into the death zone.

Breitling Transocean 38


Smaller sports chronograph are as rare as hen’s teeth, and the few that exist are marketed towards women. In the case of the Transocean 38, it’s not your wife that will be stealing your watch but the other way around. A broad dial and traditional pump pushers lend heft to its 38 millimeters, making this the Transocean to own — even if it doesn’t house Breitling’s in-house movement like its brawnier big brother. Put aside your pride and ask for the ladies’ Transocean; then wear it proudly.

Sinn U200 B EZM8


The U200 proves that badassery can come in small packages. At 37.5 millimeters, it’s Sinn’s smallest dive watch. But don’t let that fool you — it’s water resistant to a whopping 2,000 meters and makes use of all Sinn’s durable features: argon-filled case, copper sulfate dehumidifying capsule, “tegimented” steel, und so weiter. The limited edition U200B EZM8 features a matte blue dial and comes packaged with Sinn’s great rubber strap and a striped NATO strap, proving that Germans do, in fact, have a sense of style.



Speaking of Germans, Glashütte-based NOMOS released its first true sports watch this year: the cheekily named Ahoi. While the Ahoi keeps NOMOS’s typically stark Bauhaus design, it also adds both color to the hands and a set of angular crown guards to accompany its newfound 200 meters of water resistance. At 40 millimeters, it’s actually one of the brand’s biggest watches but still svelte compared to most other aquatic watches.

Available this fall

Jason Heaton

Only wears mechanical watches, drives an adequately patina’d Alfa Romeo Spider right up until the snow flies, and always keeps an open bottle of single malt close at hand.

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