It wasn't really that long ago that small watches for men seemed to be passé. As watches began trending larger and larger in the late '90s and early aughts (not to mention more complicated and expensive), the modestly sized style of timepiece that had mostly dominated throughout the 20th century became scarcer and scarcer in the market. Then came the worldwide financial crisis in '08-'09 and the subsequent demand for subtler expressions of wealth and luxury; the rise of China, with its traditonal taste for smaller watches, as a powerhouse market for timepieces; and a new generation of historically savvy watch connoisseurs who were drawn to the smaller sizes of the past. Watches have been trending smaller ever since, and even brands that built their modern fame on embracing larger, more aggressively in-your-face designs have joined the party. Here we've gathered 33 watches, primarily aimed at men, all under 40mm in diameter.
Timex Q Timex Inspired SST
Price: $179, Reference: TW2U61000, Case Size: 38 mm, Case Height: 11.5 mm, Lug Width: 18 mm, Crystal: Acrylic, Water Resistance: 50 meters, Movement: Quartz Analog
Timex has had success in recent years in reproducing some of its cult-favorite vintage models for today’s increasingly savvy collectors seeking out the sweet spot between historical flair, modest dimensions, and value-oriented pricing. Among them is the colorful and sporty Q Diver, a modern reissue of a popular model from the 1970s, which also happens to be one of Timex’s first models with a quartz caliber. Among the elements that echo the original ‘70s models are the bicolor GMT bezel, diver-style geometrical indexes on the dial, the integrated SST bracelet and even the battery case cover in the back, which enables the wearer to change his own battery with the simple turn of a coin edge.
Tissot Le Locle Powermatic 80
Case: 39.3mm, Thickness 9.8mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Movement: Automatic Powermatic 80.111 Water-Resistance: 30m, Material: Steel, Price: $575
Named for the Swiss watchmaking town in which Tissot was founded (and where many other watchmakers still reside), the Tissot Le Locle is a classically elegant gentleman’s dress watch that comes in jisty under the 40mm threshold. Its round case has a polished finish and its dial hosts applied Roman hourt numerals, swept over by leaf-shaped hands, along with a practical and unobtrusive date window at 3 o’clock. The “pyramid”-style textured finish in the center lends the watch an added layer of refinement, and the self-winding Powermatic 80 movement inside ensures that it runs reliably for 80 hours.
Accutron Legacy Automatic RR-0 Limited Edition
Price: $1,290, Reference: 2SW6B001, Case Size: 34mm, Case Height: 12.5mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Movement: Automatic Sellita SW200
Once the flagship collection of Bulova, Accutron established itself as its own watch company in 2020 with a new electrostatic-movement version of the famous and futuristic (for the ‘60s, at least) Accutron Spaceview leading the way. The Legacy collection that followed up that flagship model revived an array of less renowned but cult-classic Accutron designs from its Bulova days. One of the most well received has been the RR-0, a modern version of a piece made to the specifications of the Canadian Railroad in the 1970s. Sized at a very period-appropriate 34mm, its quirky dial design uses a “0” numeral in place of the “12” on the main hour scale and an unconventional winding crown at 4 o’clock. The black hands, orange seconds hand, and black date window aperture (on a white dial) also make it distinctive among its vintage-inspired siblings in the Legacy family.
Bell & Ross BR V1-92 Military
Price: $2,400, Reference: BRV192-MIL-ST/SCA, Case Size: 38.5mm, Case Height: 11mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic Caliber BR-CAL.302
Bell & Ross’ best-known watches, the dashboard-clock-inspired Instrument models, are anything but understated in their stature and design, but the BR V1-92 Military, from the brand’s round-cased Vintage collection, takes a subtler route. Its field-watch-style dial has only a 60-minute track, marked at five-minute increments — a period-appropriate design used on military aviation watches worn during the World Wars. Also historically appropriate are the sword-shaped luminous hands and the red “MT” ("Military Type") indication on the dial; thoroughly modern, on the other hand, are the round date window at 4:30 and the airplane-shaped counterweight on the central seconds hand. The automatic, Sellita-based Bell & Ross Caliber BR-CAL.302 beats inside the 38.5mm steel case.
Bulova Fly Me to the Moon
Price: $825, Case Size: 39mm, Thickness: 12mm, Lug to Lug: 45mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Automatic Miyota 8215, Power Reserve: 40 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Bulova’s Frank Sinatra collection pays tribute to popular music’s legendary Chairman of the Board, who owned many Bulova watches throughout his life and counted Bulova as a sponsor of his Frank Sinatra Show on TV in the 1950s. The watches’ designs are inspired by Sinatra’s 1950s-1960s heyday, when smaller, thinner watches were in vogue. The Fly Me to the Moon model has a multi-part cushion-shaped case, alternating applied Arabic numerals and pyramid markers for the hours; sword-shaped hands, a 3 o’clock date window, and a reproduction of Frank’s signature at 6 o’clock, all set against a lyrical, radiating line motif from the center. The watch’s automatic movement is from Miyota, Bulova’s sister company within Japan’s Citizen Group, and visible behind a clear caseback.
Weiss Standard Issue Field Watch
Price: $1,450, Reference: N/A, Case Size: 38mm, Case Height: 9.2mm, Lug to Lug: 46.2mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Mechanical Hand-Wound Caliber 1005
Coming on the scene in 2013, Los Angeles-based Weiss is an American microbrand that has found an avid following with its Standard Issue Field Watch, which founder and namesake Cameron Weiss makes in both the 38mm size most reminiscent of the models that troops wore in the 20th century, as well as a more modern 42mm case size. While the watch has no authentic military usage or connection in its short history, it embodies the field-watch style with its combination of dial elements, which include vintage-style sword hands, a small seconds subdial at 6 o'clock and a railroad minute track. The hands are black oxide-treated and glow brightly in the dark with a layer of Super-LumiNova. Weiss installs a customized, manually wound caliber in the watch, the Weiss 1005, which is based on the ETA/Peseux Caliber 7001 and hand-finished and assembled in Cameron Weiss’ U.S. workshop.
Junghans Max Bill Automatic Bauhaus Edition
Price: $1,400, Case Size: 38mm, Case Thickness: 9.7mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 50 meters, Movement: Automatic Caliber J800-1 (ETA 2824-2 base)
The Max Bill collection from Germany’s Junghans, named for the Swiss artist that designed it, offers an elegantly minimalist aesthetic (we explore the collection in depth here). The Max Bill Automatic Bauhaus Edition was released in 2019 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus, the famed German design school that had such a profound impact on Max Bill and other pioneers of 20th century architecture and design. The anthracite PVD coating of the 1,000-piece limited edition evokes the facade of the school building in Dessau while the red hands and red date window pay tribute to its famed red doors. The gray strap, Junghans says, is inspired by the concrete used in the construction of the building, which is also represented in an illustration on the sapphire caseback.
Maurice Lacroix Aikon Automatic
Price: $1,900, Case Size: 39mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Automatic Caliber ML115 (Sellita SW200 base)
Prized by many as a quirky and eminently more affordable alternative to the integrated-bracelet sport-luxury models that preceded it (and undoubtedly, to some extent, inspired its design), Maurice Lacroix’s Aikon Automatic offers a 39mm version of its uniquely shaped steel case (in addition to the core 42mm model) that is ideal for smaller wrists. The multifaceted case, including its similarly shaped crown, has a combination of brushed and polished finishing. The dial draws attention with its “Clous de Paris” textured pattern enhanced with a sunburst finish. Its details include elongated, applied hour markers and hands, double applied markers at the quarter hours, and a small date window at 3 o’clock; said hands and hour markers are rhodium-plated, which is a rare enhancement at this watch’s under-$2,000 price point. Inside the watch ticks a Swiss-made automatic movement, dubbed Caliber ML115, which is a brand-customized Sellita SW200-1. Showcased behind a sapphire caseback, it offers a 38-hour power reserve.
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight
Price: $3,475 - $4,400 - $16,825, Case Size: 39mm, Case Thickness: 11.9mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Automatic Tudor Caliber MT5402/MT5400
With the overall sporty design of the 41mm model but at a more modest case diameter of 39mm, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight collection hits the sweet spot for many contemporary connoisseurs (Check out our comprehensive guide to the Black Bay collection here). Named for the year 1958, in which Tudor released the Oyster Prince Submariner Ref. 7924, the most clear forerunner to the Black Bay, the Fifty-Eight sub-family contains the automatic, COSC-certified Caliber MT5402, a slightly downsized version of the MT5602 caliber, and has played host to a number of bold experiments in the areas of color and case materials. The Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925, released in 2021 as one of the first all-precious-metal iterations of the Black Bay, has a case made of 925 silver, a rarity in the watch world, pairing it with a matte, taupe-colored dial with a matching insert for its dive-scale bezel.
Louis Erard Excellence Émail Grand Feu II
Price: $4,290, Case Size: 39mm, Thickness: 12.25mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 50 meters, Movement: Automatic Sellita Caliber SW261-1
Independent watchmaker Louis Erard plunges into the realm of artistic metiers d’art with its Excellence Émail Grand Feu II. Émail, for the non French-speakers out there, refers to enamel, not electronic communications, while grand feu (literally “big fire”) refers to the specific type of enamel used for the elegant dial, in which fine powders, one for each of the colors used in the dial’s ensemble, are fired in a kiln at 800 degrees Celsius to achieve a long-lasting brilliance. Also distinguishing the dial of this 99-piece limited edition are Louis Erard’s signature “tree” hands and the delicate Roman hour numerals. The steel case measures 39mm and houses an automatic Caliber from Sellita.
Sinn 556 I
Price: $1,270 - $1,510, Case Size: 38.5mm, Thickness: 11mm, Lug-to-Lug: 45.5mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: SapphireWater Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto SW200
Offering a utilitarian, military aesthetic while also projecting subtle style, Sinn's 556 I combines a wrist-friendly 38.5 case size with an eminently legible dial layout, all mounted on a supple H-link steel bracelet. As is typical for the Frankfurt, Germany-based brand, which is known for its patented watch-toughening technologies, its case is made of surgical-grade steel, with a matte, bead-blasted finish, and has a screw-down crown to enable a water-resistance of 200 meters. A sapphire caseback reveals the reliable Swiss-made Sellita Caliber SW200, with automatic winding and a 38-hour power reserve.
Zenith Chronomaster Original
Price: $9,000, Case Size: 38mm, Case Height: 12.9mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 50 meters, Movement: Automatic El Primero Caliber 3600
Zenith made its biggest impact on watchmaking history with the launch of the El Primero chronograph caliber in 1969, and one of the very first watches to contain that groundbreaking high-frequency automatic movement was recently resurrected for a modern audience as the Chronomaster Original. The watch’s modest 38mm steel case mimics the dimensions of the increasingly collectible vintage model, Ref. A386, and the tricolor execution of the three subdials — blue, silver, and gray — has become a visual shorthand for a watch with an El Primero movement, which beats behind a sapphire caseback at a brisk frequency of 36,600 vph, meaning its integrated stopwatch function can measure times to 1/10 second of accuracy. The dial’s central chronograph hand makes a complete sweep every 10 seconds rather than 60, tallying 60 seconds at 3 o’clock and 60 elapsed minutes at 9 o’clock, while the running seconds occupy the subdial at 9 o’clock.
Longines Heritage Classic Sector Dial
Price: $2,325, Case Size: 38.5mm, Thickness: 10.9mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47mm, Lug Width: 19mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Auto ETA A31.501, Crystal: Sapphire
Longines was among the very first watch brands to devote an entire line of watches within its large collection to resurrecting vintage and often highly rare models from its long history, anticipating the trend that is still popular today. Many watches within this Heritage collection strive to reinvent as faithfully as possible the designs and often very modest dimensions of the originals — like the Heritage Classic Black “Sector Dial,” a 1930s-inspired gents watch with a sectored layout that combines a brushed outer ring contrasting attractively with a matte inner surface and an engine-turned, indented small seconds scale. The silver hour indexes are printed rather than applied as per historical accuracy, and the stick-shaped hands sweep over a period-appropriate Longines logo. The steel case measures 38.5-mm in diameter and 11mm thick, with slim, subtly curved lugs and a flat bezel. Longines has outfitted the model with its ETA-based Caliber L893, an automatic movement with a 72-hour power reserve and a very modern silicon balance spring.
Nomos Club Campus
Price: $1,500, Case Size: 38mm, Thickness: 8.2mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47.2mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Crystal: Sapphire, Movement: Nomos Alpha Manual
Spinning off from the German maker’s Club collection of timepieces in 2017, the Nomos Club Campus is noteworthy for its streamlined, no-nonsense aesthetic and its use of a “California” dial, i.e., one that uses a combo of Arabic numerals, Roman numerals, and plain indexes for its hour markers. An orange seconds hand in the subdial at 6 o’clock adds a splash of color. The earliest Campus models offered two sizes (36mm and 38mm) and utilized manually wound calibers; the second generation introduced additional case options at 37.5mm and 39mm and were the first models within the overall Club family to contain automatic movements.
Oris ProPilot X Caliber 400
Price: $4,300, Case Size: 39mm, Thickness: 12mm, Lug-to-Lug: 46.9mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Automatic Oris Caliber 400 Crystal: Sapphire
One of the flagships of Oris’s varied and versatile collection of timepieces is the aviation-inspired Big Crown ProPilot, whose familiar hallmarks include a multi-part case with a coin-edge textured motif on the sides, designed to resemble a jet’s turbines; a large, fluted, screw-down crown, which recalls those of early pilots’ watches and which (of course) lends the collection its name; and a double-domed sapphire crystal covering a wide, legible dial. In 2022, Oris added a 39mm model to the collection, which had been populated mainly by models measuring 41mm or larger in diameter, which also became the first Big Crown ProPilots to be equipped with the brand’s in-house Caliber 400, which among its various features includes a 120-hour (5-day) power reserve, an antimagnetic structure, and a COSC chronometer certification. The solid salmon and blue dial options, with thin hour indices rather than Arabic numerals, are also new to the ProPilot family.
Rado Golden Horse Automatic
Price: $1,800, Case Size: 37mm, Thickness: 10.8mm, Lug-to-Lug: 40.9mm, Lug Width: 19mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Automatic ETA C07.111
The Rado Golden Horse collection, which debuted in 1957, was the first series produced under the Rado brand name. In 2019, Rado re-introduced the model into its vintage-inspired Tradition line. In addition to its period-appropriate 37mm case, the watch’s hallmarks include an engraved bezel, a red-lacquered anchor emblem in the crown, a red date numeral in the 3 o’clock window, and a silhouetted pair of seahorses at 6 o’clock. The dial under the box-shaped sapphire crystal has dauphine hands, applied hour indexes, and a moving anchor in a red circle above the Rado logo at 12 o’clock. The movement behind the sapphire caseback is an ETA C07.611, with automatic winding, 25 jewels, and an 80-hour power reserve.
Mido Commander Shade
Price: $870, Case Size: 37mm, Thickness: 10.45mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Crystal: Acrylic, Movement: Automatic ETA 2836-2
Mido introduced the Commander model in 1959 and has produced it continuously ever since, a rarity in today’s rapidly shifting watch world. The Shade Silver edition adds an avant-garde, airbrushed-look fumé dial to the vintage-inspired elements, including the modest 37-mm, round monocoque case, black varnished polished indexes and dots for the hours, a framed day and date window with text in both English and German, and the Mido logo stamped on the acrylic crystal. Also decidedly retro is the steel mesh Milanese bracelet that can be adjusted to fit any wrist size. Beating inside is the Élabore version of the ETA 2836-2, albeit hidden behind a solid steel caseback.
Formex Essence Chronometer
Price: $1,390, Case Size: 39mm, Thickness: 10mm, Lug-to-Lug: 45.5mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Crystal: Sapphire, Movement: Automatic SW200 COSC
Founded in 1999 and based in Biel, Switzerland, independent brand Formex has drawn admiration for making durable and stylish watches at value-oriented prices. The Essence Chronometer at the heart of the Formex collection is, as its name suggests, a COSC-certified chronometer and also features all three of the technical elements upon which Formex builds its brand identity: a fine adjustment system for giving the straps and bracelets a perfect fit; a patented case-suspension system drawn from the world of high-performance bikes that uses tiny springs between the upper and lower case to cushion the movement; and a quick strap-changing system that requires no tools. The simple dials are lent an extra layer of interest by their CNC-machined horizontal line pattern.
Grand Seiko GMT Ref. SBGJ249
Price: $6,800, Reference: SBGJ249 Case Size: 39mm, Case Height: 14.1mm, Lug Width: 19mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Movement: Automatic Caliber 9S86
Japan’s Grand Seiko has become renowned as a prolific purveyor of dress watches with beautiful, nature-inspired dial executions. The SBGJ249 “Shösho” from the Elegance GMT collection offers one of the most stunning examples, featuring a dial designed to represent the summer solstice. The rippling texture on its light blue-and-white toned dial echoes the surfaces of the lakes and ponds formed by that rainy season in Japan. A dark blue central hand for a second time zone points to an inner 24-hour scale, joining the hallmark Grand Seiko “razor” hands for the local time. A self-winding movement with a 65-hour power reserve beats inside the 39mm steel case, which bears Grand Seiko’s renowned Zaratsu polished finishing.
TAG Heuer Monaco
Price: $6,350, Case Size: 39mm, Case Height: 15.21mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Strap Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Heuer 02
The TAG Heuer Monaco made its debut in 1969 but really ascended to pop cultural icon status two years later, when legendary actor and “King of Cool” Steve McQueen wore the racing-inspired wrist chronograph in the 1971 movie Le Mans. The Monaco, named for the Monaco Grand Prix by its legendary creator, founding family scion and motorsport enthusiast Jack Heuer, was the first wristwatch with a square case that was also water-resistant, as well as one of the first chronograph watches to be equipped with a self-winding mechanical movement, the legendary Caliber 11. While the movement has changed — the latest models are outfitted with the in-house Caliber Heuer 02, with an impressive 80-hour power reserve — the iconoclastic square case, at 39mm, has remained largely the same, as has the dial, with its two two square subdials that make the Monaco recognizable from across a room.
Omega Globemaster Master Chronometer
Price: $6,900, Case Size: 39mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic Omega Master Chronometer Caliber 8900
The Omega Constellation Globemaster, the first watch to receive the Omega’s “Master Chronometer” certification, takes its design cues from earlier models in the Constellation collection: the “pie pan” dial echoes that of a vintage Omega Constellation from 1952; and the fluted bezel is derived from that of another model from 1968. The 39-mm, brushed-finish case is available in stainless steel, yellow gold, two-tone steel and yellow gold, and Omega’s proprietary Sedna gold, with two polished bevels connecting the edges of the lugs to the bezel. The “Master Chronometer” movement, Caliber 8900, meets not only the strict precision requirements of Swiss testing agency COSC, but additional standards established by Omega and METAS, the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology, which include functioning while exposed to magnetic fields up to 15,000 Gauss.
Breitling Navitimer Automatic 38
Price: $4,650, Case Size: 38mm, Thickness: 9.9mm, Lug to Lug: 43.9mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Movement: Automatic Breitling Caliber 17
Breitling secured its leadership role in the field of aviation watches with the release of the Navitimer in 1952, which became a mainstay of commercial airline cockpits thanks to its innovative slide-rule bezel, which in concert with the watch’s chronograph functions allowed pilots to make crucial flight calculations on the wrist. The Navitimer 1 Automatic 38, introduced in 2018, eschews the chronograph complication of the original model but keeps the bidirectional slide rule functionality, enabling a smaller and very unisex 38mm case size. The watch also pays tribute to a beloved vintage model Navitimer from 1954 by incorporating the beaded-edged bezel of that model. The automatic movement inside the case is the ETA-based Breitling 17 caliber, packing a 38-hour power reserve.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer
Price: $7,200, Reference: 124270, Case Size: 36mm, Case Height: 11.5 mm, Lug Width: 19mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic Rolex 3230
Launched in 1953 and targeted at mountaineers, the Rolex Explorer has changed little from its original incarnation: as of the most recent version in 2021, the Explorer is even available once again in its original 36mm case size. Inside the case, Behind the ultra-legible three-handed dial with hallmark “Mercedes” hour hand, inside the corrosion-resistant “Oystersteel,” case, is a recently upgraded automatic movement, Rolex’s in-house Caliber 3230, packed with the expected array of up-to-the-minute Rolex-patented technologies. These include the Chronergy escapement with its blue Parachrom hairspring, and a “Superlative Chronometer” certification for accuracy. The dial’s hands and hour markers glow a bright blue in the dark thanks to generous coatings of Rolex’s proprietary Chromalight lume.
Cartier Tank Louis Cartier
Price: $12,400 - $11,900, Case Size: 25.5mm x 33.7mm, Case Thickness: 6.6mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Movement: Manually wound Cartier Caliber 8971 MC
Louis Cartier created the Tank watch in 1917, deriving its rectangular, curvilinear case shape as well as its name from a French military vehicle used during the First World War. Perhaps fittingly, the recipient of the first Cartier Tank watch was U.S. General John “Black Jack” Pershing, a commander of the Allied forces.The Tank has been a coveted style object ever since, designed to appeal to men and ladies alike, and the model most directly inspired by the original model gifted to Pershing is named for its creator and sports period-appropriate case dimensions. The dial has a beaded surface, radiating Roman numeral hours, and blued sword hands, while the crown is topped with a sapphire cabochon. Cartier's manually wound mechanical Caliber 8971 MC beats inside behind a solid engraved caseback.
IWC Portofino Chronograph 39
Price: $6,100, Case Size: 39mm, Case Height: 12.7 mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Movement: Automatic IWC 79350
Introduced in 2021 — the same year that the famously downsized Big Pilot 43 model was launched — IWC’s Portofino Chronograph 39 offers a reduced case diameter of 39 mm (from the original model’s 42mm). Outfitted with black, green, or silver-plated dials, the watches have all the stylistic cues of the Portofino collection, which debuted in 1984, including the classical combination of simple stick hour markers and Roman numerals and chronograph subdials at 12 and 6 o’clock, for 30 elapsed minutes and running seconds, respectively. The stainless steel cases are water resistant to 30 meters, with solid casebacks, convex sapphire crystals, fluted crowns, and pump-style chronograph pushers. Behind those solid casebacks ticks the automatic Caliber 79350, the reliable ETA 7750-based movement found in chronograph models throughout IWC’s collection.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe (38mm)
Price: $9,500 - $11,900, Case Size: 38mm, Case Thickness: 10.8mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Automatic Caliber 1150
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, introduced in 1953, is regarded as the first modern divers’ watch, establishing the template for all the others. Today it’s the foundation for a vast and versatile collection within the Blancpain portfolio; as of 2013, that collection has included the Bathyscaphe family, named for the undersea vehicle invented by Auguste Piccard and offering a more vintage-style aesthetic. The first 38mm Bathyscaphe, which debuted alongside the main 43mm model, was clearly targeted at ladies with its all-white colorway, but subsequent models, like the 2017 model with a steel case and ocean-inspired “Abyss Blue” dial, are decidedly more unisex to reflect changing tastes among watch consumers. The automatic movement inside the smaller Bathyscaphe, is the in-house Caliber 1150, which offers a lengthy 100-hour power reserve in its twin barrels.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin Moon
Price: On request, Case Size: 39mm, Lug width: 21mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 50 meters, Movement: Automatic Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 925
Venerable Swiss maison Jaeger-LeCoultre is loaded with savoir faire on both the technical and decorative ends of high horology, and both are on display in the Ultra Thin Moon Enamel, a limited edition of 100 pieces. The dazzling blue enamel dial has a guilloché finish whose texture is achieved through engine-turning the dial material by hand before the translucent enamel is applied. Made entirely in house by skilled artisans, the dial’s central talking point is the moon-phase display, with a polished white moon, which shares the 6 o’clock subdial with the small seconds display.The ultra-thin, automatic manufacture Caliber 925/2 ticks inside a similarly slender case (just 10.04 mm thick, at a diameter of 39 mm), tallying up a power reserve of 70 hours and showing off its luxurious finishes behind a sapphire caseback.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes de Vache
Price: $9,500 - $11,900, Case Size: 38mm, Case Thickness: 10.8mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Automatic Caliber 1150
In 1955, Vacheron Constantin released the highly collectible Reference 6087, its first chronograph with a waterproof case distinguished by its unusually shaped lugs that resembled the “horns of a cow” (cornes de vache in French). Vacheron revived the model, with some modern styling and a new movement, for its vintage-inspired Historiques collection in 2015. The distinctive case is historically accurate in most of its detailing, including the mushroom-style chronograph pushers, grooved crown, and curvy cow-horn lugs. At 38.5 mm in diameter, it is slightly larger than the historical model’s 35 mm size, The mostly period-accurate dial has applied hour indexes, blued chronograph hands, and a tachymeter scale on its periphery, another holdover from the 1955 original. Vacheron’s manufacture Caliber 1142, ticking inside, has earned the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva for its high-horology decorations.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin 50th Anniversary
Price: $33,200, Case Size: 39mm, Case Thickness: 8.1mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 50 meters, Movement: Automatic Caliber 2121
In its half-century on the market, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, famously unveiled by its designer, Gerald Genta, in 1972, has become one of the unquestioned icons of the luxury watch world, unmistakable in its aesthetics and far-reaching in its appeal and influence. The octagonal case with visible screws, tapisserie-patterned dial, and most predominantly its integrated design, with the steel case flowing organically into an instantly recognizable link bracelet, remain at the heart of what is now a far-reaching collection. For the Royal Oak’s 50th anniversary in 2022, Audemars Piguet unveiled several new references with new movements, including one that replicates the exact blue shade of the dial on the 1972 original. And despite the fact that the original model is still nicknamed “Jumbo,” the Royal Oak fits our under-40mm criteria at just 39mm in diameter.
Patek Philippe Calatrava
Price: $29,570, Case: 39mm, Thickness: 8.1mm, Water-Resistance: 30m, Crystal: Sapphire, Movement: Automatic Caliber 30-255 PS Price: $29,570
Perhaps no brand embodies the classical dress watch style better than Patek Philippe, which has recently added a hobnail “Clous de Paris” bezel, first used on the classic Ref. 3919, to its iconic Calatrava (Ref. 6119R), providing a much needed facelift to the outgoing 5119R. The new version comes in at 39mm in either rose gold or white gold — larger than its 36mm predecessors but still elegantly sized and also very thin at just over 8mm high. The harmoniously balanced dial — cream-colored with Roman hour numerals on the rose-gold model, gray-to-black with applied indexes on the white-gold — features a recessed small seconds sundial at 6 o’clock and a railroad minute track on the periphery. Both models contain Patek Philippe’s in-house Caliber 30-255 PS, which boasts an extended power reserve of 65 hours in its redesigned twin-barrel system as well as the host of high-end finishing for which the maison has become renowned.
F.P. Journe Chronomètre Bleu
Price: $26,680, Case Size: 39mm, Water-Resistance: 30m, Crystal: Sapphire, Movement: Manually wound F.P. Journe Caliber 1304
Following in the boldly adventurous spirit of its founder and namesake, independent watchmaker Francois-Paul Journe, F.P. Journe introduced its first case made of tantalum — a rare, dark gray, highly corrosion-resistant metal with blue overtones, rarely used in watchmaking due to its high density and high fusion temperature — in its azure-toned Chronomètre Bleu. The mirror-polished dial, in blue chrome, harmonizes with the bluish shades of the 39-mm tantalum case, and features cream-colored Arabic numerals, F.P. Journe’s signature shaped hour and minute hands, and a guilloché small-seconds subdial. The manually wound movement inside, Caliber 1304, is another example of Journe’s signature style, with most of its parts made of solid gold, and is on display behind a clear sapphire caseback.
A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1
Price: $39,900, Case Size: 38.5mm, Case Height: 9.8mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Movement: Manual wound Caliber L121.1
The now-iconic Lange 1 has been the modern flagship of the reconstituted A. Lange & Söhne brand since its introduction in 1994. (The original company, founded by Ferdinand Adolphe Lange in 1845, played a major role in the rise of the watchmaking industry in Germany.) The watch, now at the heart of an entire family of complicated models, has changed little in over a quarter-century, with an off-center subdial at 9 o’clock for hours and minutes, a small seconds subdial at 4:30, a bold Grande Date display at 2 o’clock, and an analog power-reserve indicator at 3 o’clock. Inside the understated 38.5-mm gold case,ticks the manually wound manufacture Caliber L121.1, with a 72-hour running autonomy and a host of traditional Saxon decorations.
Panerai Luminor Due 38mm
Price: $6,200, Case Size: 38mm, Case Thickness: 11.2mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Movement: Automatic OP Caliber XXXIV
Most of Panerai’s Luminor models (most all of Panerai’s collection, actually) speaks to an avid audience enamored of their large dimensions and robust, military-inspired designs. In 2016, however, Panerai reached out to the smaller-wrist brigade with the launch of the Luminor Due models, whose cases were 40 percent thinner than those of the bulkier Luminors. The Luminor Due – 38 MM (PAM00926) is the model with the most modest diameter as well, slipping easily under a shirt cuff and settling lightly onto the wrist thanks to a titanium case. Inside is Panerai’s automatic Valfleurier-based Caliber XXXIV. Despite its understated character, however, the Luminor Due is easily recognizable as a Panerai, with the patented locking crown proctor, sandwich dial, raised bezel, and cushion-shaped case.