That moment you slip an iconic watch onto your wrist… Is there anything better for a watch enthusiast? That is, if you have a wrist large enough to accommodate most standard models. Unfortunately, if you are blessed with a smaller wrist circumference like me, you’ll quickly learn that many of the great classics simply don’t fit. Diameter of 41 mm and up? Sorry, not for me. I soon learned that I had to start searching for smaller models.
Thankfully, I realized that many of the great industry classics are also available in smaller sizes. Here are my absolute favorite picks below 40 mm. These timepieces make no compromises in terms of looks or technology, but unlike their larger siblings, they give people like me the opportunity to try on and enjoy wearing some fantastic icons.
If there is any watch that has earned the title “modern classic,” it’s the Tangente from NOMOS. Linear, minimalist, and featuring Bauhaus styling, it is simple yet unmistakable. This award-winning timepiece comes mounted on a likewise iconic leather strap, which is extremely robust but still breathable. It’s so dressed down, in fact, that you can oftentimes still see the manufacturer’s authenticity stamp on its reverse side. Plus, the Tangente’s hand-winding Alpha caliber is one of the most reliable and accurate out there.
The Tangente traditionally comes in 35 or 38 mm. This may sound small, but its design with extended lugs gives it a much larger wrist presence. Thus, the model is also available in a 33-mm version. This size comes not only in the classic white, but also with a champagne-colored, gray, or gold-plated dial for a bolder look. Each of these variants comes on a suede strap. Whether you opt for this elegant, summery alternative, or switch it out for the classic NOMOS leather strap, the Tangente 33 is undoubtedly a Bauhaus classic. Understated yet perfect, nothing but the time: this is a watch for discerning minimalists.
Breitling Navitimer 35 or 38 mm
When most people hear Breitling, they think of the Navitimer. No other model from this brand has garnered as much attention as the classic pilot’s watch. Plus, the name itself is easy to remember; it describes exactly what the watch does: navigation + timer = Navitimer. This timepiece not only displays the time, but also enables numerous calculations that are useful for flying or racing – all thanks to the famous side rule bezel. The bezel has an adjustable scale around its outer edge and a static inner scale. Together, these can calculate speed, fuel consumption, or even rates of ascent or descent.
All of these functions are available on the original, 41-mm model as well as the smaller 35 and 38-mm variants. Like their larger sibling, these smaller watches are equipped with an automatic caliber. Whether you opt for a stainless steel version or go for a more refined look, the Breitling Navitimer makes a decidedly elegant impression. Plus, it turns every wearer into a hero or heroine who can carry out vital calculations in an emergency. If that sounds like your dream come true, the Breitling Navitimer might just be your perfect companion.
Hublot Classic Fusion 38 mm
Is there a rebellious free spirit hiding behind your business casual attire? If so, this is the watch for you. The Hublot Classic Fusion is all about being elegant, while also breaking out of prescribed norms. This timepiece not only uses a surprising mix of materials, it also combines traits of the legendary Big Bang collection with those of the Classic collection. This model, for example, comes on a rubber strap, but the strap doesn’t have an outwardly sporty appearance. It really just serves to give more attention to the case, which has an iconic yet unique porthole design. The look is underscored by a series of screws that are never quite aligned with one another. The watch is made of titanium, an incredibly robust yet elegant material that casts an unmistakable bluish hue when polished.
In terms of sizing, you can take your pick when it comes to the Classic Fusion. The watch comes in four sizes ranging from 33 to 45 mm. I prefer this timepiece on the larger side, because I like when it makes a more prominent impression. For people with smaller wrists like me, this corresponds to the 38-mm version. This size likewise comes with an in-house automatic movement and, of course, the notable Hublot design. No matter the size, the Classic Fusion makes an elegant yet revolutionary addition to any wrist.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36
IWC Schaffhausen has been producing world-famous pilot’s watches to great acclaim since 1936. To this day, the brand’s timepieces are reminiscent of their traditional 1940s models. They are perfectly legible thanks to Arabic numerals, sword hands, and a pilot’s triangle at 12 o’clock (all of which are luminescent, of course). After all, the time must be easily read when flying. For this same reason, pilot’s watches have traditionally been very large – and still are to this day. The brand’s iconic Big Pilot’s Watch comes standard in a 46 mm size, but it is also available with a whopping diameter of 55 mm.
But not everything in the IWC portfolio is so generously sized. There are also watches with traditional pilot’s styling for smaller wrists available, including the Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36. As is typical for the series, this watch has a very tidy, reduced look. The sunburst blue dial has a contrasting inner ring, giving it a sense of depth. Combined with its blue leather strap, the timepiece has a sporty, elegant appearance. Despite the smaller dimensions, this watch remains ready for the cockpit. The movement is encased in a soft-iron cage, which means it’s protected from magnetic fields. The sapphire crystal can also withstand changes in air pressure. The Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36 offers wearers all the characteristics of the standard size, but affords a slightly more elegant look with its reduced dimensions.
Omega Speedmaster 38 mm
When you think of the Speedmaster, chances are the Moonwatch comes to mind. That’s the case for most of us, anyway. After all, this watch went down in history as part of the Moon landing. However, we can’t reduce the entire Speedmaster collection to that single timepiece. No, it includes a whole host of watches that are in no way inferior to the original in terms of design or technology. Of course, these watches haven’t made it to the Moon, but with Omega’s level of quality, it wouldn’t be surprising if they could survive a trip to the lunar surface. If we’re honest, though, most of us just need a watch for earthside.
The Speedmaster 38 mm offers the legendary Speedmaster design in a smaller format. This not only makes the model a more accessible unisex option, but also a bit more suitable for everyday use. The smaller watch has all the iconic features of the original – the distinctive case, the tachymeter scale, the seahorse medallion on the case back – but the subdials are slightly oval, and the watch comes with different dial options, including a gold variant with a mother-of-pearl dial and/or set with diamonds. There is no doubt in my mind that you, too, can find the perfect Omega Speedmaster 38 to accompany you on your missions on Earth – be them the everyday variety or special occasions.