There are some occasions where bigger is undeniably better, but your watch isn’t necessarily one of them. Once considered an indication of the refinement and delicacy of the movement within, small watch cases ruled men’s wrists for generations. With the advent of compact quartz movements in the 1970s, the size of a watch no longer equated to refinement, and thanks to the popularity of chunky steel diving, racing, and pilot’s watches, case widths began to grow. While 36 mm in diameter used to be considered the “right” size for a man’s watch, that number is now closer to 42 mm, a size that has a certain rugged appeal, but looks like a dessert plate in comparison. Watchmakers are beginning to rediscover the appeal of classical proportions, however, and are creating a whole new generation of smaller designs for those who appreciate them. Size, after all, isn’t everything.
Panerai Luminor Due 3 Days Acciaio
The smallest in Panerai’s extended family of oversized diving watches, this one nonetheless retains all of the appeal of its siblings.
Hamilton American Classic Intra-Matic Auto
Its case has grown slightly with the times, but the Intra-Matic’s design is otherwise unchanged from the midcentury original.
Nomos Glashütte Club
With its clean numerals, delicate small seconds dial, and polished steel case, this watch is an exercise in German minimalism.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding
This watch was dubbed “jumbo” when it was released in the late 1970s, but it’s now among the smallest in the Audemars lineup. Why mess with perfection?
$16,500 USD, audemarspiguet.com
Tudor Black Bay 36
This Tudor’s steel case, simple hour markers, and face uncluttered by date windows or chronograph dials are the definition of functionality.