w&w’s Guide to Watches 40mm and Under (Part 1)

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A few years ago, we put together a list of some our favorite watches coming in at 40mm and under. At the time, the industry was trending toward larger watches, but we found that our audience often shared our preference for smaller timepieces, and that was ultimately the impetus for the original guide. We maintained that preference over the years, and it seems pretty apparent that the industry by and large is following suit today.

We’ve since owned, played with, and reviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of other watches from all sorts of brands big and small, young and storied. That level of exposure doesn’t come without consequence; our tastes have changed in subtle—and sometimes not so subtle—ways, and our guidelines for what make a watch objectively good or bad have matured, or at least we’d like to think so.

Given that progression and what we know now, we thought it was time to give that list another go. So today we present our guide to some of our favorite watches 40mm and under. These are pieces that we’ve had a chance to experience in the metal and they’re all currently available on the market, so you don’t have to worry about jumping down the vintage rabbit hole or digging too hard to find them.

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Seiko SNK80x on our Model 2 straps
Sinn 556 I
Nomos Metro

This is going to be a big one, so we’ve broken it up into two parts. Don’t worry—part two is not too far behind. Let’s get to it.

(Editor’s note: Don’t forget to check out our watch review grid, which features nearly 300 watches that we’ve covered in-depth at w&w. Designed to be a tool for our readers, the grid can be sorted using a number of handy parameters, among them brand, type, price, and of course, size.)

Hanhart Pioneer MK I – 40mm

Hanhart is a storied German brand that’s made quite a comeback over the last couple of years. The Pioneer Mk I is part of the brand’s core collection and it is based on a great military chronograph from the ‘30s. What makes the Mk I especially unique is that it features a mono-pusher design, something that Hanhart accomplished by working with haute movement manufacturer and modifier La Joux-Perret. Beautifully finished and exceptionally priced, the Pioneer Mk I is a wonderful option for anyone seeking a unique, reasonably-size chronograph.

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Archimede Outdoor Protect – 38.5mm

Featuring a hardened steel case, a solid Swiss movement, and a clean minimalist dial, the Outdoor Protect from German brand Archimede offers one of the best value-driven sports watches on the market. The barrel-shaped case—a nod to ‘60s/‘70s styling—makes for a very comfortable experience on the wrist. In its most recent iteration, the case has been redesigned to feature a new set of streamlined crown guards, resulting in a striking, almost-aerodynamic transition from the guards down to the rest of the case.

Archimede has recently expanded the line to include a number of different colors and strap options, so there’s a style for everyone.

Sinn 556 I/A – 38.5mm

Sinn (Sinn-Spezialuhren) is no stranger to worn&wound. It’s a brand we swear by, and it’s a strong favorite among the editorial team (we’ve got the personal collections to prove it).

Founded in 1961 by Helmut Sinn as a vehicle for producing value-driven tool watches, Sinn has since grown in size and scope without straying far from the course. Particularly, the brand has focused on pioneering case technologies and standards that put Sinn’s watches in a class above many others. Case in point: the recently instituted DIN 8330 standard developed in cooperation with Sinn to formally define a true pilot’s watch.

SINN_556i_DIAL9The 556 is Sinn’s entry-level piece both in terms of specs and cost. While it lacks the exciting technology Sinn often features in its higher-tier watches, the 556 remains a well-priced contemporary, German-made sports watch. The cases are finely engineered in-house by SUG, a firm co-founded by Sinn’s current and longstanding owner, Lothar Schmidt (side note: SUG also manufactures cases for A. Lange & Söhne). The dials are crisply printed, and among some of the most legible I’ve ever come across. And the movement—a top-grade ETA 2824-2—is finely decorated and visible through an exhibition case-back.

SINN_556i_MOVE2Within the 556 line, there are two primary variants: the 556 I and the 556 A. The former features simple baton indices for the hours track, and the latter has Arabic numerals at 3, 6, 9, and 12 in a style akin to cockpit clocks. The A variant is playful and casual, and the I boasts a great all-around aesthetic that makes it the perfect option for someone wanting a versatile, everyday watch.

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Nomos Metro – 37mm

Based out of Glashütte, Nomos is a small brand (of about 260 employees) with some big ambitions. Known primarily for its playful, modernist aesthetic, Nomos really came into its own in 2005 after the firm developed its first in-house caliber. And while going in-house is a feat in its own right, Nomos went a step further by keeping prices accessible, shattering the notion that in-house had to be expensive. Since that time, Nomos has greatly expanded its catalogue, and in 2014 Nomos took a step toward true independence with the Swing System, its in-house escapement.

NOMOS_METRO_WRIST1The Metro, the first watch to feature the Swing System, has one of the brand’s quirkiest designs. It stands out from the rest of Nomos’ offerings with it’s off-kilter, asymmetrical dial and wire-lugged cylindrical case. On the wrist, the Metro wears comfortably with some considerable presence given the all-dial design. Overall, it’s a great option for anyone looking for a watch that’s different than anything you’d likely see on the street.

Oris Divers Sixty-Five – 40mm

Oris is a reputable Swiss independent with a knack for producing purposeful watches, all of which are mechanical and offer great bang-for-your-buck value. If you’re in the market for a smaller-sized dive watch, there’s really no better option that the Divers Sixty-Five.

The Divers Sixty-Five is a heritage model based on a watch dating back to the ‘60s, and it’s a largely faithful recreation of its historical counterpart. Slender and refined, the Divers Sixty-Five is what I’d call a gentleman’s dive watch—a piece that’s equally at home at the beach as it is in the office.

Damasko DA 36 – 40mm

Flying largely under the radar of most watch enthusiasts, German brand Damasko Uhrenmanufaktur does not pull any punches. Like Sinn, Damasko focuses primarily on the design and manufacture of  robust tool watches. To that end, Damakso holds a number of patents for an impressive roster of tech—from the brand’s proprietary self-lubricating crown system to the ice-hardened steel cases used across the entirety of Damasko’s catalogue. And it should be noted that Damasko is a full-fledged manufacture to boot, with two impressive in-house calibers, both featuring a silicon escapement.

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Damasko DA 36 Black

The DA 36—alongside a handful of variants featuring slightly different dials and case finishing—is Damasko’s entry level model. Though you won’t find Damasko’s in-house movement, the DA 36 does host a number of the brand’s impressive case technology, ensuring a robust and enduring timepiece.

Aesthetically, it’s a bit blunt, but there’s a lot to be said about such a straightforward approach. It’s austere and highly legible. It’s outwardly simple, yet at the same time deceptively complex in its finer details—e.g. the custom day/date wheels that allow the aperture to rest right below, rather than on, the bisecting cross hair at three o’clock.

DAMASKO_DA36_WRIST1It’s a watch that has, in my personal experience as an owner, garnered more interest and attention from non-enthusiasts than perhaps any other in my collection, several times from complete strangers on the subway. Now, I don’t buy watches for the purpose of attracting praise, but there is certainly something alluring about the DA 36.

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Mido Baroncelli Heritage – 39mm

One of the standouts from this year’s Basel, The Baroncelli Heritage is a stunning vintage-inspired model from Mido. It is a relatively thin watch at 6.85mm, so it is sure to fit under a shirt cuff. To achieve such a size, Mido’s designers employed some clever tricks.

MIDO_BARONCELLI_3The bezel is narrow and stepped, which gives the case some dimensionality. The dial, rather than being smooth and glossy, has an eggshell-like texture; it’s matte and slightly uneven, which keeps it from looking too plain. The hands are sandblasted on one side and diamond-polished on the other, giving the appearance of being faceted while remaining completely flat. A similar technique is used on the Slim d’Hermès and Citizen’s Eco-Drive One—both far more expensive pieces—to great effect. Additionally, the seconds hand on the white and cream dialed models are blued steel.

Overall, the Baroncelli Heritage offers an incredible value, and had there been any other brand name on the dial the watch would have easily clocked in at over $2,000.

Seiko SNK80x Collection – 37mm

The gateway drug of watch collecting, the SNK80x is undeniably the best mechanical watch one can buy for under $100. It’s robust (it is a Seiko, after all), handsome, and totally versatile given its simple field-watch styling and numerous dial options, of which there are now five: beige, blue, green, black, and a red “Amazon exclusive.” Given the price and available colors, it might be fun to own the whole lot and mix and match with different straps. The SNK80x won’t be the last watch you buy, but it will certainly be one that stays with you for years on end.

SNK80x paired with our Model 2 straps

Junghans Max Bill – 34mm/38mm/39mm/40mm

Designed by renowned Swiss designer and architect Max Bill, the watches that make up the eponymous line from Junghans are unlike almost anything else on the market. Simply put, they’re a masterclass in minimalism—something that many strive to embody, but so few achieve.

MAX_BILL_ANTHRACITE_DIAL9Design heritage aside, the Max Bill watches are simply gorgeous. The stark, domed dials coupled with precise printing and iconic typeface (just look at that elegant “4”) make for an attractive face, one that is further accentuated by a prominent domed crystal. Given the all-dial design and the UFO-like case shape and size, the watches sit ideally on the wrist without sacrificing any presence. It’s a perfectly executed balancing act.

MAX_BILL_BOTH4Junghans offers the Max Bill collection in a number of sizes and setups, from the 40mm Chronoscope down to the 34mm manual-wind option. Whatever your preference, there is something for everyone.

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Autodromo Group B – 39mm

As far as racing-inspired watches go, Autodromo has the aesthetic down pat. Founded by car and racing enthusiast Bradley Price, Autodromo has consistently released hit after hit, from its early days with the Veloce and Vallelunga to the most recent Group B Evoluzione.

But if I were forced to choose a favorite among the pack, I would undoubtedly go with the original Group B collection, inspired by Group B racing cars from the ‘80s. The mix of metals, unique construction, stunning dials, and overall high level of fit and finish make the Group B watches a fantastic buy, and the subdued sizing makes for a joyful experience on the wrist.

AUTODROMO_GROUP_B_GROUP_1The thing that Bradley does really well, and perhaps better than most, is that he doesn’t hit you over the head with his source of inspiration. As our own Zach Weiss noted in his review, “the watch design itself is obviously not a literal translation of a rally car, instead [it speaks] to sport watches of the surrounding period, as well as the aesthetics of the 80s [while] avoiding the tackiness that pervaded the era.”

Ilya is worn&wound's Managing Editor and Video Producer. He believes that when it comes to watches, quality, simplicity and functionality are king. This may very well explain his love for German and military-inspired watches. In addition to watches, Ilya brings an encyclopedic knowledge of leather, denim and all things related to menswear.
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  • YYY1

    Great list! It’s literally (almost) my dream watch collection. That Hanhart just doesn’t do it for me. But I just love the Nomos, Autodromo and Oris.

  • Matthew Rowe

    There are even more SNK look alike watches by Seiko with different dials using the same case and 4 o’clock crown. NZ watches has some. The black dialed version was my gateway to this expensive yet outrageously satisfying hobby.

  • chenpofu

    Is there a chronograph that is < = 40 mm but also < = 13 mm thick?

    • Pistol Pete

      Speedy Reduced.

    • Justin Yates

      A vintage 3 register Heuer Carrera, or their re-released anniversary edition from the 90s. 36mm, relatively affordable if you are patient enough, and Jochen Rindt used to wear one. What more could you ask?

  • Stephen Scharf

    What a great article! Loved it. The choices were all excellent, too. Great to see Hanhart made the list. That company is WAAY under-appreciated. Their watches are amazingly well-engineered and terrific value for money. And, gorgeous.

  • Average Bros

    Wow, just posted a video on the EXACT same subject yesterday https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UlWKycQpYg

  • Nelson

    Really love the Oris. The Nomos and the Autodromo are also great.

  • epps720

    Great article, but have one request. While I understand prices do range from site to site, especially on grey market sites, but in the future could you also add a “ballpark” price for these watches? It would really give the reader a better idea of what the value is and if it’s something we may want to research further. For example you compared the Mido to the $2,000 Baroncelli Heritage but never state how much the Mido is. Loved the article otherwise. Thanks.

  • ZBT71

    Fantastic collection of “smaller” watches however you cheated and put the Seiko SNK80x collection on your Model 2 straps, that in my opinion made the Seiko the runaway favorite. 🙂

  • Terrance Steiner

    As someone with a nearly 8″ wrist sub 40mm watches just look to small on me. Which kind of sucks because I love a lot of vintage watch and a lot of watches in this article but they look like a kids watch on me. I love the fact that there is such a large variety of watches to fit every size wrist. For me I feel that 40 to 42/44mm is the sweet spot but I am glad there are options for people that feel that anything over 40mm is too big. While these watches may be a bit to small for me this is still a great article.

    • Terrance Steiner

      Of course as I am writing this I realize I am wearing a 38-mm Seiko 5 on my wrist. I do occasionally wear smaller watches they just do not get much time in my rotation.

  • James DeTrolio

    Agreed. Great article.

  • Jason King

    I’m looking to purchase an everyday watch for my 40th birthday and am torn between the Sinn 556A, Stowa Flieger Klassik 40, and the MKII Hawkinge. Any suggestions on the comparison between these? I’m trying to stay <1k but I really like the Sinn, but am worried the non-tegimented case won't hold up well for the price. Any suggestions or other things I should consider?