Monochrome Watches
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Buying Guide

Five Watches Below 40mm That Justify The Push For Smaller Sizes

A group of recently introduced watches that follow the smaller-is-better trend.

| By Robin Nooy | 6 min read |

Watchmaking is very much a trend-driven industry, with, of course, a core selection of models, colours, sizes and materials standing the test of time. Colours come and go, sizes go up and down, and although new materials are regularly experimented with, the vast majority come in steel, with titanium, bronze and gold being the most popular alternatives. When it comes to the size of the watch, this is most often dictated by the movement, the intended purpose and its overall design. But, as these five watches will show you, the current trend for sizing a watch down to more compact dimensions results in some genuinely cool watches.

Baltic Tricompax Chronograph

In just a relatively short amount of time, Baltic has transcended the status of a microbrand and established itself as a name that’s most likely here to stay. Previously Baltic relied on Asian movements (no shame in that!) but recently upped its game as it presented the Baltic x Peter Auto Tricompax Special Edition racing set. This limited-edition set consists of a pair of Hanhart mechanical stopwatches and a very retro chronograph watch. The dial is finished in a cream tone, with black sub-dials and yellow and orange touches. It’s powered by the Sellita SW 510-M manual wound chronograph movement, comes on a steel bracelet with an additional leather strap, is limited to 300 pieces and costs EUR 1,975.

Baltic x Peter Auto Tricompax Chronograph Racing Set

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Quick Facts – 39.5mm x 13.5mm – 47mm lug-to-lug – stainless steel case, brushed and polished – double-domed sapphire crystal – solid caseback – 50m water-resistant – light beige dial with matte grained finish – black snailed sub-dials with white, orange and yellow details – applied hour indices – dauphine hands with Super-LumiNova – Sellita SW 510-M, manually wound chronograph – 23 jewels – 28,800vph – 63h power reserve – stainless steel bracelet and taupe leather strap – complementary pair of flyback stopwatches by Hanhart – limited to 300 sets – EUR 1,975

Tudor Ranger

The Tudor Ranger’s origins go back to the 1950s, inspired by a Tudor Oyster Prince created for the 1952-1954 British North Greenland Expedition. Following the BGNE and the issued watches, Tudor created the Ranger as a widely available exploration/adventure tool. Earlier this year, Tudor brought the no-nonsense watch back to life with the Ranger M79950. Revisited with modern materials and mechanics, the new Ranger retains the same overall look as the original. Measuring 39mm across and carrying a simple yet well-executed matte black dial, it captures the essence of an explorer’s watch. It uses the manufacture calibre MT5402 (made with Kenissi), is available on a bracelet, leather strap or textile NATO strap and retails between CHF 2,600 and CHF 2,900.

Tudor Ranger 39mm 79950 - 2022 manufacture COSC


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Quick Facts – 39mm diameter – stainless steel case, brushed – domed sapphire crystal – screw-down crown – solid caseback – 100m water-resistant – domed matte black dial – painted numerals and indices – arrow- and baton- and syringe-shaped hands with beige Super-LumiNova – MT5402 automatic movement – COSC-certified chronometer – 27 jewels – 28,800vph – 70h power reserve – silicon hairspring – steel bracelet, leather or textile strap – CHF 2,600 (leather/textile) or CHF 2,900 (bracelet)

Grand Seiko Heritage 44GS SBGW291 & SBGW293

Grand Seiko recently unveiled two new Heritage 44GS models that are on the dressy end of the sub-40mm spectrum. The SBGW291 and SBGW293 harness the very distinct Grammar of Design set by the iconic 44GS from 1967 and reduce it to a very pleasant 36.5mm diameter. The sharply angled stainless steel case has lost nothing of its appeal, especially with these sunray-brushed dials in silver or brown. Both use the calibre 9S64, also powering various other 44GS-inspired models. It’s hidden underneath a solid steel caseback but provides a healthy running time of 72 hours. Worn on an anthracite or chocolate brown leather strap with a folding buckle, the Grand Seiko heritage 44GS SBGW291 & SBGW293 retail for EUR 5,200.

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Quick Facts – 36.5mm x 11.6mm – stainless steel case, Zaratsu-polished and brushed – box-shaped sapphire crystal – solid caseback – 100m water-resistant – sunray silver or brown dial – applied indices and hands with Zaratsu polishing – calibre 9264, manual winding – 24 jewels – 28,800vph – 72h power reserve – anthracite or chocolate brown leather strap with folding buckle – EUR 5,200

Hanhart 417 ES 1954 Chronograph

Going back to tool watches, the Hanhart 417 ES 1954 Chronograph is a very authentic (and downright cool) pilot’s chronograph with modest dimensions. Coming in at just 39mm across, it comes with all the Hanhart hallmarks. Elements like the fluted bidirectional bezel with a red marking, the vintage style of the matte black dial and the Bund leather strap are all historically relevant. In fact, at this size, the watch comes very close to the original 417 ES from the 1950s. What definitely changed, though, is the movement. The 417 ES 1954 Chronograph is equipped with the cam-lever operated, manually wound Sellita SW510-M chronograph movement. It’s part of the permanent collection and retails for EUR 1,980.

Hanhart 417 ES 1954 39mm Pilot Chronograph

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Quick Facts – 39mm x 13.5mm – stainless steel case, brushed and polished – fluted bidirectional bezel with red marking – box-shaped sapphire crystal – solid caseback – 100m water-resistant – matte black dial – bi-compax layout – painted hour indices and hands with Super-LumiNova – Sellita SW 510-M, manually wound chronograph movement – 23 jewels – 28,800vph – 58h power reserve – black Bund-style leather strap – EUR 1,980

Yema Superman 500

Another historical name that recently introduced a fetching sub-40mm watch is Yema, with the Superman 500. This French diving icon has been modernised and updated into a number of different models, some even with a GMT functionality. Yet, this 500-designated model ticks a lot of boxes we like to be ticked when it comes to watches. The size is spot-on at 39mm across (also available in 41mm); it has a cool nice deep blue dial; it has the signature bezel-locking system and is worn on a classic Superman bracelet (or rubber and leather straps). On the mechanical side, the Yema Superman 500 relies on Yema’s proprietary YEMA2000 automatic movement, serving up 42 hours of running time. Priced between EUR 1,049 and EUR 1,219, it’s a very good proposition!

Yema Superman 500

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Quick Facts – 39mm x 13.4mm – stainless steel case, polished – unidirectional diving bezel with locking system – double-domed sapphire crystal – screw-down crown – 500m water-resistant – glossy blue dial with white luminous indices and hands – calibre YEMA2000, automatic – 29 jewels – 28,800vph – 42h power reserve – stainless steel multi-link bracelet or leather and FKM-rubber straps – EUR 1,049 (leather), EUR 1,190 (bracelet) or EUR 1,219 (FKM rubber)

5 responses

  1. The big ones for me are:

    Rolex Explorer 124270

    Grand Seiko SBGW231 & 267

    For me they’re the best watches you can buy right now.

  2. Hmm, this looks like a commercial to Baltic, Tudor, etc. While the article is true to the title, I expected more watches 38 and below ( omega red dial, but not sure if is buyable … lol ). 39mm is only 5% smaller than 40. Including 39.5 is lame imho.

  3. I don’t know why there is this obsession with small watches, I’ve got a small wrist but I still hate them. I’ve just sold a 38mm Seiko Cocktail Time because I never wore it because of the size so this article is of no interest to me whatsoever.

  4. Mike, so why read it? Let alone waste your time commenting? SMH

  5. @Mike Smith we have to agree to disagree. While I do acquire big watches from time to time, it’s small watches that I really wear consistently and pick up more of. Case in point – I just picked up another SNSX79 yesterday, from the same store that sold me my SNKL23.

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