Downsized Watches
From left: IWC's Pilot's Watch Automatic 36, Nomos Tetra, Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M Master Chronometer 39.5 mm.

As they say, what goes up, must come down. After decades of ever increasing dimensions, pushing past 50 mm in some cases, a few watch brands are exploring the under 40 mm realms for guys that prefer a subtler, more classic look.

In the 1990s, men's watches typically hovered in the 37- to 39-mm range, even then slightly larger than vintage dimensions. But in the 2000s, bigger is better ruled. Like all style trends, you can only take it so far before tastes start moving in the other direction. So, while brawny superhero watches are still here to stay, you don't have to feel out of step if you prefer the comfort and elegance of a smaller wristwatch that channels a retro vibe.

IWC's Pilot's Watch Automatic 36 (36 mm, $3,590) has piqued the curiosity of collectors who are showing growing interest in vintage watches. This classic pilot model resembles the brand's Mark pilot watch series, which dates back to 1948. The clean, legible dial sticks to the basics: hours, minutes, seconds and a rapid advance date display. A soft-iron inner case shields the robust automatic 35111 Caliber from harmful magnetic forces.

Thirty-six was also a magic number at Tudor, which launched the Heritage Black Bay 36, a smaller version of its classic Black Bay Heritage dive model that pays tribute to that brand's historic sport watches.

Like IWC, Omega expects its Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M Master Chronometer 39.5 mm ($21,000) to attract both women who go for the boyfriend-watch look and men who prefer a more streamlined dive watch. This midsize addition to the Planet Ocean range is powered by the highly antimagnetic (resistant to 15,000 Gauss) Calibre 8801, which you can admire through the sapphire case back, a rarity for a diving watch that is water-resistant down to 600 meters. The case is made from Omega's proprietary Sedna Gold, a special scratch-resistant pink-gold alloy, and it's fitted with a bezel made of brown Ceragold—brown ceramic seamlessly filled with liquid pink-gold markings.

If sport watches just aren't your thing, Nomos has introduced a new Tetra powered by its automatic DUW 3001 workhorse movement, which launched last year. The 33-mm square Tetra case paired with Nomos' signature minimalist dial is perhaps the purest expression of the German brand's trademark Bauhaus style, for the man who lives by the motto: "Less is more."

Visit,, and

"I'm still wearing my Rolex 1500 from the late '70's just because I don't like the larger watches. They look too big for my wrist, and they make wearing French cuffs nearly impossible. Glad to see these watchmakers come to their senses!" —February 9, 2017 11:31 AM