Are small watches coming back?

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Are small watches coming back in style?

The short answer is YES! For the last few years, watchmakers from all over the world have been focussing on making their watches less big, lighter and classier.

And by small I don’t mean we’re back at 1950’s levels when virtually every watch was in the 33 to the 38-millimeter range. Instead, what we’re seeing are watch manufacturers that are actively producing slimmer dial watches to complement their “dinner plate”- size ranges.

Those of you who appreciate a classy, understated look, rejoice!
Brands like Oris, Tudor (Black Day 36), Seiko, Timex, and, not surprisingly, Rolex (Oyster Perpetual Datejust 36 ), have all released new models that don’t exceed 38 millimeters in diameter. And let’s not forget Swatch. Their “Gent” series (unisex), coming in at 34 mm, is still one of their best selling models.

Releasing a small watch is a bold thing to do in a marketplace where heavy and huge, with bling-bling factors that makes Jay Z jealous, are the norm.

Luckily there’s a watch for everyone and every budget on the market today.

In this post, I’m going to tell you exactly why these watches are becoming fashionable again and give you 12 reasons why you need one. And if you’re looking to buy one, make sure to read through to the end of this article as I will give you my personal top 3 recommendations for small watches.

But first:

What are slim watches anyway?

When we talk about a slim size watch, we usually mean watches with a diameter of between 34 to 39 millimeters. Anything bigger than that is considered a big watch, no matter the size of your wrist.

These watches are ideal for those with small wrists that measure around 6-7 inches, or 15,25 cm.


The recent history of watches


Small watches have been around since the start of the 20th century but they became an essential piece of gear in the Second World War when the US Army needed a watch that was durable, functional and reliable. These watches, made by companies like Bulova and Waltham, have become real collector’s items today.


During the 1950s, small watches were essentially all mechanical, since quartz movements had not yet been invented. During this time many iconic models were released such as the Rolex Explorer and Rolex Submariner.


During the 1960s Seiko released their Seiko “5” range.

These watches were relatively cheap and were targetted at young people. The watch was called a Seiko 5 because it had five unique features, all combined in one watch:

  1. Automatic winding.
  2. Day/date displayed in a single window.
  3. Water resistance.
  4. A display caseback.
  5. Durable steel case and bracelet.

Despite their huge price difference the Seiko 5 and Rolex Submariner and Explorer remain very popular watches to this day.

Why are they becoming fashionable again?

So back to the original question of why smaller size watches are becoming fashionable again. The answer is that huge watches are starting to look tired and watch manufacturers have discovered that they need to come up with something different in order to sell more watches.


It’s difficult to pinpoint where this trend comes from, but some experts say it’s China. There’s a huge demand for expensive Swiss watches in China and the Chinese are used to wearing small watches, unlike their American or European counterparts. This means that watch manufacturers produce more smaller watches and that doesn’t go unnoticed elsewhere. So the trend of smaller watches automatically moves to markets outside China.

It’s certainly true that the demand for these watches seems to be growing. This is what some contributors to watch forums say about small watches:

I’ve never been into the big watch fashion trend. Huge watches have always looked ridiculous to me. You’re trying just a little bit too hard and you are catching your wrist on everything!


Sizes are definitely going down. Even the ‘Big Watch’ offenders have been producing smaller and smaller watches lately.

Panerai’s Luminor Due collection are GORGEOUS, and in my opinion some of the most balanced watches they’ve produced in a decade (and some are 38mm).


Capitalism and fashion dominate the day. If you like a watch wear it. But, I for one can live without large cases that have no purpose other than fashion.


Speaking of fashion, many of today’s trends are reinterpretations or replications of styles that were popular in the past. It is no different for watches. Everything that goes out of style eventually comes back into style. The same is happening in other industries.

Vinyl records and film photography are back and so are vintage video games and game consoles.


But still, I haven’t touched on one essential question:

Why do you need a smaller sized watch?

Let me give you no less than 12 reasons!

  1. Small watches fit your wrist better, especially when you have a small wrist. If you’ve got a, say 44mm watch, then the case takes up all of your available wrist.
  2. They are more comfortable to wear. In the same category as the first point. A small size watch between 34 – 38 mm is usually a lot lighter and it won’t easily slide sideways on your wrist.
  3. They are easier to slide under a shirt cuff. Great when wearing a suit.
  4. They are more classy and stylish. At least, that’s my opinion. Small, simple, watches mean you don’t need to show off. It’s the understatement that makes the statement.
  5. Small watches are cheaper. Even if you buy an expensive brand, small watches are usually cheaper than their bigger counterparts, simply because they require less raw materials to make. Fewer diamonds, less gold, etc.
  6. They are timeless and the essence of a real watch. Hardly anybody wore watches that were bigger than 38 millimeters between roughly 1920 and 1990. Small watches have stood the test of time and they are true classics.
  7. They are honest and serve a purpose. They are made to tell you what time it is. Not more, not less.
  8. They are minimalist. Since they have smaller dials, there is less space for fancy decorations, hence they look cleaner.
  9. They will always look good. No matter what the fashion trends of the future will be, rest assured a small watch will always be in style.
  10. Sean Connery (James Bond) used to wear one (a 37.5-millimeter Rolex 6538 Submariner).
  11. They are cheap. Especially when you shop for vintage watches online, there a many models in the 35-38 mm range that can be bought cheaply. Bear in mind these watches are usually mechanical so you normally need to have them serviced.
  12. The classiest watch of all time is a small watch. I mean the Cartier “Tank”.

My recommendations for a smaller size watch.

These watches come in every size, shape and price and it’s impossible for me to give you a recommendation on what is the best type of watch for you.

Having said that, there are some brands that I have used for many years and that have served me well. These brands are:

  1. Citizen. Citizen is one of the largest watch manufacturers in Japan and I have owned many of their models. Currently, my daily beater is the Citizen BM8430-59EE. It is 37 mm, has a date day window, is solar-powered and water-resistant up to 100 meters. I really enjoy wearing this watch because it’s lightweight, small, and very, very accurate. The only thing I don’t like about it, is the metal bracelet which is really flimsy. I replaced it with a very nice leather Hirsh “Umbria” strap. The watch looks great now!
  2. Tissot. I used to wear a Tissot for many years and the watch did just fine. Unfortunately, I dropped it on a concrete floor and it broke. Hardly a fault of the watch. Tissot is a very reliable watchmaker. Look out for their smaller models like the PR100, which I believe is 39 mm only.
  3. Swatch. I love Swatch! Call them plastic fantastic, call them for babies or hipsters, I don’t care. I just love Swatches. I have owned several Swatches since 1989 and that last one is still ticking today, after 30 years of service. It just needs a battery change every 3 years. I especially enjoy the 34 mm “Gent” models which look great on any wrist. The great thing about Swatches is that you can use them for any occasion. I worked out with them and even swam in the Mediterranean Sea, wearing a Swatch. No problem at all.


I hope this post has helped you explore the world of small watches and has given you some insight into why small is cool again.

Shopping for a watch is a very personal thing, and maybe you prefer bigger watches and that’s absolutely fine.

For everyone else: the next time you go shopping, forget about the pancakes and the dinner plates. Instead, choose a small stylish ticker to complement your fine, understated look.

Just remember: it’s not about size.


I'm Leon. I write articles about small watches (usually 38 mm or less in diameter) because I like them. They look stylish and classy to me. Most of the watches on the market today are 40 mm or more, which I think is too big. This blog was born out of curiosity when I was shopping for a small watch myself and couldn't find the info that I needed.

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