Enthusiasts’ interest in smaller watches should come as no surprise at this point. If you look at the comments section under any watch release, you’ll find a number of remarks along the lines of “I’d buy one if it came in 38mm” or “why not make it 36mm?”. Despite the healthy demand for larger (40mm and up) watches, enthusiasts are pushing for downsized alternatives. . . and brands are starting to listen. Over the past few months (and, more generally, years), we’ve seen some major players bolster their smaller offerings: introducing new models and amending old ones. Let’s take a look at three sub-40mm examples at different price points: Tudor, Longines, and Tissot. Why are brands prioritizing smaller watches?
35mm Tissot PRX Powermatic 80
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To call the Tissot PRX a home run would be an understatement. Originally released in 1978 (under the Seastar line) and re-released in 2021, this integrated bracelet watch has few rivals at its price point. For well under $1,000, you’re getting a well-designed integrated bracelet (impressive enough on its own), a rock solid automatic movement in the Powermatic 80, and an elegant dial. Since its release, the PRX has come in two sizes: 40mm and 35mm. Until a few days ago, the latter was restricted to a quartz movement and flat sunray dial finish. If you wanted the Powermatic 80 movement and/or waffle-textured dial, you had to opt for the larger 40mm PRX. This all changed on June 13th: Tissot released an automatic version of the 35mm PRX. In doing so, they demonstrated their appreciation for (and willingness to produce) smaller options for enthusiasts. The 35mm PRX is no longer a shrunken-down budget option; it’s the smaller of two sizes in a remarkable line of watches.
39mm Longines Spirit Zulu Time
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Longines’ Spirit collection – released in 2022 – is perhaps the best entry point into the world of silicon-hairspring chronometers. The Longines Spirit Zulu Time is a traveler or “true” GMT for just $3,150. To be clear, this is a COSC-certified traveler GMT with a silicon hairspring. . . for just north of $3,000. That is extremely impressive. Upon its release, the Zulu Time was only offered in 42mm. On June 16th, Longines released a 39mm version of the watch, equipped with the same caliber L844.4 that I just spent four sentences gushing about. Longines downsized this watch without sacrificing functionality or technical specs, much like Tissot did retroactively with the PRX. This is yet another example of a larger brand catering to those with smaller tastes. I’d be remiss not to mention this watch’s parallels with the Tudor Black Bay Pro: another 39mm COSC-certified traveler GMT. For around $1,000 more, you get an in-house Tudor movement with the Black Bay Pro.
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I can’t write about small watches and the Longines Spirit line without a quick honorable mention: the 37mm time-and-date Longines Spirit (pictured above). This is a great-looking watch that offers the same incredible value you’ll find across the whole Spirit collection.
37mm Tudor Black Bay 54
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To be very clear, the Black Bay 54 is not a smaller version of the Black Bay 58. Despite their similarities, these are two completely different models under the Black Bay line. Released this year at Watches and Wonders, the 37mm Tudor Black Bay 54 is the king of small divers. In a segment dominated by chunky watches, the 54 sets itself apart with its svelte dimensions (11.2mm thick) and uncompromising specifications. You still get 200 meters of water resistance, a screw-down crown, and an in-house chronometer caliber in the MT5400. With the Black Bay 54, Tudor made – in my opinion – the best sub-38mm automatic diver on the market. Many offerings in this space are quartz powered; Tudor showed that you can make a petite dive watch with not-so-petite specifications. And of course you can! This was the norm decades ago – where do you think the number “54” came from?
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The concept of small, medium, and large is entirely relative in the world of watches. Compared to the oversized watches of the 2000s and early 2010s, the aforementioned picks are considered “small”. However, the Cartier Santos – considered to be the first men's wristwatch released in 1911 – was 24mm. The 39mm Zulu Time is a behemoth in comparison. Whatever you consider "small" or "large" to be, I encourage you to try on a watch that feels too small. You might gain a new appreciation for its fit, refinement, and craftsmanship. I apologize in advance if you realize your whole collection is too big.
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