Top 25 Small Automatic Watches (Under 38mm)

If you have small hands and thin wrists, this list of the 25 best small automatic watches (38mm or less) is for you!

So you're looking for the best automatic watches for small wrists? Good for you! Most guys simply settle for oversized watches that look way too big on them.

But I can't really blame them. After all, most modern day watches are on the bigger side with a case diameter or 40mm or more.

That doesn't mean it's impossible to find smaller mechanical watches. You just have to look a little harder.

Seiko 5 SNK805

The Seiko 5 SNK is my #1 pick for a solid, entry-level automatic watch (available in various colors).

A while back, I published a list of the Top 25 Watches for Small Wrists, and it's still one of the most popular posts on this site.

But that list included many entry-level watches with battery-powered movement that aren't great choices for true wrist watch enthusiasts.

That's why I wanted to create this list of automatic watches that are 38 mm or less – perfect for smaller hands and wrists.

This is a long post, so for the busy reader, here are my top three picks:

  1. Seiko 5 SNK
  2. Seiko SKX013
  3. Orient WZ0261EL

You could buy all three for a less than $800 total, and you'd have a well-rounded collection of small autos.

Mechanical vs. Quartz

If you're wondering what the difference is between a mechanical watch and a quartz watch, check out this infographic by Mantelligence.

Quartz vs mechanical watches

Click for larger version (opens in new window)

So, are automatic (mechanical) watches better than quartz (battery-powered) watches?

It depends why you want to wear a watch.

Many watch enthusiasts would never wear a quartz watch because they lack the complexity, craftsmanship, quality and heritage that you get with a mechanical watch.

Personally, I think that quartz watches are the most practical choice for most guys. One major advantage of quartz watches is that they don't stop ticking when you stop wearing them.

Sure, you need to replace the battery every few years, but that's easier than winding or resetting your mechanical watch every couple of days.

Quartz watches also tend to keep extremely accurate time, when compared to mechanical watches.

Not to mention, they're way more affordable than autos (in general).

So, if you're wearing a watch for purely functional reasons, or if you're on a strict budget, a quartz watch may be your best choice.

But let's be honest: most of us don't wear watches because we need to know what time it is. After all, we're always surrounded by 100% accurate digital clocks (cell phones, computers, microwaves, cars, etc.).

We wear watches because we like the way they look. We appreciate the way they tie an outfit together. We love the status and elegance a high quality watch represents.

We appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into these tiny, amazing devices and the heritage of this historic industry.

That's why “watch guys” are obsessed with automatic watches – and rightfully so. Just think about it:

You can buy a tiny device that keeps track of the time (among many other functions), down to the second, without any source of power other than the movement of your arm.

You can dive down to the ocean floor with this device, or fly up into the sky. You can leave it in a drawer for 50 years and give it to your great grandson, and it will start ticking moments after he puts it on.

It's amazing! It's almost magical, which is why most people agree that automatic watches are far more desirable than quartz watches.

Automatic vs. Mechanical

Just like not all whiskey is bourbon, not all mechanical watches are automatic.

An automatic watch is a mechanical watch that winds itself, well, automatically, using the movement of your arm.

Seiko 5 SNK exhibition caseback

The “exhibition” caseback of my Seiko 5 SNK809 automatic

There are some mechanical watches that need to be wound manually. These “hand wind” watches are not automatics.

They're also not the most convenient watches, but they do have a certain old world charm about them. One of my favorite watches on the list below (the Hamilton Field Khaki Officer) is a hand wind mechanical watch.

Automatic Watches for Men w/ Small Wrists

Okay, let's move onto the list. The watches I chose range in price from under $100 to $5,000, but most of them are in the $200-800 range.

All of the watches on this list are:

  • Small (case diameter of 38mm or less)
  • Mechanical (not battery-powered)
  • Valuable (worth their price tag)

So, if you're looking for the perfect automatic watch for small wrists, look no further!

Top 25 Small Automatic Watches

You can sort this table by size, price or type of watch:

  • Casual (includes field watches)
  • Sport (includes divers and chronographs)
  • Dress

Naturally, many of these watches fall into more than one category (i.e., casual and sport), but I did my best to categorize them for your convenience.

 NameCase Size (mm)PriceType
Christopher Ward C60 Trident Pro 60038$830Sport
Seiko SKX01338$250Sport
Seiko 5 SNK80937$55Casual
Hamilton HML-H69419363 Hand Wind38$256Casual
Omega Seamaster Unisex36$2,775Sport
Omega Speedmaster Reduced38$1,600Sport
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 3434$3,995Sport
Hamilton H32455557 JazzMaster Viewmatic37$459Dress
Tudor Black Bay 3636$2,350Sport
Sinn 556i38$1,080Casual
Seiko SARB017 "Alpinist"38$450Casual
Marathon WW194003BK-NGM GPM Field Watch34$299Casual
Seiko SARB03337$350Dress
Orient Unisex FER2K003C0 SoMa37.5$190Dress
Junghans Max Bill Hand-Winding Watch 027/3700.0034$690Dress
Marathon WW194026 Military Diver36$830Sport
Aeromatic 1912 Automatic Calendar Watch A140638$169Dress
Orient Star Classic Automatic Retrograde WZ0031DE39.5$769Dress
Aristo 4H262-TT Aviator Automatic Watch38$569Sport
Vollmer Aerodyne Swiss Automatic V5H8438.5$499Casual
Longines Presence L4821211234$849Dress
Orient Star Classic Power Reserve WZ0261EL38.5$420Dress
Orient 3 Star Stainless Steel FAB00009D37.5$60Sport
Frederique Constant Slimline FC-306MC4S3639$691Dress
Seiko 5 SNK793 Stainless Steel36$99Sport

Of course, the size of a watch isn't only determined by case diameter. The thickness of the watch case and strap are also important.

But case size is the best single indicator of how “big” a watch will look on your wrist.

You can measure your wrist with a soft measuring tape (a.k.a., tailor tape). Just wrap the tape around the widest part of your wrist like this:

How to measure wrist size

My wrists are just over 6.25″ around at the widest part (over the bone).

There's no official definition of small wrists, but I think anything under 7″ is on the smaller side. My wrists, for example, are just over 6.25″ around, and any watch over 40 mm looks ridiculous on me.

That said, here's a loose rule of thumb (or should we say, “rule of wrist”):

If your wrist is thinner than 7″ around, stick with watches with cases that are 40 mm or smaller.

Taking it one step further:

If you wrist is thinner than 6.5″ around, stick with watches with cases that are 38 mm or smaller.

Keep in mind, this is all subjective. At the end of the day, you should wear whatever watch makes you happy!

Conclusion

If you have smaller hands and wrists, I think it's a good idea to wear smaller watches (38 mm or less).

And if you appreciate the craftsmanship of mechanical watches, you can't go wrong with any of the watches listed above.

Shoutout to two of my favorite watch-related YouTube channels: The Urban Gentry and Long Island Watch. Their videos were super helpful when I was researching for this post.

What's your favorite small automatic watch? Leave a comment below!

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Comments

  1. Larry Johnson says:

    My wrist is just over 6″ around. My favorite watches are a Tissot PR50 automatic (36mm) and a couple of vintage Omega Seamasters – a 1959 manual wind (34mm) and a 1964 automatic (35mm). You can find a lot of vintage watches under 38mm and often at very good prices.

  2. I’ve wanted a watch for a while, and was given a GC to the MVMT store last week. The smallest man’s size watch they have is 40 mm. I looked at the women’s watches, but they were all too feminine looking. So I purchased that 40 mm watch, a little nervous. But it looks nice, it’s bigger and more blingy than I would otherwise choose, but passable. My wrists just measured about 6.5″

  3. Matthias says:

    Got myself the Junghans Max Bill a while ago and couldn’t be happier. Had a couple of negative experiences with the stores until I found one I really liked. The watch is very elegant and is a true representation of Bauhaus design. Another detail to note is that the lug ends are “bent” downwards, so they face straight outwards from the case, which makes the whole appearance even less bulky.

  4. Kartikeya Jha says:

    Great post again, Brock. The Seiko SARB065 (Cocktail time) can also just sneak in to this list, I feel. Although it is 40mm, it sits pretty well on my 6.5in wrists. And that dial!

    Cheers!

  5. I have to brag here – my fiancée got me a very unique automatic watch as an engagement present, the Swatch Sistem Gentleman. So, because of the personal significance it’s my favorite watch. Case is a little larger than what you’re recommending at 42mm, but I find it is a good size for my wrists.

  6. Hey Brock – nice list. I have the Seiko 5. Looking at your pictures made me think… I have a Seiko 5 with a blue face and a brown leather nato strap. I wear it every day for work. But I’ve wondered about getting a Seiko 5 with a black face and black strap and wearing that with darker pants.

    Do you think the strap should match clothes? I mean, sure, for formal wear a black leather strap is required. But how about business casual?

  7. Mitchell Thurner says:

    Well done Brock! This is a fantastic selection. All reputable brands and not fashion watches. TGV would be proud!

  8. Absolutely amazing content Brock. Love how in-depth the content is! I’d say my favourite is the Orient Retrograde…

  9. Some really good choices on here! These hit the sweet spot for my 6.75″ wrist.

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