Tim takes a look at the latest 40mm and under watches for the year and which he believes deserve your attention!
Although only being four months into 2018, it's already looking like another great year of new releases for people who are fans of the smaller case size (that's me!). The average size of most modern releases hasn't changed drastically recently, but it certainly seems to be on the way back down from the lofty heights of recent years.
As I've mentioned quite a bit here, I'm a fan of both +40mm and sub 40mm watches. 40mm + sized watches that are designed to be larger, not just made larger to fit a trend I have no issue with (The Navitimer is a great example of a watch that works well large, whereas I feel the Datejust just should have stayed at 36mm rather than the 41mm addition).
The watches all included in this list work perfectly for their size. Some are available in larger sizes if you prefer, but for me, I think the below watches have been made to be smaller and suit just that...
Tudor Black Bay 36 Blue - 36mm
First up I have to start with Tudor. With successful releases such as the GMT and the Black Bay 58, Tudor managed to top off their 2018 releases with a great addition to the Black Bay 36 range. For most people, it just looks like a new dial colour option for an already popular watch, however I look at this release slightly differently.
I find what makes this watch special is the subtle reference Tudor have paid to an iconic model that has been somewhat living in the shadow of it's big Rolex brother until recent years when appreciation and value has steadily grown. Deliberate or not, when I initially saw this piece at Baselworld 2018 the first watch I almost instantly thought of was the Tudor Marine Nationale Submariner with its baby blue esque dial, perfectly unbroken symmetry and classic styling. A combination of the popularity of the original BB36, the way the market seems to be moving regarding case sizes and the ever popularity of blue, I can't help but see this new addition to the range being a very popular one.
Longines Legend Diver - 36mm
It's fair to say I've written a fair bit on Longines recently. And as much as I love that Military Watch, I've resisted adding it to this list and picked a different release with equal wrist presence. The Longines Legend Diver is now available in 36mm and, although they offer versions with a deep pink coloured dial and a mother-of-pearl option this watch can very easily suit anyone's wrist. I'll be honest, prior to my experience with the RADO Captain Cook, I would have had concerns over the idea of a sub 40mm diver, but thankfully my experience with RADO's 2017 release opened my mind up just in time for Baselworld, leading me nicely back to the 36mm Legend Diver.
My personal favourite dial option has to be that classic Black. There is a burgundy option which peaked my interest initially, but I think it's look is potentially a little over the top with the faux patina aesthetic.
Romain Gauthier Micro-Rotor Black Titanium 39mm
I really should start off by briefly mentioning how incredible everything Romain Gauthier do really is. From the brand identity & values to the quality of materials used, the finishing of those materials, the innovative nature of design, as well as of course the brand representatives myself and Ben met at Basel (including the man himself!)
This year was my first hands-on experience with any of their watches and the Micro-Rotor was the one that instantly jumped out at me as a perfect piece of meticulously considered artwork. I've been trying to decide between the new Black Titanium or the Natural Titanium for quite a while now. I've come to the conclusion that if I was to buy one tomorrow I'd buy that Red Gold Micro-Rotor from Baselworld '17 and then go with the Black Titanium from this year due to it's more sporty, casual look. If you think this watch or any from Romain Gauthier's range look good in pictures, rest assure they somehow manage to look even better in person.
Either way, both of these micro-rotor releases are a couple of the best sub 40mm releases of Baselworld 2018, let alone best releases of the show...
Oris Big Crown Pointer Date Blue 40mm
Every year Oris perform impressively well in terms of solid appealing releases. Last year they had winners such as the Oris Big Crown 1917 and the Oris Chronoris Date in the 39mm size and that old school styling. This year it was the turn of another considered Oris model, the Big Crown Pointer Date. This is a piece I've seen available in the standard black, on a metal strap and thought it looked incredible, very classic in design and an overall faithful tribute to original pilots watches from the past.
Oris have done what any aware brand who understand their customer would do, keep the design, look and general aesthetic the same but simply expand on this and offer the watch in more sizes and colours. The new additions this year from Oris have all been fantastic, the blue, green and brown dial options all offer something new to the Pointer Date range without diluting the product. Green has been a bit of a trend this year with many articles saying its the 'new blue'. I'm all for green dials (This Oris Aquis Date was another winner for me), but for me, I think it's the Blue version of the Pointer Date with that red tip to the date hand and warm tones to the dial that is the pick of the bunch. A nice casual look that pays a sporty almost modern homage to original pilots watches.
AkriviA Rexhep Rexhepi 38mm
Ben who was equally as amazed by the creations of AkriviA has recently jotted down his thoughts on the new Rexhep Rexhepi in more detail here but for me, quite simply, the new Rexhep Rexhepi from AkriviA is an absolutely stunning piece of unique, individual watchmaking. People always talk about the somewhat lack of unique design in 21st-century watchmaking. Rotating divers bezel with a date at 3 and simple indices? it must be a Submariner. Prominent 3,6,9,12 = Panerai or a rectangular cased dress watch must be a JLC. However, what the guys at AkriviA have managed to create is such a simple yet effective design on a timepiece that instantly makes you think 'Why didn't I come up with that?!'
There is much more to this timepiece than just the design, flipping this watch over you're greeted with an asymmetrical sensation. The second's hands will stop and reset to 12 once the crown is pulled out which, is something that sounds over-engineered on the surface but is actually a very practical, desirable feature executed perfectly. It needs to be seen in action to be believed!
The watch comes in at 38mm which is a perfect size for this time only, subs seconds piece of art. Ignoring the title of this article for a moment, this watch is quite simply one of the best of 2018 so far.
Why smaller cases?
It's fantastic to see companies are starting to embrace the smaller case size trend at the moment, and for me personally, it takes watches back to their origins, back to a time where hand finishing and craftsmanship seemed to be a lot more valued in society. Where things were made to last, made to be fixed and treasured not just thrown away and replaced. Smaller case sizes embody these motions for me. Maybe my wrist size and what I feel comfortable wearing also is a considerable contributing factor to my thinking, but a sub 40mm size to me shows an understated class and style which I feel matches my style pretty well.
So there is a short but sweet look at my best 40mm and smaller case size watches releases of 2018 so far. I've been lucky enough to experience these watches all in person, if this is a sign of how companies will start to make smaller watches as the trend shifts, I'm all on board!