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8 Best 42MM Watches for Men: A Watch Expert’s Picks

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Karlton began covering men's style and grooming topics for The Adult Man since 2020 as a writer. He's also written for other popular men's publications such as The Modest Man and Effortless Gent. Karlton is an LA-born, New York-based lover of culture and optimism. Perpetual watch-wearer. Always holding a martini or a football, Karlton's favorite subjects in school were recess, PE and prom. Read full bio.


Last Updated: Mar 25, 2024
8 min read
Selection of 42mm Watches Nordgreen Pioneer Rado Captain Cook Patek Pilot Travel Time on Colorful Background

Not only do 42-millimeter watches sit well on a range of medium to large wrist sizes, but due to the extra dial space, they can host a lot of good and efficient design.

Unfortunately, not all watchmakers use this power responsibly which has led to a sea of overstuffed, underutilized 42-millimeter watches. After years of handling watches at an auction house, these are my carefully curated picks at every price point.

Given the modern preference for larger wearing timepieces, it’s no surprise that one of the most common case sizes for a men’s watch is 42 millimeters. 

Plus, many of today’s living icons are 42 millimeters. Omega Speedmaster, anyone?

Depending on the lugs and thickness it can wear bigger or smaller, and there’s ample space on the dial for details and visual intrigue.

Out of all the 42-millimeter timepieces I’ve owned, sampled, and reviewed, the eight watches rounded up here make the best use of that ample dial space.

My Recommendations

Best Under $300: Nordgreen Pioneer

white dial nordgreen pioneer against blue packaging

The Nordgreen Pioneer boasts a deceptively simple design. It’s easy to incorporate into any guy’s personal style, yet it’s also undeniably unique. This isn’t a surprise when you realize it’s the brainchild of award-winning, sustainability-focused artist Jakob Wagner.

Its premium build is plain to see. The finishing is impressive for the price point, whether you go for stainless steel or gunmetal—and this carries across their bestsellers (we’ve reviewed several of them). 

model wearing nordgreen pioneer white dial against blue checkered shirt

Meanwhile, the domed sapphire crystal contributes to the watch’s overall soft but sporty dimensionality. I love how the lustrous sunray colorways provide exquisite lightplay, but I’m partial to the chic black and navy faces.

The thoughtful negative space on the chronograph dial allows the dark colors to look as clean as the white dial version, while maintaining their depth and vividness.

This balance of versatility and distinction pairs well with any of the offered straps, of which there are many. And thanks to the easy strap-change system, this watch is downright transformable. It’s like having several watches in one.

Nordgreen pioneer caseback closeup

Function-wise, it runs on a respectable Miyota quartz. Japanese quartz workhorses are far more reliable than any middle-of-the-road mechanical.

What I Like

  • Unlike countless greenwashed brands that claim to be eco-focused, Nordgreen’s sustainable practices are built into their business. Most importantly, proceeds of every watch purchase go to supporting causes in education, the environment, and health.

  • The design is sporty yet clean and streamlined. Between the versatility that comes from that and the mixing and matching opportunities offered with the case, bracelet, and dial color, you can make this watch exactly what you want it to be.

  • The sapphire crystal, water resistance, and perfect applications punch way above the watch’s price point.

What I Don’t Like

  • Lume on the dial would be nice. This is a controversial opinion since that’s not needed on an everyday watch, and it would make wearing it as a dress watch difficult. Since it has a sporty tone to it though, I’d prefer some glow.

What Other Reviewers Say

Reviewers love how easily this watch can be worn on any occasion, whether it requires a suit or a t-shirt. Out of all the customizable options, the easy-change strap gets a lot of love because of its ability to temporarily change the vibe of the watch.

There’s even a vegan leather strap for the plant-based folks.

Moreover, many reviewers appreciate that the two-year warranty provides security and confidence with purchase.

The Verdict

The Nordgreen Pioneer is sporty, artistically designed, and clean enough to be worn with a suit or jeans. If you’re looking for an affordable watch to get a lot of mileage on, this guy is for you.

It also comes in a variety of case constructions, dial colors, and strap options.

Looks aside, it’s a truly well-built piece, clear to see thanks to its beautiful applications and high-end materials. And, the eco-driven initiatives make you feel as great about your purchase as the warranty does.

Nordgreen Pioneer
(Get 15% off with code THEADULTMAN)

The Nordgreen Pioneer is an innovative take on the chronograph watch. Built like a classic aviator, but with modern Scandinavian design principles, this timepiece looks natural and elegant—and it pairs well in a casual and smart-casual wardrobe.

Check Price Read Our Review

Best Under $500: VAER DS4 Meridian Solar

VAER DS4 Meridian Solar

VAER is a unique brand, particularly in the crowd-pleasing way they approach homages. Instead of lifting designs from specific models, they create tributes to vintage pieces, eras, and iconic best practices.

Their familiar yet unique creations legitimize them and give them their own identity. 

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The DS4 Meridian Solar is a tribute to ‘70s military divers. It features a military Seamaster-shaped case, a Submariner-like dial template, with details reminiscent of vintage Doxas, updated with a sharper aesthetic. For example, instead of rectangular stick hands, this timepiece has beautiful sword hands.

It’s the greatest hits of classic divers in one, all built to exceptional modern specs.

What I Like

  • The design is a combination of best practices from history’s notable dive watches.

  • It runs on an accurate solar movement with a whopping six-month power reserve per six hours of light exposure.

  • With its durable surgical stainless steel construction, AR sapphire, and 200 meters of water resistance, this watch is impressively spec-forward.

What I Don’t Like

  • Since the dial is so deep, having the inner walls of the case polished instead of brushed would bring more light to the dial. Not that it’s dull by any means, but it would’ve added some depth and pop.

What Other Reviewers Say

Reviewers are thoroughly impressed with just how much of a beating this watch can take. One reviewer mentions that he’s knocked his watch around, and the crystal remains flawless. 

It operates perfectly too. Another reviewer, who happens to be a helicopter pilot, says his watch runs beautifully even after hours in the vibrations of a helicopter.

The Verdict

The VAER DS4 Meridian Solar is a durably built beater. It has a familiar yet unique look, a combination of iconic dive watches, resulting in an overall classic design.

VAER DS4 Meridian Solar

This watch pays homage to ‘70s military divers with a blend of iconic design elements. Featuring a Seamaster-shaped case and Submariner-like dial, it boasts modern specs like solar movement, durable stainless steel, AR sapphire, and 200m water resistance. Reviewers praise its durability and classic design.

Check Price

Best Under $1,000: Wasson Automatic Field Watch

Wasson-field-watch-wrist-size

The Wasson Automatic Field Watch has a slick design, while still exhibiting the ruggedness we all want from a field watch.

Wasson watch in leather carrying case 1

The 24-hour inner track grounds the dial in a classic military look. However, the silver detailing, seen on the date window and hands, levels it up. It enhances the legibility and adds glossiness without compromising the utilitarian vibe.

Model wearing Wasson Watch Co Automatic Field Watch on wrist

And for less than a grand, you also get the coveted Swiss Made status. The Wasson Field Watch is powered by a precise Ronda automatic, viewable via the caseback.

What I Like

  • The combination of refined and utilitarian characteristics is distinguished and adaptable.

  • You can watch the Ronda R150 movement through the exhibition caseback, adding a level of engagement perfect for the horologically inclined.

  • This watch comes with an exceptional leather case, which makes an effective travel storage solution.

What I Don’t Like

  • I love that this watch comes with a NATO, but switching out the straps is pretty difficult to do.

What Other Reviewers Say

Reviewers agree that this watch has a well-balanced design.

Many also spotlight the top-notch packaging and fun unboxing experience. In addition to the extra strap and leather case, this timepiece comes with some watch tools. It really feels like a complete package.

The Verdict

The Wasson Automatic Field Watch combines military features with refined details. It’s a Swiss Made timepiece with beautiful finishing that suits a wide range of style tastes.

Wasson Watch Co Automatic Field Watch

The Wasson Watch Co Automatic Field Watch combines tried-and-true construction with modern, character-defining features. Uniquely, this allows you to wear it with any outfit and with a wide range of fashion tastes.

Check Price Read Our Review

Best Under $2,000: Rado Captain Cook

Rado Captain Cook

When I mentioned that the 42-millimeter size provides ample room for details and visual intrigue, I was mainly thinking about the Rado Captain Cook.

There are so many floors, eye-catching applications, and levels of matte and shine on this watch. And you get a different visual experience from every angle. My favorite is tilting it just a bit so you can see the rehaut. From here, the depth of the dial and the height of all of the applications are beautifully exhibited.

View this post on Instagram

Speaking of applications, you have to love that freely swinging anchor above the Rado logo.

While some collectors love the authenticity of the 37-millimeter Captain Cook, I think the 42 is the happy medium between it and the gigantic 45.

What I Like

  • The glossy, deep dial is truly handsome, flaunting fun features like the broad arrow hand and the swinging anchor.

  • The bracelet is unique and eye-catching. It has beads-of-rice middle links that glisten in the light and a comfortable and refined taper.

  • The slim deployment clasp and quick-release links provide easy bracelet operation.

What I Don’t Like

  • While the bezel’s ceramic insert and boxed sapphire add to the high-shine and classy look, they’re also fingerprint and water stain magnets.

What Other Reviewers Say

A quick internet search quickly reveals this watch’s strong following. If you live in the US, you may not realize this since its strongest markets are Asia and South America. 

Reviewers love the Captain Cook’s distinct look and reliable build.

Thanks to the internet, this fan club is an accessible resource for support and questions.

The Verdict

The Rado Captain Cook is a handsome watch with a unique and charming personality. It’s dimensional and glossy, with fun visual details. If you’re looking for a watch that’s eye-catching but not gaudy, look into the Captain.

RADO Captain Cook Automatic

The 42-millimeter size version is a standout with its detailed design and captivating dial. Its glossy finish and unique features, like the swinging anchor, draw attention. We love its distinct style and durability, making it a charming choice for those who want a sophisticated yet eye-catching watch.

Check Price

Best Under $5,000: Omega Seamaster

Omega Seamaster

Arguably, there are two tentpole Seamaster looks. One is the triangle-forward composition, variants based on the original Seamaster 300. The other is the wave dial version from the ‘90s. I’m focusing on the latter today.

This design is a pop culture icon, the first Seamaster worn by James Bond in 1995’s Goldeneye before he went full Omega. Plus, it was a return to form for the Seamaster line, which had a bit of an identity crisis in the ‘80s as a result of the quartz revolution.

View this post on Instagram

While the version Bond wore in GoldenEye was quartz, modern versions are upgraded with a co-axial automatic movement and applied indices.

What I Like

  • The wave dial Seamaster is one of the most important divers in history, boasting both historical and pop culture importance.

  • This watch is a Master Chronometer, with a co-axial movement that maintains its accuracy with little servicing.

  • Unlike other Swiss hard hitters, who will remain nameless, Omega isn’t afraid to give us an exhibition caseback.

What I Don’t Like

  • The helium escape valve is cool, but pretty much a vestigial organ.

What Other Reviewers Say

There’s no denying that this Bond watch has cool factor. That’s one of the reasons reviewers love this design so much. It can be polarizing though. But if you’re not a wave dial man, you can always go for a variant that looks more like the original CK 2913.

Some reviewers prefer this modernized version with the co-axial movement and the applied indices. Others prefer the vintage version with the raised indices and quartz movement.

The Verdict

The Omega Seamaster is a pop culture icon. Modernized versions are upgraded with contemporary creature comforts, though you can always go for the ‘90s version if that’s your style.

OMEGA Seamaster Automatic

Upgraded with a co-axial movement, it's a Master Chronometer, ensuring accurate timekeeping with minimal maintenance. Reviewers praise its cool factor, making it a timeless choice for watch enthusiasts. Whether you're into the '90s vibe or want the latest and greatest, there's something here for every watch lover.

Check Price

Best Under $10,000: Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional

Omega Speedmaster Watch 1

The Omega Speedmaster is best known as the watch that went to the moon. Even more, if it weren’t for the Speedy, the Apollo 13 scare would’ve been the Apollo 13 tragedy.

The fact Tom Hanks wears a Speedy in the film based on these events gives the watch a meta-level of pop culture cache too.

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Still, all of this lore and marketing doesn’t undo the fact it’s a truly good watch. The Omega Speedmaster is a perfect specimen of form and function, with a look that’s both scientific and sporty, wrapped up in a sleek silhouette.

What I Like

  • This famously efficient chronograph design has a sporty racer look as well as a gadget-like vibe. It brings jocks and nerds together, so to speak.

  • The Speedy boasts an important history, having beat out other elite brands to become the first watch on the moon.

  • The manual winding movement provides engaging tactility.

What I Don’t Like

  • For what you’re paying, some might argue that 50 meters of water resistance is low.

What Other Reviewers Say

No reviewer denies that this watch is a true icon. Some say it’s overhyped, but that comes with icon territory.

Classically, the Moonwatch Speedmaster is a manual wind, which can be polarizing. A lot of people prefer automatics, but I think manual winding is a great way to bond with your watch.

The Verdict

With its line-forward and scientific design, I believe the components that make up the Omega Speedmaster sit most efficiently on a 42-millimeter watch. It isn’t too busy or too sparse. 

And of course, this legend is on the Mount Rushmore of important chronographs.

OMEGA Speedmaster Chronograph

An iconic watch for its moon landing role and pop culture status. Its design appeals to both sports enthusiasts and tech lovers. Plus, manual winding adds a personal touch. Overall, it's a timeless classic.

Check Price

Best Under $20,000: Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Date

Jaeger Lecoultre Polaris Automatic Date Watch

Jaeger-LeCoultre is a true gentleman’s watch brand. There’s something about the Polaris Date, compared to say the more famous Reverso, that cinches that gentlemanly vibe. 

We usually go to JLC for more complicated designs, so adding another level of avoiding the obvious feels very quiet luxury.

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This watch is a veritable feast of textures, but the monochrome color grounds it so it doesn’t look busy. The grainy index track adds dimension and sparkle, as well as legibility—as does that brilliant lume.

The movement is as beautiful as the dial, so it’s good that JLC equipped this watch with an exhibition caseback.

What I Like

  • The elegant sportiness and immaculate details make this a truly classy everyday watch.

  • Since it’s such a high horology brand, wearing JLC has an in-the-know connotation.

  • The movement is stunning, featuring Côtes de Genève markings, gorgeous layers, and sapphire-colored screws.

What I Don’t Like

  • The internal bidirectional bezel is fun and engaging, but there’s nothing to lock it down. It’s easy to accidentally move it.

What Other Reviewers Say

Many reviewers agree that this watch looks so much better in person. A few even mention that the Polaris did absolutely nothing for them in pictures and videos.

Reviewers also love how JLC is the watchmaker’s watchmaker, an influential brand that even once provided movements to Patek.

The Verdict

A stately yet relatively understated sport watch, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Date is the kind of everyday timepiece that makes you feel classy. It’ll level up your outfit and your attitude.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Date

The Jaeger leCoultre Polaris Date is a classy everyday watch that combines sporty elegance with fine craftsmanship. Its beautiful movement and intricate details add a touch of luxury to any outfit, giving off a timeless charm.

Check Price

Best Under $50,000: Patek Philippe 18kt Rose Gold Calatrava Pilot Travel Time

Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time 18kt Rose Gold on TAM background

Patek Philippe is an auction house darling which makes the majority of their models savvy investments. This rose gold Pilot Travel Time is what I like to call an instant heirloom.

Its left-sided pushers make it quirky, but it somehow remains balanced—a hallmark of PP design. It also has arguably the most useful complication for many.

It’s a dressy GMT, yes—but a GMT nonetheless. But it’s also just a gracefully-lined, classic timepiece that can be worn in any situation outside of heavy athletic activities.

View this post on Instagram

Besides, there’s nothing like wearing something understatedly fancy to bring a little sparkle to your day. The rose gold case has an old-world charm that gives this watch multi-generational appeal.

What I Like

  • Despite its 42mm size, it comes in at a relatively thin 10.78mm of thickness which makes it very wearable.

  • Patek is a trusted brand in the market, especially at high-end auction houses, adding a level of investment confidence.

  • The high-end materials add a dressy feel, but it still has the utility of a pilot’s watch which makes it a great option as a daily.

What I Don’t Like

  • 35-45 hours of power reserve is a little lackluster at this price point.

What Other Reviewers Say

Launched in 2015, the Pilot Travel Time seems to slowly be gaining respect amongst watch enthusiasts, particularly as a dressier daily alternative to the Aquanaut Travel Time. It’s especially popular in precious metals, since the brand is known for its jewelry-like approach to design.

The Verdict

The Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time is a utilitarian dress watch that will always look good on you, your son, and his son. It’s a real forever watch, and a sound investment because of that.

Best Under $50,000
Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time 18kt Rose Gold

The Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time is a utilitarian dress watch that will always look good on you, your son, and his son. It’s a real forever watch, and a sound investment because of that.

Check Price

Things to Consider before Buying a 42MM Watch

model-wearing-Wasson-field

Before pulling the trigger on your new 42, here are some things to look into.

  • Case thickness. Though 42 millimeters is wrist versatile, a thick case might make it feel bulky. Cases are usually eight to 12 millimeters high, but can go up to 18 millimeters.
  • Lug-to-lug size and lug distance: A bigger lug-to-lug size can make watches feel and even look bigger. Also, the average distance between lugs is 20 millimeters. Outside of that, strap changes might be difficult.
  • Style of Watch: Sport watches look natural in 42 millimeters, while dress watches might look big. That’s not a bad thing, though. It’s all about preference. But, it’s still something to consider..

Which Is Right for You?

The Nordgreen Pioneer isn’t just the most affordable pick, but one that’s efficiently-designed, adaptable, customizable, and truly eco-conscious in build and brand.

Nordgreen Pioneer
(Get 15% off with code THEADULTMAN)

The Nordgreen Pioneer is an innovative take on the chronograph watch. Built like a classic aviator, but with modern Scandinavian design principles, this timepiece looks natural and elegant—and it pairs well in a casual and smart-casual wardrobe.

Check Price Read Our Review

Meanwhile, the VAER DS4 brings all of the charm of a vintage military watch, without the hassle of actually going vintage.

Have a little more to spend? The Wasson is a good, honest, field watch, while the Rado Captain Cook is an eye-catching and engaging diver.

Of course, Omega’s two 42-millimeter kings, the Seamaster and the Speedmaster, are perennial favorites.

And if you want to go a more high horology route, the Jaeger LeCoultre Polaris Date is a sport watch that’s classy enough to be worn with a suit, and the Patek Calatrava is a dressy GMT that’s simple enough for the everyday.

Why Should You Trust The Adult Man?

Karlton Miko Tyack is a lifelong watch enthusiast who further deepened his horological expertise through his time specializing in watches and fine art at Sotheby’s auction house. He’s produced watch reviews and written articles for several well-regarded publications including The Modest Man, Gearmoose, and The Slender Wrist.