The 10 Best Luxury Watches

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This wiki has been updated 37 times since it was first published in February of 2015. With a digital clock on every cellphone these days, wristwatches are no longer the necessity they once were. High-end luxury models, however, can still add the perfect finishing touch to any elegant gentleman's outfit. These timepieces are of the highest quality, and many are expensive as a result, but you only live once, so go ahead and treat yourself or someone you love. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Rolex GMT Master II

2. Omega Speedmaster Professional

3. Patek Philippe Calatrava Travel

Editor's Notes

February 28, 2020:

Given some of the shifts in the marketplace, we saw fit to replace a few models outright and to upgrade some others. For example, our previous list included Rolex's Batman GMT, which we replaced with the more recent Rolex GMT Master II on a jubilee bracelet, a configuration often referred to as the Batgirl. That's not a reference to it's gender-orientation, mind you; this is a man's watch.

We also upgraded the previous JLC Reverso to the Jaeger LeCoultre Grande Reverso 976. Back when the Reverso was first invented, it was a sports watch, and its reversing function was designed to protect the watch's face — the backside was simply steel or gold. This, of course, was before the widespread use of sapphire crystal, which is much more durable than the glasses used at the time. So, now, one can enjoy the functionality of the Reverso's awesome design without denying themselves the fun of a transparent caseback.

My personal favorite on this list, however, is the Patek Philippe Calatrava Travel, which I know remains a somewhat controversial model in the company's lineup, especially given the long shadow of the Nautilus and Aquanaut models, but I maintain that the subtleties of its style and the usefulness of its skeletonized second time zone hand make it a forward-looking offering that will become massively collectible in the next 20-30 years.

Special Honors

Omega Seamaster Diver 300M 007 James Bond himself — or, more accurately, James Bond actor Daniel Craig — worked hand in hand with Omega in designing his character's timepiece for the film No Time To Die. It features a deep beige, pre-faded lume that provides an excellent contrast to the model's black dial and diver's bezel. It also has a Ministry of Defense insignia at six o'clock, which bears some historical accuracy to military-spec models made for the British government, and its helium escape valve makes it suitable for saturation diving.

Grand Seiko SBGA407 Snowflake This model runs on the company's innovative Spring Drive system, which takes all the history and complexity of an automatic movement and regulates it with quartz. To be clear, there are no electrical components in the timepiece — no batteries or microchips — but it harnesses the natural vibrational frequency of an internal crystal to produce a level of accuracy that runs within +/- 1 second per day. It also boasts a soft blue dial inspired by the snow drifts as seen from the windows of the watchmaker's workshops.

4. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph

5. Vacheron Constantin Historiques 1942

6. Jaeger LeCoultre Grande Reverso 976

7. Breitling Navitimer B03 Chronograph Rattrapante

8. Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox

9. Panerai Luminor Mechanical

10. Cartier Tank Solo Automatic

Finding A Fine Luxury Watch

The layout and design of a watch's face is where form meets function.

The term luxury watch can mean different things to different people. One consumer might consider a watch that costs several hundred dollars to be quite a luxury indeed, while another person might casually browse among timepieces that cost tens of thousands of dollars. For the sake of objectivity, we will set aside price as a factor of this discussion, though of course your budget is of extreme importance when you shop for a luxury watch.

The first consideration one must make when looking for a fine chronometer is the size of watch face. Large, assertive watches have been in and out of style over the years, but ultimately watch size is a personal choice based on wrist thickness and aesthetic preference. For a frame of reference, a 40 millimeter wide watch case is something of a standard size among men's watches. You can find many watches that measure as much as 48 millimeters across, and you will find watch's with faces measuring only 36 millimeters wide that are still suitable for men.

Women's watches typically measure between 25 and 30 millimeters across. As for case thickness, an average measure is eight to ten millimeters for a man's watch and as few as six for a woman's. However, many luxury chronometers feature thick, bulky cases that measure up to fifteen millimeters in thickness.

The layout and design of a watch's face is where form meets function. Many watches feature Roman numerals or else don't have numbers at all. These watches look great but don't serve well for quickly checking the hour. Consider which is more important to you, looks or function, and opt for a watch with actual numbers if the latter is of importance.

Many watches with standard Arabic numerals look superlative anyway. Beyond telling you the time, many luxury watches can inform you of the date, the day of the week, can act as a stop watch, and offer many other functions. Some people will value all these options, while others will want a simple, uncluttered watch face.

Finally, consider which type of watch band you think looks best and will be the most comfortable. Metal links offer a secure fit and resist damage from scratches or water, but a leather band allows for easier adjustment of band size. The watch band also does much to dictate which outfits a watch works with; silver links and brown leather tend to blend universally; other options can "dress up" or "dress down" a sartorial tableau.

A Few Words On Watch Care And Maintenance

Owning a luxury watch is a pleasure, but it is also something of a responsibility. When you have a valuable, unique accessory that you will regularly wear and use, you can expect your prized possession to require occasional maintenance and even repairs. The investment in a luxury watch does not stop the moment it is purchased and paid for, but rather continues for the life of the timepiece.

A cracked face can admit moisture that can ruin the movement, and damage to the body of the watch can impact its internal components.

First and foremost, you have to know whether or not your watch is rated as water proof or water resistant. Some luxury watches can be strapped on prior to a three hour scuba dive down to depths of hundreds of feet; others can be damaged with a few too many splashes of water. Learn your watch's water tolerance rating by checking its water resistant mark and treat the watch with according care. And of course know that no leather band is suitable for use in water and can in fact be damaged or even ruined by even a little water. Take the time to remove your watch before washing your hands, cooking, or cleaning dishes; the few seconds of effort are worth the protection of a fine leather band.

Watches are designed to run, not to sit dormant. Keeping your watch wound and working (or else with a functional battery inside of it) is the best way to keep the chronometer's movement in good shape. If your watch is a hand wound variety, spend a moment to wind it each morning. If it is kept wound by motion, invest in a watch winder if you don't wear the timepiece often enough to keep it running daily.

You should always get a damaged luxury watch repaired as soon as you can and don't wear it until it has been serviced. A cracked face can admit moisture that can ruin the movement, and damage to the body of the watch can impact its internal components.

A Brief Look At The Wristwatch Through Time

The first devices that can fairly be called a "wristwatch" were designed in the late 1700s, with a few rare examples surviving from the first years of the 19th Century. Before these early units — know then as "bracelet watches" — portable timepieces had been carried in the pocket.

Wristwatch wearing was largely relegated to women during the 1800s, the wristwatch being seen more as jewelry than as a functional tool. Men used pocket watches almost exclusively well into the Edwardian Era. The shift toward wristwatch wearing by men came largely thanks to the practicality of wearing a watch during combat. The convenience of the compact chronometers made it easier to coordinate troop movements and logistics, and by the time World War I commenced, watch wearing was quite common among soldiers and growing more ubiquitous in general.

Wristwatches almost fully supplanted pocket watches during the 20th Century, and with the development of compact battery powered options in the middle of that century, watches became ever lightweight and more capable. Today, many wristwatches even incorporate "smart" technology, boasting the same computing power as desktop computers from but a few years back.

Daniel Imperiale
Last updated by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel Imperiale holds a bachelor’s degree in writing, and proudly fled his graduate program in poetry to pursue a quiet life at a remote Alaskan fishery. After returning to the contiguous states, he took up a position as an editor and photographer of the prestigious geek culture magazine “Unwinnable” before turning his attention to the field of health and wellness. In recent years, he has worked extensively in film and music production, making him something of a know-it-all when it comes to camera equipment, musical instruments, recording devices, and other audio-visual hardware. Daniel’s recent obsessions include horology (making him a pro when it comes to all things timekeeping) and Uranium mining and enrichment (which hasn’t proven useful just yet).

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