Luxury watches from £5K to the price of a house
High-end, luxury watches can be seen as an investment - they do hold their value fairly well, and some may even appreciate - but mainly they're extremely good ways for a man to express his personality and make a statement. The statement being, "I have a large amount of disposable income, or am VERY good at saving up."
The problem is, even once you get above £5,000 (the arbitrary point at which we've decided watches become 'luxury' - plenty of people will tell you that you need to be north of £10,000 or £20,000) the range of choice on offer is enormous.
There is a perfect watch out there for you, but how to find it?
If you're spending over £5K on a timepiece, you can look for exquistely tasteful design and clever mechanisms. Or as the pricing ticks inexorably up towards six figures, you can go for more complications than you can shake a four-barrel tourbillon and perpetual moon-phase calendar at. Or opt for crazy form factors that barely resemble watches, or oligarch-friendly heaps of rose gold and rare, industrial/military-grade metals.
Whether you go tasteful, go large/vulgar or just view this list as pure watch porn, we're really not going to judge you.
- Check out the best watch for any budget in T3's Best Watch Guide
- Looking for something more techy? The best smartwatches are here
- If you're just getting started, we'd recommend perusingT3's watch buying guide here.
Black Amex cards at the ready? Let's get started…
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
The 1960s 'watch of the future' now looks decidedly classic, but this certified chronometer still feels incredibly desirable.
With a case and bracelet made of 904L steel, this is the first Daytona update since 2000. It keeps the Calibre 4130 movement from that model, but adds a cerachrom bezel that's virtually scratchproof and UV-proof (so it won't fade under the sun's harsh glare), as well as being incredibly easy to read.
Its Oyster waterproof case is good to 100m, the power reserve is three days and the chronograph is accurate to 1/8th of a second. You've a choice of black or white faces, if you can find either. A monochrome marvel.
Price £10,000 | Rolex
Ressence Type 3
Was this uncompromising Belgian powerhouse the best watch we saw at Baselworld 2016? Quite possibly. It was certainly the most innovative.
For a start, how do you read it? Well, from the outside you have the date, then minutes. On the inner dials, clockwise from the tiny dial on the left we have seconds, hours, the day of the week and the temperature.
Little about the Ressence Type 3 is normal or everyday, yet it still unmistakeably looks like a watch, unlike such brands as MD&F or Urwerk. However, the way the baffling range of dials swirl around the face, giving, “a new, more intuitive way of reading the time without the use of traditional hands,” is mesmerising… but takes some getting used to.
Also, though it may look like an electronic screen, those are actually mechanical hands and painted markers. The twist is that the case is filled with oil, magnifying the display and giving that weirdly vivid look. This also necessitates the use of bellows, micro magnets, super conductors and “a titanium grade 5 membrane.” Because of course it does.
Price £26,000 | Ressence
TAG-Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T Black Phantom
This was deemed to be "too cheap" by Patek Philippe Chairman Thierry Stern, and for a chronograph with a toubillon in, it is admittedly on the comparatively inexpensive side.
It's COSC-certifed for accuracy, has a power reserve of 65 hours and is water resistant to 100m. This black-coated titanium edition is a limited run of 250. The standard, non-black version is even 'cheaper' at about £13,000. You might as well get one of each.
Price £16,100 | TAG-Heuer
Glashütte Original Senator Chronometer
Germany's finest watchmaker, Glashütte makes timepieces of exemplary accuracy and simple, modern elegance. And you can't get much more German than that really, can you?
Also very German: the date display also reveals whether it's AM or PM, for easier resetting. The seconds hand can be reset to exactly zero, so that the relationship between minutes and seconds is maintained perfectly when resetting, and the power reserve dial is ridiculously over precise.
The blue face and white gold hands, on the other hand, are just gorgeous, as is the way the colours are mirrored in the alligator leather strap and clasp. That may or may not be very German, we're not sure.
Price €25,000 | Glashütte
Omega Seamaster Bullhead Rio
The Bullhead, with its unique and challenging face, was born in 1969. We really like it, although clearly it won't be to everyone's taste, but this Olympic twist on it should broaden the appeal.
Considering all of the colours of the Olympic rings are on there, it looks almost subtle. Almost. Tactile stopwatch buttons form the Bullhead's 'horns', while the bottom crown turns the bezel.
With a power reserve of 52 hours adn water resistance to 100m, this unique automatic is a limited edition of just 316, though you can pick up less Olympian versions for a few grand less.
Price £6,000, Swiss Luxury
Montblanc 4810 Orbis Terrarum
Available as a wristwatch or limited edition (110 pieces) pocket watch this, as you can see, is a world timer.
Use is simple: Rotate the bezel to set your home zone at 6 o'clock, by clicking the button on the left to move through 24 cities in different time zones, from east to west.
You can then read the time in those cities around the edge. On a trip abroad? Reset the time shown by the hands by once again clicking through the zones.
A vision in steel, sapphire crystal and enamel, the Orbis Terrarum is a real heritage piece.
Price Pocket watch £6,430, watch £4,500 | Montblanc
Hublot Big Bang MECA-10 All Black
Also available in titanium, this 45mm matt black skeleton has all of Hublot's trademark understatedness, which is to say, no understatedness whatsoever.
Based on someone's warped, childhood memories of Meccano, its micro-blasted black ceramic face frames the factory's worth of cogs and gears that makes up the custom-built HUB1201 movement.
This is a manual movement, with 223 components and a 10-day power reserve - remaining power is shown using a unique rack and pinion system. Obviously. There are only 500 of these.
Price $22,000 | Hublot
Carl F Bucherer Patravi TravelTec Black
It's Black Friday every day, with this Swiss chrono coated in multiple layers of DLC ('diamond-like carbon') to give diamond-like hardness and coal-like blackness.
There are three time zones on offer here: two on the main dial and one on the rotating inner bezel, accessed via the button at 10 o'clock. That's not all: a rotating dial at the button's base lets you adjust the selected time zone East or West (ie: minus or plus one hour per button push), depending on your direction of travel. The automatic movement with 42-hour power reserve is COSC certified.
Yes, it is a little busy, but that's chronographs for you. The black's a little too edgy for you? It's okay, there are equivalent models in steel and gold.
Price $15,800 | Carl F Bucherer
IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar
Some of these watches are on the shouty, "oi can't help noticing that oi appear to be considerably richer than yow" side. This is not; it's one of the most beautiful yet unshowy watches you'll ever clap eyes on.
In stainless steel with a 44mm, silver-plated dial and black alligator leather strap, this annual calendar is a classic example of the art of IWC, a brand with heritage stretching back 140 years that nonetheless manages to feel timeless rather than 'vintage'. It's waterproof to 30m, though no way would we wear this in the sea.
The annual calendar can handle everything except leap years - yes, you'll need to manually adjust it every four years - and the self-winding mechanism's two barrels give a full seven-day power reserve.
Price £16,900 | IWC
Breitling Navitimer 01
Around since 1952, this is a quintessentially manly man's watch. Everything about it is brash and blokey, from the 43mm face to tactile, bi-directional bezel. There's a 70-hour power reserve, water resistance to 30m, with chrono dials that track quarter seconds, half an hour and 12 hours.
There are numerous variants on the 01 and if we're being honest, we prefer the steel ones. However, the rose gold is undeniably more luxe, with croc or rose gold strap options pushing the price up higher than this leather one. You can also have it made to measure. It's the perfect pilot's watch, even if your aviating history goes no further than the business class cabin.
Price £15,300 | Breitling
Patek Philippe Calatrava 6000G
Up against hot competition, Patek Philippe has arguably the most impressively opulent stand at the annual festival of horology-based swank, Basel World. Nobody does luxe watches like it does, and the signature, 37mm automatic Calatrava doesn't disappoint.
A masterpiece of Bauhaus-inspired minimalism, the Calatrava shows the date outside of the time (note the two dials), and is made from white gold, with a hand-stitched alligator strap.
Price: £16,000 | Chronext
Rolex GMT-Master II
This watch was the first to cross the English channel on a swimmer, back in 1927 - it was invented in 1926. Which doesn't seem that long ago, really, but it does make this a properly historic piece.
The COSC-certified, self-winding movement shows two time zones, and the usual Rolex Oyster trappings - smart strap, general air of wealthy bon vivant - are present and correct.
Price: £19,950 |Rolex watches
Angelus U10 Tourbillon Lumière
An off-the-scale ridiculous watch-lover's dream of a timepiece, this fetishistically presents its flying, two-barrel tourbillon and is a limited edition of just 25.
There's a linear display to let you know how much of the 90-hour, hand-wound power reserve is left. Further details to set those in the know purring include translucent, grey sapphire, luminescent hands and hour-markers, seven sapphire crystals, and an alligator strap. It's avant garde as hell, as is the price.
€108,000 | Angelus
Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M
Part of Omega's extensive and much loved Seamaster collection, this one adds the brand's innovative, anti-magnetic Aqua Terra tech to maintain greater accuracy. There are cheaper variants of this available; the one pictured here ramps up the price with a dual-metal, pink gold on stainless steel strap and 41.5mm casing.
The Master Co-Axial calibre 8500 movement withstands magnetic fields greater than 15,000 gauss, and is visible through the transparent back.
Rotonde de Cartier Earth and Moon
With a highly unusual complication - a tourbillon that also serves as the moon phase display - and a meteor face that's an expressionist work of art, this is a true watch buff's watch. Specifically, the disk positioned over the tourbillon (at 6 o'clock) shows the moon phase, at the press of a button.
This version is in a 47mm casing of purest pink gold (last year's original was platinum). There are only 15 of them being made, and they will be by no stretch of the imagination affordable.
Price:POA |Cartier Watches
HYT H1 Black DLC and Pink Gold
Here, you're paying for the movement, which is an outrageous example of "because we can" engineering. So a bellows and a piston pump luminescent yellow liquid around the dial to show the hour.
Your friends, impressed by the innovation, the chunky, 48.8mm, black titanium casing with pink gold accents all go, "Wow." Meanwhile your bank emails to say they'd like a word about what appears to be unusual spending on your account.
Price: £115,000 | HYT watches
A Lange & Sohne Perpetual Calendar Terraluna
Unquestionably beautiful, and uncompromisingly expensive, this is nonetheless the very opposite of 'showy', although admittedly it is decidedly hefty at 45.5mm diameter and 16.5mm depth.
It uses no fewer than three overlapping dials to show the time, and three displays for the date, but keeps its best trick around the back, where there's a gorgeous moon phase display.
Price: $216,400 |A. Lange & Sohne watches
Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Manufacture Squelette Ltd Edition
Revelling in one of the most grandioise names even by the standards of this list, Maurice Lacroix's skeleton chronograph is waterproof to 100m, limited to just 250 pieces and a cracking example of what you can get for about six grand if you shop around.
The 45mm casing shows off theML 106-7 caliber movement in all its nude glory, while the hand-stitched croc-skin, calf-lined strap and brushed steel case are nicely blokey and (relatively) understated.
Price: £6,146 |Maurice Lacroix watches
Arnold and Son True Moon
As you'll have noted, complications showing lunar phases are a key element in pushing a watch from 'nice, if pricey' to 'very expensive indeed but sure to make those in the know nod approvingly. The True Moon, with its 46mm rose gold casing,tracks the 29-day, 12 hour, 44 minute lunar month with incredible accuracy, with today's phase appearing at the bottom of the dial.
Losing just one day every 125 years, it's an incredibly impressive application of mechanics. Is it remotely useful for non-mariners or werewolves? Well, that's not the point, is it?
Price: £16,000 |Arnold and Son watches
Zenith Elite 681 Ultra Thin
You can probably guess what the key selling point is here, from the name. Another 20th century modernist classic, this is just 7.6mm thick, whether you opt for a stainless steel or 18-carat rose gold, 40mm casing.
A perfect dress watch, with brown croc strap, this doesn't do much other than tell the time and look good. That'll do.
Price: £8,600 |Zenith watches
Richard Mille RM 63-02 World Timer Automatic
Like a slightly more subtle version of the aforementioned Louis Vuitton Escale, the RM 63-02 has a zone-selecting bezel is connected straight to the main movement, so time in other cities can be seen on the hands. with just a quick twist.
Winding, hand adjustment and 'neutral' are selected via push button, like a car's gears. The skeleton face and oversized date are rather tasty, too.
Price: around £100,000 | Richard Mille watches
Urwerk EMC Timehunter
Urwerk is a brand that exisits on the avant fringe of watchmaking but this, it's latest piece, is much more rercognisably a watch than some of its efforts.
That's not to say it's lacking in innovation. The EMC Time Hunter is a limited edition - there'll only be 30 of them - and it actually allows you to adjust its movement's power supply to suit your lifestyle. The climate of where you live, whether or not you wear it during exercise, and so on can all affect how accurate the movement is, and it's usually tuned to an "average" setting that may not match how the wearer uses the watch.
Oh, and it's also an electro-mechanical watch rather than a purely mechanical one, and hence you "wind" it via a fold-up crank handle.
So yeah, the Timehunter is pretty out there… But by Urwerks' standards, it's also got relatively broad appeal and is very wearable. You still probably can't afford it, though.
Price £80,000 | Urwerk