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 someone to express their personality and make a statement. The statement being, "I have a large amount of disposable income, or am VERY good at saving up."
The watches featured in this article may come from companies you have never heard of – there is no Rolex, Tag Heuer or Omega – but we urge you to stick with us, for these timepieces are unlike their common or garden rivals.
If anything, this selection will make you realise just how many luxury watchmakers there are; it truly is an enormous and diverse industry.
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These are works out art as much as they are tools for time-telling; meticulously engineered from precious materials, and in some cases just a handful will be produced, making them almost unique.
The watches we have chosen for this article start at around £7,000, but quickly accelerate up to £30,000, then onwards to over £140,000.
As the price ticks upwards, so does a watch’s complexity, producing longer power reserve times, more complications on the face, and even an entirely different way of reading time – as with those from Urwerk and HYT.
So grab the Coutts Silk card and join us on a look at today’s most desirable luxury watches.
A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1
- Price: €31,700 (around £28,500)
This modestly sized 38.5mm wristwatch has a face crafted from solid silver and adorned with solid white gold appliques and hour markers. The hands are made of rhodium-plated gold, while the case is white gold.
Produced by A. Lange & Sohne of Germany, the Lange 1 features a date complication which is around three times larger than the norm, making something of a statement, while the time itself is offset to the left giving the watch an intriguing look.
The L121.1 automatic movement contain 43 rubies and has a power reserve of up to 72 hours, meaning it can be left unworn for a weekend without losing time.
Angelus U10 Tourbillon Lumière
- Price: €108,000 (around £97,000)
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.
Arnold & Son Globetrotter
- Price: £14,000
The party piece of the Globetrotter by Arnold & Son is its rotating northern hemisphere, which complete a 360-degree spin every 24 hours and features blue lacquer applied in varying amounts to mimic the depths of the ocean. The landmass, positioned as if viewed from directly above the North Pole, is made from a rounded piece of brass which is polished and sandblasted to create a sense of height and depth in mountainous regions.
Although not strictly a watch to help you keep track of time as you traverse the globe, despite the name, this is a timepiece that will surely make a statement wherever it is worn. The stainless steel case, which is 45mm across and a chunky 17.2mm thick, will certainly see to that.
The Arnold & Son-made automatic movement has a power reserve of 45 hours and contains 29 jewels.
Breguet Marine Chronographe 5527
- Price: £22,600
This chronograph watch is available in six variants, but we have chosen the 18-carat white gold model with blue dial and matching leather strap. The mechanical self-winding movement, presented through a sapphire case back, contains 36 jewels and has a 45-hour power reserve.
At 40mm, the Chronographe 5527 is fairly compact for a watch of this style, especially considering the three-dial chronograph controlled by buttons at two and four o’clock. Water resistance is 50 metres.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic
- Price: $118,000 (around £93,500)
Limited to just 50 examples, the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic by Bulgari is a masterpiece in watch design and engineering. The fiendishly complicated movement is just 1.95mm thick, while the entire watch measures just 3.95mm.
The case and matching strap are both formed from sandblasted titanium, water resistance is 30 metres, and the watch has a 55-hour power reserve.
Carl F Bucherer Manero Chronoperpetual Limited Edition
- Price: £33,200
Limited to 1,000 pieces, what makes this watch by Carl F Bucherer special is its perpetual calendar, which can account for leap years and never needs correcting.
Instead, the three dials - one for the day, one for the date, and one for the month - simply look after themselves, no matter how long the current month is. In fact, the watch’s date will not need manual correction until the year 2100, which is when the next leap year is omitted due to the rules of the Gregorian calendar.
There’s also a moonphase complication, for that extra little something.
The 18-carat rose gold case with sapphire crystal is water resistant to 30 metres and measures 42.5mm by 14.3mm. The strap is hand-stitched Louisiana alligator leather with an 18-carat rose gold buckle, while the automatic 49-jewel movement has a power reserve of 50 hours.
Franck Muller V45 Vanguard Skeleton Polished Steel
- Price: £35,800
We admit that reading the time takes more than a glance of the V45 Vanguard Skeleton by Franck Muller, but when you’ve spent the thick end of £35,000 on a watch, you’ll want to take more than the occasional glance at it.
And so you should, because this watch’s striking rectangular case houses a magnificently complex manually-wound movement. Almost every element appears to be polished to within an inch of its life, giving this watch the appearance of beautifully crafted engine.
Setting this watch apart from other automatics is how its power reserve is measured in days rather than hours - a full seven days, in fact, or a whopping 168 hours.
- Price: $95,000 (around £75,000)
As much a beautifully engineered sculpture for the wrist as a means of telling the time, the H20 by Swiss watchmaker HYT is a stunning piece. At 51mm in diameter and almost 20mm thick, the H20 is by no means a conservative watch - more of a conversation-starter, in fact.
Curved to look like “a smoothed stone that has weathered time to perfection,” HYT says, the transparent case offers a clear view of the H20’s inner workings. This includes the watch’s main event, a capillary filled with a green liquid which progresses around the face to measure the passing of time each day.
Limited to just 25 examples, the HYT H20 is water resistant to 30 metres and has a huge 192-hour power reserve. A truly unique wristwatch.
Richard Mille RM 11-03 McLaren Automatic Flyback Chronograph
- Price: CHF 180,000 (around £143,700)
Costing about as much as an actual McLaren, this Richard Mille timepiece is limited to just 500 examples and features orange details to match the supercar maker’s corporate colour. Titanium pushers echo the design of the McLaren 720S’ headlights, while titanium inserts mimic the shape of the McLaren F1’s air-intake snorkel.
The watch is made from carbon TPT, a high-tech material shared by the cabin of the new McLaren Speedtail, and a skeleton design with sapphire crystal front and back means you can admire the complexities of the automatic movement.
Richard Mille’s own RMAC3 calibre mechanism includes a flyback chronograph and offers up to 55 hours of power reserve. Additional complications include an annual calendar with oversized date, plus a 12-hour chronograph and countdown timer.
Monsieur de Chanel Monsieur Watch, Platinum Blue
- Price: £55,500
A quick glance at this watch by Chanel and you might think it’s more traditional than the likes of the HYT and Richard Mille. But look again, and you might wonder how this is actually telling the time. That’s because the larger dial is for the minutes and the smaller is for the hour - with the large date sitting below, at six o’clock.
It’s a smart blend of traditional case and strap, with novel way of actually telling the time.
Given the high price tag, the materials Chanel uses for the Monsieur are as you might expect. That means the 40mm case is platinum and the buckle is 18-carat white gold, while the leather is alligator and the face is enamel with rhodium plated hands. Inside, there’s a mechanical, manually wound movement.
Patek Philippe Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph
- Price: £40,800
Spending more time on your private jet than the sofa? We hear you, and thankfully so does Patek Philippe, which offers the 40.5mm Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph - a watch which simply and discreetly displays two time zones at once.
This is thanks to the second hour hand - in white and pointing to eight o’clock in the image - and the two Local and Home apertures at three and nine. These are either light or dark depending on the time of day in each time zone; so if it’s 2am at home but 3pm locally, the apertures will be dark and light respectively.
The mechanical self-winding mechanism includes 34 jewels and has a power reserve of up to 55 hours.
Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Automatic
- Price: £27,200
This compact 41mm white gold timepiece proudly shows off its ultra-thin, self-winding mechanical movement, and to such an extent that the watch face itself is seemingly shoved to one side to make room.
And why not? Those cogs are beautifully engineered and deserve to be on display. This watch is only 4.3mm thick, making it one of the world’s thinnest mechanical timepieces, and comes with a black alligator strap.
Ressence Type 1 MRP 42mm Rose Gold
- Price: £25,850
After feast for the eyes - by which we mean, it takes a minute to work out what the time actually is - this Ressence features no traditional hands. Instead, the so-called Ressence Orbital Convex System sees the sub-dials of hours, seconds and days of the week revolve continuously around the face.
Inside, the custom self-winding movement houses 40 jewels and 27 gears, and has a 36-hour power reserve.
Despite looking like a large timepiece, the Type 1 is a fairly average 42mm across and 12.8mm thick. The watch is made from rose gold and grade-five titanium, with an elegant brown leather strap.
Roger Dubuis Excalibur Aventador S Bucherer Blue Edition
- Price: £201,000
Roger Dubuis is a relatively new watch brand that has been at the forefront of contemporary Haute Horlogerie since 1995. Its known for bold and extravagant pieces, often with a strong motorsport influence, with the finest watchmaking mechanisms at their heart.
Its most recognisable piece is the Excalibur Aventador S powered by a Duotor, a hand-wound calibre that was designed and developed by the Roger Dubuis factory.
This limited edition model was created for the Bucherer Blue Editions collection, and features the Swiss jeweller's famous blue. It is limited to just eight pieces.
To match the Roger Dubuis timepieces a Lamborghini Aventador S Blue Edition has also been launched. The 750-horsepower V12 engine powers the car from 0 to 62mph in 2.9 seconds with a max speed of 217mph. The matt Blu Kairos colour has been developed exclusively for Bucherer to make this supercar a unique and fascinating expression, available to buy at CHF 600,600.
Rotonde de Cartier Earth and Moon
- Price: POA
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.
Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer
- Price: CHF 7,900 (around £6,300)
Back to the traditional watches now, and this purposeful-looking diving chronometer by Ulysse. This is a large (44mm) titanium timepiece with a power reserve dial at 12 o’clock and a date complication at six o’clock, housed inside a seconds dial.
Being a diving watch, the case is water resistant to a depth of 300 metres and there’s a unidirectional rotating bezel, plus a hard-wearing rubber strap.
- Price: CHF 130,000 (around £104,000)
Time for another trip onto the abstract side of the street, and the beguiling Urwerk UR-111C - a watch which proudly boasts about none of its indications being conventional.
The time is viewed on the side of the watch rather than its face, with a jumping hour display on the left, a rolling minute counter on the left, and a digital second display on the top (where the face would normally be), which uses an array of optical fibres to project the number onto a sapphire crystal window. Told you it was unconventional.
Instead of a regular crown, the Urwerk employs a pop-out lever which looks more like something you’d start a vintage car with. It’s a thing of real mechanical beauty, to the extent that the 48 hours of power reserve, 37 jewels and crocodile strap really come as an afterthought.
If you want one you’d better be quick - only 25 examples will be made in each of the two finishes, which are stainless steel, and stainless steel with gunmetal.
Vacheron Constantin Fifty Six Complete Calendar 40mm
- Price: £19,700
And finally, this beautiful 40mm watch by Vacheron Constantin has a stainless steel case, alligator strap, and an automatic mechanical movement powering day, month, and moonphase complications. The date is shown via a second hand sweeping around the dial.
The caliber 2460 movement is made up of 308 parts and 27 jewels, and has a power reserve of 40 hours. Beautifully intricate and with brass detailing, the movement can be viewed through the case’s sapphire crystal back.