Buying an expensive watch is an investment in yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re willing to spend $500 or $5,000 – everyone wants to get the best timepiece they can afford.
To that end, we talked with Benjamin Clymer, founder and CEO of the luxury watch publication Hodinkee, to get his recommendations for the absolute best watch or watches you can buy at common price ranges.
All of these watches offer exemplary value, better-than-average resale, and will make any watch fan very happy.
Less than $500: Any Seiko
- Matthew DeBord/BI
It’s hard to find a better deal than a Seiko watch. Unique automatic movements and a low starting price make them the singular best first move for an aspiring collector.
Around $1,000: Vintage Universal Geneve Polerouter or any vintage Tissot
At the $1,000 range, Clymer says vintage may be a good way to go. Though vintage comes with its own pluses and minuses, the allure of a Tissot or Universal Geneve Polerouter cannot be overstated.
$2,000 — $3,000: Any Tudor, any Nomos, or a vintage Omega
In this price range, your options really open up. Many models sold by Tudor, Rolex’s cheaper sister brand, and Nomos, a well-respected but under-the-radar German brand, fall into this range. Both make fantastic original movements and are great values for the money.
Another good option if you want to go vintage in this range is Omega, which makes some of the stateliest pieces of the 20th century.
Around $5,000: Rolex Oyster Perpetual or Omega Speedmaster Professional
Finally, a real Rolex. As we know, Rolex has made a name for itself for a reason, and its cheapest model, the Oyster Perpetual, is among the best values at this price range.
Another option is Omega’s Speedmaster Professional, a truly gentlemanly watch.
$7,000-$8,000: IWC Portugieser
Now, as things get more expensive we move further into “legends” territory. In the $7,000 range, Clymer recommends the IWC Portugieser, a gorgeous and recognizable watch with a great history.
Around $9,000: Jaeger LeCoulter Reversro or Zenith El Primero
A few G’s north of that, the Art Deco-styled Jaeger LeCoulter Reversro and the sporty Zenith El Primero are the best bang for your buck, Clymer says.
$12,000: Daytona or ceramic-bezel Omega Speedmaster
Continuing with the legends theme, the Rolex Daytona is a certified icon.
The price is around $12,000, but expect to wait a while for one, as Rolex limits how many of these special watches are released into the wild.
A similar watch is the Omega Speedmaster with ceramic bezel, which adds an extra level of understated flair.
$15,000: Jaeger-LeCoultre, or A. Lange & Sohne, or a secondhand Patek Philippe
Once we graduate to $15,000, the options really start to open up. Many of the watches from the best makers in the world fall into this category, including Jaeger-LeCoultre and A. Lange & Sohne, Clymer says.
Even a secondhand Patek Philippe, which many consider the best watchmaker in the world, can be had for this price.
$20,000: Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual
At $20,000, this Jaeger-LeCoultre stands out as the watch to buy, Clymer says.
The Master Perpetual features a killer dial, a moonphase complication, and most notably, a perpetual calendar that takes into account leap years. It’s all tucked into an absurdly thin package.
Dress watches don’t get much better than this.
$50,000: Vacheron Constantin Cornes De Vache or any A. Lange & Sohne Chronograph
If you have 50 big ones to spend on a watch, you might better off buying a few different watches at this point.
But in the case that you’re set on getting one enormous statement piece, you’re going to want a chronograph. The one to buy, according to Clymer, is Vacheron Constantin Cornes De Vache, a handsome watch that is critically acclaimed.
If, for whatever reason, that isn’t your cup of tea, Clymber also recommends any of A. Lange & Sohne’s stellar chronographs.
$50,000-$100,000: A. Lange & Sohne Datograph, or Richard Lange, or any IWC Perpetual Calendars
- World of Luxury
The more high-end the watches, the more complicated they get. In order to charge these astronomical prices, watchmakers pack as many well-touted special features as possible into as small a package as possible.
The highest of the form is represented in the A. Lange & Sohne Datograph, or Richard Lange, or any of the IWC Perpetual Calendars. You can’t go wrong with any of these.
>$100,000: Patek Phillippe tourbillon or vintage
- Patek Philippe
If you’re spending $100,000 or more on a watch, you better be getting your money’s worth.
For that, you have two options.
Either get a Patek Philippe tourbillon model – which represents the highest of the art of watchmaking in its current form – or go vintage.
Vintage watches in this price range hold their value better than most previous ranges, as they’re some of the most highly sought-after collectibles in the watch sphere, and can be resold again if you desire it.