Whether the season is near or has already passed, there’s no shortage of family and friends who are celebrating their life’s achievements. Everything from promotions to marriages warrants a time of tumultuous thought for the best gift that will make the biggest statement. And for every year that passes, there comes a time of praise — the celebration of growth, admittance to the school of their dreams, or maybe even the turning of a page: the graduation.
Leaving college with the degree that you’ve spent so much time obtaining is a testament to your tenacity as a capable human being. It shows the world that you’ve worked hard to achieve something that you’re passionate about, illustrating the possibility of a life well-spent — furthering your career, your medium, and your legacy. For parents, it’s equally as jarring. Between the rampant emotions of joy, fear, and melancholy, all the way to the unsettling feeling of pure adulation, the role of a mother and father is often one of pure intensity. So, in an effort to show your graduate how proud you are, it’s time to offer them a token of your gratitude — a lifelong investment that, if taken care of, will become an heirloom demarcating one of their most defining days. Below, we’ll cover the best graduation gift watches that you can possibly buy, from renowned, top-end brands like Rolex and Panerai, all the way to well-established entry-level offerings like Shinola and Raymond Weil, we’re taking the hard part out of your post-grad gift shopping. So put away the rose-tinted glasses for just a second (we’re just as proud as you are) — it’s time to dive right in.
The entry-level watch often gets a bad rap, but we know what’s really going on here — people are just trying to keep you away from their ultra-attractive, ultra-affordable wrist-wear so that they won’t have to compete for it during the weeks leading up to graduation. With renowned manufacturers like Seiko, Tissot, and Shinola adorning our list for the top entry-level picks, you can rest assured that you’re getting all of the high-end quality associated with the industry’s most prominent models, without all the hassle of selling a kidney or pulling out a second mortgage on your house. Below, we’ll show you just how easy it is to find the perfect timepiece for your graduate, without the huge investment.
Seiko Presage SARY055 Automatic
Seiko is a watch company that covers all of the bases — from affordable, entry-level offerings, all the way to high-end collector’s pieces. For this list, we’ve decided to focus on one of the brand’s most accessible watches, the Presage SARY055 Automatic. This exceptional piece of Japanese craftsmanship sports a dependable Seiko 4R36 caliber self-winding movement, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, stainless steel bracelet, and water resistance of 100 meters — making it one of the best value propositions for graduates who are looking for classic style, without going overboard. A fine-brushed finish and silver-white dial serve to establish the Presage even further, giving it a timeless look that speaks volumes to its pedigree.
Filson Field Watch
Filson’s Field Watch might take its inspiration from the rugged outdoors, but this U.S. military-oriented watch fits squarely within the realm of classic, affordable wristwear. Maybe it’s the fact that Filson’s tasteful stainless steel screw-down crown lends itself to modern-day dress or the inclusion of a scratch-proof sapphire crystal (with anti-reflective coating) that makes it so desirable — but one thing’s for sure, the field watch is certainly a gift befitting of a college graduate. The affordable variant comes with industry-leading Super-LumiNova hands and markings, making it great for use in low-light, as well as a prestigious 22mm leather strap, precision quartz movement, and 100 meters of tested water-resistance, should things get a little dicey.
Tissot PRS 516 Swiss Automatic
Tissot brings yet another classic looking watch to the table with the PRS 516 Swiss Automatic — combining a classy leather strap with all the trappings of the industry’s top-end wristwear. Whether you’re looking for an authentic gift for the upcoming graduate, or something a little more tasteful for yourself, the PRS 516’s brushed stainless steel case and see-through sapphire crystal snap-down case back are sure to please even the most seasoned watch aficionados. A two-level black dial and silver-toned luminescent hands give the watch a discreet look, while silver indices and an embossed crown compliment the wristwear’s scratch-resistant domed sapphire crystal. The 516 houses a tried-and-true Swiss automatic mechanical movement, alongside an 80-hour power reserve and water resistance of up to 100 meters, making it a refined choice for those who are looking for something a little more dependable than other watches in the price range.
Shinola Canfield Sport
Shinola’s Canfield Sport is an undeniably attractive addition to any graduate’s wardrobe, bringing the company’s tasteful 45mm case into the realm of the affordable. The complexity of the watch is the chronograph’s primary focus, offering a black ceramic bezel, black dial, and polished gold PVD case for the ultimate in classic horological design. Three distinct subdials and a dual calendar aperture give the Canfield a high-end look, alongside a top-loaded case and black leather strap that elevate the watch into the realm of post-graduate candidacy.
Raymond Weil Freelancer Silver Dial Automatic
Raymond Weil’s Freelancer Automatic is the top contender on our list for entry-level options, mostly due to its beautifully crafted stainless steel case, PVD coated tachymeter bezel and an automatically winding mechanical chronograph movement. The stainless steel band with a push-button fold-over clasp add a tasteful characteristic to the urbane watch, while an anti-glare sapphire crystal and coated clasp give the wearer peace of mind when it comes to their durable investment. With 100 meters of water resistance and an array of attributes that help to conserve the watch’s inner workings, the Freelancer is the quintessential piece of wristwear for the college graduate — mirroring their youthful pursuit of knowledge and life, with a no-holds-barred attitude.
Midrange watches strike the perfect balance between style, quality, and prestige, giving you a one-way ticket to the title of “best parent ever,” and likely, a brand new admiration for everything that has to do with horological craftsmanship. The midrange watch is a variation of many things, whether it’s high-end movements, iconic calibres, or just the name associated with the brand, you can bet that companies like Hamilton, Oris, and Breitling will have your best intentions in mind when providing you with the quintessential timepiece for your new professional.
Hamilton Khaki X-Wind Auto Chrono
Hamilton’s watches are among the market’s most popular variants, boasting a large collection of styles, categories, and uses. To kick off our mid-range picks, the company’s Khaki X-Wind Auto Chrono is an undeniable contender, bringing the world’s first drift-angle calculator to the realm of wristwear. This aviation-oriented watch has helped pilots to navigate (and calculate) crosswinds for years, providing the perfect, purposeful timekeeper on and off the ground. A dependable Swiss Automatic movement with analog display, contrast stitched leather band, and luminous dial accents bring the Khaki into the realm of the classic watch, while additions like luminous dial accents, chronograph subdials, and a day/date window provide a contemporary feel. Better yet, you’ll even be able to use the Khaki during certain aquatic endeavors thanks to its 100-meter water resistance rating — making it a perfect choice for that post-graduation vacation.
Baume & Mercier Swiss Automatic Casual
Baume & Mercier’s Swiss Automatic Casual watch is a sight for sore eyes, bringing a beautifully established brown alligator leather strap, stainless steel bezel, and silver dial into the realm of the affordable post-grad gift. While this stylistic piece of wristwear is undoubtedly mid-range, a handful of high-end characteristics have been integrated to give the watch a luxurious feel, including Roman numeral markers, an analog dial with luminescent hands, and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal that makes the Casual’s impeccably placed components all the more attractive. A skeleton case back gives you a classy look into the Automatic’s inner workings, while its dressy style and 50-meter water resistance give it a refined presence that’s certainly “top class.”
Oris Williams Day Date
Oris has been a trusted name in the horological world for quite some time, and since the company’s conception in 1904, they’ve consistently released heritage timepieces with a focus on classic implementation. If you’re looking for a piece of wristwear that exudes class and style, the company’s Williams Day Date is the perfect variant, bringing the prestigious history of motorsport (and Formula 1) into the limelight. The watch, itself, is the primary timepiece for William’s F1 team, sporting a lavish stainless steel case, bezel, and blue dial, further accentuated by luminous hands and hour markers. The company’s own calibre 735 automatic movement and 38-hour power reserve pair with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, transparent case back, and day/date display make it all the more attractive to aficionados who are looking for a high-quality watch, without a significant monetary investment.
Breitling Colt SkyRacer
Breitling’s Colt SkyRace has a bone to pick with the preconception of classic wristwear, including the fact that it can’t be youthful, innovative, and dedicated to a new generation of enthusiasts. The brand’s Volcano Black variant challenges all of the industry’s norms, bringing an ultra-sturdy brushed black polymer case, rubber strap, and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal provide the perfect piece of wristwear for adversarial thrill-seekers. For those who are looking to travel to the distant reaches of the planet, Breitling’s watch sports a unidirectional rotating bezel that’s both lightweight and outfitted with the company’s proprietary Breitlight, an innovative technical polymer that takes its durability to a higher level.
Longines Legend Diver
Longines Legend Diver is the perfect example of a vintage reissue, bringing an immaculate stainless steel case, anti-reflective sapphire crystal, and a bi-directional rotating bezel into the realm of the iconic dive watch genre. To live up to the brand’s exceptional name, the Legend integrates perfected proportions and legibility with all of the original, heritage attributes of the brand’s flagship, including an internal turning diving flange, screw-in crown, and 42mm diameter that has a defining presence on the wrist. Better yet, the watch is water resistant up to 30 bars.
The high end is where things get a little more serious — with brands like Omega, Rolex, and Panerai adorning the listing, it’s clear that we’re no longer in the realm of uninformed craftsmanship. With each of the companies in this category, you’re paying for the ultimate in Swiss internals, finely-tuned devices that will accrue interest as they grow older, and legacy-imbued wrist-wear that will give your graduate the professional edge they’ll need when shooting for the stars. Browse at your own leisure — and remember, nothing says “I’m proud of your achievement” quite like a high-end collector’s timepiece.
Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch
OMEGA and its extensive catalog of watches have been the products of evolution for the last half-century, adorning the wrists of the world’s most prolific adventurers, achievers, and minds. Now, the Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch is taking things a step further — one large step, to be exact. Widely known as the “man on the moon” watch, this black dial chronograph utilizes a manual winding movement built upon Omega’s dependable 1861 calibre, and a 48-hour power reserve that’s nearly identical to the first OMEGA Speedmaster worn by NASA’s pilots, including the first-ever manned lunar landing. If that’s not a sign of unadulterated quality, we don’t know what is. To protect it all, a hesalite crystal and 42mm stainless steel case keep everything in order — giving the watch a refined look, overall. The Moonwatch clocks in as one of the most famous chronographs to ever hit the market, and with a rich heritage, it’s not hard to see why it would make a perfect gift for the graduate.
Tag Heuer Monaco Chronograph
The Tag Heuer Monaco has been worn by many an individual, but none of them can hold a candle to the watch’s true owner — race-car driver turned legendary men’s style icon, Steve McQueen. After sporting the watch in his famous Hollywood film, 1970’s Le Mans, the Monaco became a symbol for individuals who wanted to live life on the edge — or, at least, those who wanted to appear that way. This vintage timepiece retains all of the elegance of its original model, sporting an iconic square case that’s both waterproof and pressure tested up to 100 meters. A fine, brushed-steel case body and sapphire case back provide the perfect resting place for the watch’s attractive sapphire crystal, while rhodium-plated indexes exude style and poise. The Monaco’s Swiss-made Calibre 12 movement and 40-hour power reserve give you peace of mind when it comes to the watch’s longevity, offering you a handsome piece of timekeeping memorabilia that will last a lifetime.
Bell & Ross 126 Sport Heritage GMT
Bell & Ross have been creating some of the industry’s most fastidious watches for the last three decades, and with attractive silhouettes that combine the vintage aesthetic of the world’s most iconic watches with a hint of modernity, they’ve hit a winning number with their well-rounded catalog of timekeepers. The 126 Sport Heritage GMT is one such watch, boasting an attractive black dial, chronograph, self-winding automatic movement, and luminescent hands for all-day legibility. The watch is tastefully adorned, pairing a vintage brown leather strap, polished steel case, and scratch-resistant sapphire to bring you the ultimate in classic style. But don’t worry, Bell & Ross’ extensive lineup of watches won’t leave you out to dry when there’s inclement weather – a 100-meter water resistance and quick release deployment buckle give you all the reassurance you need if your graduate is planning to keep it with them wherever they go.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual needs no introduction — if you’ve been an avid follower of the industry’s top watch brands, you already know of the company’s prestigious offerings. Instead, we’ll give you the details surrounding the watch right off the bat. This Swiss-made timepiece is one of the most tasteful accessories you can buy, from its carefully-crafted black dial, domed bezel, and precise time settings, all the way to the brand’s legendary, self-winding chronometer movement, the Oyster Perpetual is an exercise in centurial wristwear. A brushed 904L Oystersteel stainless steel bracelet secures the prestigious piece to your wrist, while a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal protects the Rolex’s specialized 3132 calibre internals. The Perpetual’s Twinlock double waterproof system provides exceptional protection from the incursion of moisture or liquids, boasting 100 meters water of resistance. Since the authenticity of the watch is prized above all else, the organization has offered a certificate of legitimacy with each purchase, giving your graduate the security for future sale, should they ever decide to part with this Rolex later on.
Panerai Men’s Luminor
Panerai’s Luminor comes in as the final selection on our list, and in a way, we’ve saved the best for last. There’s just something about the brand’s “5-Days” Automatic GMT that makes us recognize its brilliance — whether it’s the instantly discernable brushed steel crown, satin finished case, or the attractive, Arabic numeral-imbued dial, the Luminor stands out among its peers as an exceptionally well-crafted watch. Polished steel hands and luminous indexes provide accurate legibility, no matter the time of day, pairing with the enticing anti-reflective sapphire crystal and tasteful rubber strap — both of which add a certain “prestige” to the timepiece. Panerai’s established P.9001 in-house movement provides accurate operation for the lifetime of the watch, alongside a three-day power reserve mode and over 227 specialized components in the wristwear’s interior — making it an exceptional work of art. If you’re willing to make the investment, there’s no other watch that will say “congratulations” quite like the Luminor.
The 22 Best Pieces Of NASA-Developed Gear You Can Get On Earth
If a timepiece doesn’t quite feel like the perfect gift for your favorite graduate, perhaps you need to think outside the box. You can find an out-of-this-world gift on our list of the best NASA-developed gear you can get on Earth.
HiConsumption is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more