The 10 Best Luxury Watches for the New Collector

Nov 24, 2021

Category: Style

While there is certainly plenty of joy to be had in collecting affordable watches, the siren song of the luxury watch often proves too tempting for many a collector to ignore. The story is almost always the same. A person develops a passing interest in mechanical watches. They pick up an affordable automatic, maybe a Seiko. Then they decide to expand their collection and add another affordable to the mix. Then another. And before you know it, they’re budgeting five grand to graduate to their first “big boy” watch from the likes of Omega and Tudor. We’ve seen it happen a thousand times. But luxury watches are a significant investment, and we wouldn’t want you to waste your money on the wrong one. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to the best luxury watches for the new collector.

For this guide, we played in the sandbox of watches valued at $2,000 to $6,000 — give or take — to hone in on the timepieces that the fledgling luxury watch buyer would likely be interested in. From there, we broke it down by style type, selecting the best watches in their respective categories to match what you’re looking for. Whether you’re in the market for a snazzy dress watch, a rugged diver, or a high-flying travel watch, you’ll find something to suit your needs and budget below.

Video Guide: 5 Best Luxury Watches For New Collectors

To truly appreciate luxury watches, you really need to see them in action to better observe their attention to detail. Dive into our best watches for new collectors video guide.

NOMOS Orion 38

Best Dress Watch: Based in Glashütte, the traditional German epicenter of watchmaking, NOMOS has lots of wonderful options in this price bracket, especially when it comes to dress watches. But there’s something about the beautiful simplicity of the Orion that makes it the watch for us. A stunning example of NOMOS’s mastery of Bauhaus design, the watch keeps things uncluttered — as a dress watch should — with stick hands, thin baton indices, a small seconds complication, and a no-date, hand-wound movement. The movement is NOMOS’s own legendary Alpha Caliber, a dressed-to-the-nines 2.6mm-thick wonder that keeps the Orion’s case profile razor-thin at just 8.9mm. The Horween Shell Cordovan strap is also a standout.

Purchase: $2,560+

Longines Avigation BigEye

Best Chronograph Watch: Thanks to their long association with motorsports, aviation, and even space travel, nothing says “cool” quite like a chronograph. Picking up a solid luxury mechanical chrono in our price bracket is no easy task, but Longines has a great one in the Avigation BigEye. A modernized reboot of a Longines piece from the 1930s, this stunner has loads of cachet and flair. The petroleum blue dial features a grained pattern and fades to black as you near the minute track, the oversized crown and pushers add plenty of character while also providing ease of use, and the namesake “Big Eye” chronograph minute counter is a lovely quirk. Bringing it all together is a titanium case that keeps everything light on the wrist.

Purchase: $3,225

Tudor Black Bay GMT

Best Travel Watch: If you plan on doing some globetrotting with a luxury timepiece on your wrist, you really ought to pick up a GMT. Our pick in that realm, unequivocally, is Tudor’s Black Bay GMT. The spiritual sibling to sister brand Rolex’s iconic GMT Master II (and a more accurate representation of the classic Pepsi GMTs of decades past than Rolex’s current product), this Tudor is a modern GMT with plenty of retro style. Its bidirectional aluminum bezel features a classy and classic red and blue pattern, its matte black dial provides excellent contrast with all four lumed hands, and it even boasts an in-house, COSC-certified, “true” GMT movement with an independently adjustable hour hand that allows you to update your local time to a new time zone without disturbing the watch’s timekeeping.

Purchase: $3,725+

Grand Seiko SBGA427

Best Everyday Watch: An everyday or “GADA” (Go Anywhere, Do Anything) watch needs to do a lot of things well. It should be robust, easy to care for, and work in casual and formal situations. That’s what many watches from Grand Seiko’s Heritage Collection, such as the SBGA427, do with perfection. Beautifully finished with the brand’s famed Zaratsu polish and trademark sharp hands and indices, the watch toes the line between sporty and dressy with ease. It boasts 100m water resistance, a three-link stainless steel bracelet, and most impressive of all, it houses Grand Seiko’s own revolutionary hybrid Spring Drive movement that combines the accuracy of quartz timekeeping with the craftsmanship, soul, and decoration of an automatic.

Purchase: $5,000

Omega Seamaster 300

Best Dive Watch: Omega’s updated version of the original Seamaster 300 from 1957 — the brand’s first professional dive watch — looks like a surviving relic from the mid-century, but it’s actually a thoroughly-modern luxury timepiece. The watch’s “vintage” Super-LumiNova lume, iconic broad arrow handset, thin dive bezel, and lack of crown guards all scream “retro,” but its showstopping finishing (especially the Geneva waves in arabesque decoration on the displayed movement), polished ceramic bezel with Liquidmetal diving scale, and METAS-certified Master Co-Axial calibre 8400 movement with magnetic resistance to 15,000 gauss are all thoroughly 21st century.

Purchase: $6,800

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Big Date

Best Intro To Luxury: Let’s be honest: even if you are ready to spend a lot of money on a luxury watch, you might still prefer to dip a toe rather than take the plunge. In other words, if you’re looking to get into the luxury watch game without spending over $2k, then you really ought to be looking at Oris. The famously independent Swiss brand has many offerings at such a price point, but we prefer the Big Crown ProPilot Big Date. A modernized take on a pilot’s watch (as opposed to the brand’s more traditional Big Crown series), the ProPilot features a sleek design with an excellent articulating bracelet with a cheeky aviation-themed clasp, bright and bold applied Arabic indices, and a trademark knurled bezel with matching big crown (naturally).

Purchase: $1,900

The Rest

Barely Edged Out

We found it hard to limit ourselves to just six top luxury watches, so here are four more that you should strongly consider as your first big purchase.

Hamilton Intra-Matic Chronograph H

While Hamilton is most certainly a legendary watch brand thanks to their time spent as an American watchmaker and their long-running association with Hollywood, they’re not always considered a luxury brand, as many of their watches come in under $1,000. But Hamilton, which like Longines and Omega is a member of the Swatch Group, does indeed make luxury watches. One of their priciest pieces, which comes in at the lower end of the spectrum as far as luxury watches go, is this gorgeous manual-wind chronograph. A modernized yet faithful version of a Hamilton chrono from the ’60s, the Intra-Matic H just oozes old-school cool with its box-shaped sapphire crystal, mesh bracelet, and panda dial.

Purchase: $2,095

Bell & Ross BR 03-92

The watches we’ve recommended up to this point have all been rather classic. We’ve had some splashes of color here and there, but everything’s been largely restrained and, often, vintage-inspired. But if you’re someone who’s looking for something a bit more, shall we say, conspicuous for your first luxury watch, then Bell & Ross will deliver in spades. The French-owned, Swiss-made brand is known for their unique and oversized pilot’s instruments watches that look like they were ripped from the cockpit of a fighter jet. The BR 03-92 is one of their most classic looks, with its signature massive square matte black ceramic case housing its round dial with high-vis hands and indices.

Purchase: $3,700+

Cartier Tank Must XL

One of the oldest extant watch designs and a true icon in the industry is Cartier’s timeless dress watch, the Tank. Originally designed to resemble the image of a WWI-era tank from above, the legendary timepiece has graced the wrist of everyone from Muhammad Ali to Clark Gable to Andy Warhol… will you be next? Impressive pedigree aside, the Tank remains a perfect dress watch over a century after its inception, especially this Must XL version as it offers a more modern, larger case and houses an in-house automatic movement. But don’t worry, you’re still getting all the classic goodies like the silvered flinqué dial and heat-treated blued-steel hands.

Purchase: $3,700+

IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII

Speaking of classic watch designs, IWC was one of the progenitors of the most quintessential pilot’s watch styles back in WWII. Over the ensuing decades, they evolved the design into their aptly named “Pilot’s Watch.” When most people think of a pilot’s watch, they’re picturing an IWC, and while the bulk of the luxury brand’s collection will take you well north of $6K, many of their basic pilot’s watches will not. You can’t really go wrong with any of them, if we’re being honest, as their combination of universal good looks, rugged durability, and historical significance make for a potent combination. But if we had to pick one version, we’d go with the always-popular “Le Petit Prince” version for its striking blue sunray dial.

Purchase: $4,250+

24 Best Affordable Alternatives To Iconic Luxury Watches

Not quite ready to invest in a luxury watch? No worries, we’ve got you covered. Have a look at our guide to the best affordable alternatives to iconic luxury watches to find something that will tide you over until you’re prepared to make that leap to luxury.

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