Last time we looked at some of the best watches you can find for under $1000 in our low budget watch guide. The article was such a great success we figured we would continue it by doing the next set of wonderful watches. Here, I proudly present to you, my top picks for watches between $1000 and $10,000.
With a higher and much broader price range, I assumed it would be easier to pick a handful of watches. It wasn’t. It gave me more to choose from but often you like watch number one for this reason and watch number two for that. It becomes difficult to decide which one to place. For that reason please keep in mind that there are many watches I adore that did not make this list, not because they shouldn’t, but because we can’t list every watch there is.
The criteria chosen was simple. It had to be a well made watch, with some significance behind the brand and it had to be worth the price tag affixed to it, albeit that’s often arguable.
$1000 – $5000
Tag Heuer Formula 1 Model CAU1110.BA0858
If you’re hell-bent on entering the luxury watch market and need a decent watch with a reputable name to start off your collection, this isn’t a bad pick. Yes, it’s quartz movement but at least it’s reliable. Tag Heuer has long enjoyed a prominent place in the entry-level luxury market. It used to be well deserved with the Monaco and other vintage pieces produced in the past. However, in recent years they’ve lost some of their quality and increased in price with celebrity endorsement deals and great marketing strategies. In my opinion, the line has been damaged in the eyes of true collectors, with the exception of some of their classic vintage pieces. However, they still have a very strong following and are one of the best known luxury watches on the market according to public perception. If you are looking for a basic watch to drive you into a collection, this is a decent pick. It is overpriced but you’re paying for the brand name and if that’s what you’re looking for, that’s exactly what you’re going to get.
Frederique Constant Slim Line Model FC-306S4S6
I’ve talked about Frederique Constant before and for good reason; I like them. If you can’t afford a Calatrava or Patrimony, this 8.8mm thick timepiece might be the perfect alternative. It’s a classic and refined automatic dress watch that looks resplendent under a dinner jacket and it’s as discreet as you are with a certain shine that demands attention. It really is one of my favorite watches on this list.
Cartier Tank Solo Model W5200014
This watch is about as classic as it comes. The Cartier Tank is one of those most well known designs in luxury timepieces and this particular model is exceptionally reasonable compared to some of the other Tank models. Unfortunately, this piece is a quartz movement, but you have to take a cut somewhere. The reason this watch is on the recommended list as opposed to another mechanical Tank that’s slightly more is because this is a great introductory timepiece for the gentleman with a limited budget who wants an impressive name. And as far as Swiss quartz watches go; this is a well designed and well built one.
Brooks Brothers Automatic Chronograph
I’m only including this watch because I love Brooks Brothers and have a mild addiction to the brand. Mild as in I can’t walk past a store without buying something. Anyhow, this watch is actually made by Seiko and at the price point, Seiko makes some of the best watches in the range, hands down. Marked with the quality of craftsmanship that Seiko is known for, with the history that Brooks Brothers has behind it’s name, this particular watch is one I would strongly consider as an everyday wear.
Omega Seamaster 300 Ref 2222.80.00
The other Bond watch, Omega’s Seamaster is a worthy contender for those wanting a great diving watch. Featuring the Omega 2500 caliber movement with co-axial escapement, this is a watch that’s been highly upgraded from some of the older versions. More popular than Rolex in the Asian markets, Omega provides a superlative option for those wanting to avoid the Rolex name.
Breitling Transocean Chronograph Model AB015212-G724L2
For those who like having a chronograph on their wrist, I recommend this particular Transocean by Breitling. Known for their history in aviation, this particular automatic maintains a slender frame encasing the Breitling Caliber 01 movement. Although I don’t personally recommend a lot of Breitlings, it is an excellent start to any mid-grade watch collection owned by a sports enthusiast.
Bell & Ross Model BRWW1-92MLTRY
I’m a pretty big fan of vintage watches and while this automatic watch is technically made today, it’s vintage inspired which I find exciting. Bell & Ross has a very loyal following for such a young company. Their watches are usually quite large (too big for my wrists) but the whole focus is easy readability. If you’re looking for that WWI inspired trench style watch this might be the pick for you. It’s large at 45mm but it has a certain appeal, at least to me. I especially like the distressed calf strap they come with.
Oris Aquis Chronograph Model 774.7655.4154.MB
There are a lot of watch collectors that aren’t fans of Oris but I’m inclined to disagree. I actually have quite a bit of respect for the brand. They’ve stayed true and haven’t attempted to over-market themselves as a superior watch. The price point is very fair and they’ve really made an effort to ensure the quality is the same as it was a hundred years ago when the brand was proudly founded.
This particular timepiece is one of the most commonly found Oris watches you’ll find and that’s why it’s included in this list. A chronograph, this watch is easily recognizable as a luxury timepiece and for the price it’s a really great addition to your wrist. I normally don’t condone or review brands based on the brand and it’s public perception on your wrist. I believe watches are art and there’s no need to publicize them the way some men do. However, when you’re considering a watch in this price point, many men are looking for something recognizable as a statement on their wrist. In my opinion, this watch will serve you well, not quite as billboard”ish” as a Rolex or Tag, but still a prominent advertisement of achievement.
Tag Heuer Carerra Model CV2010.BA0794
This is the watch you see on the wrists of Tiger Woods and Brad Pitt in Tag advertisements. If you’re looking for a recognizable Tag Heuer, this is the pick for you. It’s an automatic, which right away makes it superior to the Tag listed above and really, it’s not a hell of a lot more expensive than the Formula 1. It has the TAGHeuer Calibre 16 Automatic movement which is a base ETA 7750. It is a chronograph which many gents look for in an everyday timepiece and it’s not so big at 41mm that you “can’t” wear it with business attire such as a suit or blazer. It’s also sporty enough that it works perfectly with casual wear or street wear.
$5000 – $10000
IWC Aquatimer Model IW376708
IWC is one of those companies I’m usually ranting about and complaining about the same as Panerai or Tag Heuer. However, I want to include this Aquatimer in this list, not because I included both Tag and Panerai, but because I think it’s worthy of your attention.
At the mid price point for this range, this Aquatimer is actually a pretty fantastic deal. Most people associate IWC with higher priced watches and they usually are. This particular model is really affordable with the IWC Calibre 79320 movement buried inside its colorful, sporty exterior. As far as sports watches go, I really like this Aquatimer. It’s a fairly high quality watch for the price and while I think it’s slightly overpriced, it’s still far better than the Tag Heuer and Panerai watches I’ve placed in this guide. The Tags and the Panerai are watches you buy for the brand name, this is a watch you can buy for the name or the quality. IWC has really taken a hit in quality over the years and for the most part is severely overpriced, however, this particular piece is a little more affordable and matches the quality to the price. It’s not a bad little addition to your collection. In fact, it’s rather good.
Ulysse Nardin Maxi Marine Diver Model 263-333-82
Water resistant to 1,000ft, Ulysse Nardin has developed a reputation for its ingenuity and craftsmanship. At just under $8000, this particular C.O.S.C. automatic timepiece has Ulysse Nardin’s house made UN26 movement inside. The only downside? It comes standard with a rubber strap; but, if you’re using it for diving that’s not a bad thing. Note: This is not a watch to wear with your suit. If you work in an office read above, if you work 800 feet below sea level, pick this.
Habring2 Doppel 2.0
Richard Habring began his career mentoring under Günter Blümlein before he set off with his wife Maria to design this absolutely superlative timepiece worthy of at least a few extra thousand dollars. It took their small Austrian company twenty years to develop this particular watch and it’s been viewed as extraordinary by collectors ever since. If you’re looking for an out-of-the-box watch that can ignite conversations this is absolutely your top pick.
Rolex Datejust Model 116234WR
If you’re starting a new watch collection or just interested in adding the Rolex name to your current one, this Datejust is an excellent entry-level piece worthy of your attention.
Don’t let the word “entry-level” deceive you; this watch is a Rolex and that means that as far as quality goes, this is about as superb as it gets. Rolex makes everything in house and the Datejust is no exception. It’s Automatic C.O.S.C. Rolex Caliber 3115 movement is going to be about the best bang for your buck you can find in the luxury market at this price point. Don’t let anyone fool you – this may be an entry-level Rolex, but it’s nowhere near the entry-level models from some of the other luxury brands.
Take a page out of history, this watch had a great showing at Baselworld and is arguably one of the nicest looking Omega watches on the market today. With the Omega 9300 caliber movement, this watch is designed for driving. All in all, it’s not a bad bet, and in my opinion, exceeds the Tag Heuer’s in quality and craftsmanship. If you’re looking for a watch to match your roadster, this is about as good as they get. For this price range that is…
Rolex GMT Master II Model 116710
If you own a watch that’s one of the most commonly counterfeited timepieces in the world, you know you’ve got a goodie.
Of course models like the Submariner and Daytona are faked far more often, but as a whole, the Rolex brand is the most counterfeited watch brand in the world with the amount of fake Rolex’s far exceeding that of the real ones. When you take into account the amount of watches that Rolex puts out each year, it’s shocking to think just how many poor saps have bought a fake one thinking it’s real. This is one reason I can’t stress enough why it’s important to buy a Rolex ONLY from an authorized retailer or from a very reputable reseller and never from eBay. As my mother always says “if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is”.
This particular GMT Master II is one of those watches that is almost too good to be true for it’s price point. It’s got the Rolex Caliber 3185 in it and looks very similar to that of the Submariner, which is, unfortunately, one of the reasons many people buy it. All I can say, is that if you’re getting the GMT because of it’s similarities to the Submariner, just don’t go diving with it on or you’ll have a very expensive paperweight.
The real reason to consider this watch is that it’s simply a very good quality timepiece and in this price point, worthy of a second look. Yes, it’s true that Rolex isn’t my favorite brand out there, but the fact is they do make some very high quality movements. The 3185 is no exception and no one, other than watch connoisseurs or owners will ever guess how little you spent on this watch.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Model Q1338421
I know we just covered a dress watch, well two if you count the Cartier, but this is my favorite watch under $10,000 and I just couldn’t leave it off the list. Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of those brands that in my opinion should overtake Audemar Piguet on the holy trinity of watches list you always hear watch critics talking about. Yes, I understand why AP is at the top but I’ll argue that JLC deserves its spot until the cows come home.
This is an outstanding automatic with the Jaeger JLC Calibre 898C movement. It’s simplistic, it’s beautiful and it’s impeccably well made. I’m not sure you could ask for more than that.
Panerai Radiomir Black Seal Model PAM00292
Is it overpriced? In my opinion, absolutely! Is it a good watch? In my opinion, not really. So why am I recommending it? Because for those who love the Panerai brand, this is a great pick.
To buy a Panerai means you either love the brand or you don’t have a clue. For many collectors, there is a nostalgic love of the brand that is almost unexplainable. For me, this is one of the worst watch brands in the luxury watch market. Why? Because they’re overpriced and the quality isn’t as good as the competitors. Mostly though it’s because of over-marketing.
However, with that said, this is a COSC certified watch with an ETA 6497/2 movement which means it’s technically not a bad watch. At a lower price point I might even consider it worthy of some praise. It’s ceramic which I actually quite like with black PVD steel. It is definitely overpriced, however, the fact is many people buy based on a brand name regardless of the price tag. This is all personal preference. Not everyone’s will be good.
Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Model 03.2080.4021-21.C496
This automatic El Primero 4021 caliber timepiece is about as good as they come. The El Primero name is almost holy amongst watch connoisseurs and this modern take on the classic maintains its refinement with a little panache. It was first produced in 2010 and ranks high on my list of watches to buy.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this quick primer on some of my favorite mid-budget watches on the market. Stay tuned for the next chapters where we’ll discuss high price and extremely high priced watches reserved for very few lucky individuals.