Like most luxury pieces, a fine watch is a gift to be cherished for a lifetime. It’s the type of item that a person might not be inclined to buy for themselves, but makes for an impressive holiday present. But with all the options available, the intimidating world of haute horology can be a difficult one to navigate, leaving many of us watch neophytes in the dark. Here to help is our own expert, Fine Jewelry & Watch Manager Nathan Hall. Read on for his tips on how to gift the perfect timepiece.
A big limiting factor when it comes to buying a watch is budget. Which brands will get shoppers the best bang for their buck?
If you can spend around $10,000 or more, the hands-down favorite is Patek Phillippe. Patek watches are the most prestigious timepieces on the market. On the higher end, you can find watches with unique complications like a moonphase or annual calendar, or even a streamlined style like the Calatrava in 18K gold. They’re very difficult to buy new because Patek produces a small number each year and prospective buyers need to form a relationship with the brand, but we have a wide selection of Pateks in excellent condition for a fraction of the retail price.
In the $5,000-range, I recommend Omega and Rolex, particularly if you’re shopping for a man. They’re two of the most well-known luxury watchmakers and people love that they’re associated with James Bond. For someone a little younger, I would go with the Rolex Submariner or the GMT. For Omega, the Seamaster or Speedster are great sporty styles for someone who’s open to something a little heftier. For women, I recommend Chopard. It’s known more as a ladies’ jewelry brand, and some of their women’s watches can read as bracelets rather than timepieces, so they’re great for the woman who’s not used to wearing a watch. At the same time, Chopard’s watches are extremely well-made and precise. The diamond Happy Sport is fun yet iconic, and makes a big impression in a gift box.
If you’re looking to spend around $1,000 or less, two great options are Tag Heuer and Michele. Tag Heuer has always been the leader in this price range; they’re a great introduction to the world of luxury watches. The brand has its roots in racing and their chronographs are always reliable and particularly popular among men.
Michele, on the other hand, exclusively makes ladies’ watches. What’s great about their models is that they come with an interchangeable strap that can be swapped out by the owner — you don’t have to go to a jeweler or the manufacturer, so a lot of people like that you can change the color strap to match different outfits. They’re fashion forward at a reasonable price, but they’re still Swiss-made, still high-quality.
Which timepieces work well for people who need to dress up for work versus more casual lifestyles?
If the watch is for someone working in a conservative office where they need to wear a suit to work, I’d look for something with a leather strap, on the thinner side, with a clean dial around the 40-42mm range. Opt for a watch with Roman numeral or stick markers as Arabic numerals convey a more casual look. A date display is also a useful touch for the office.
If the person doesn’t need to dress up for work, or if they want something they can wear after hours, a chunkier style is a good way to go. Panerai makes a lot of bigger watches with substantial, stand-out dials. The Rolex Explorer II is also a nice choice – the diving bezel, lighted hour markers and orange 24-hour hand give it a sportier look.
For something in-between, the IWC Portuguese Chronograph is a really universal watch. It has a leather strap, basically no bezel, a relatively thin and clean dial, but with the addition of two subdials. It has pushers and Arabic numerals, which makes it look sportier and more laid-back. It toes the line between work and play really well.
What are some fail-safe styles that anyone would love?
For men, my go-to is the Rolex Submariner. It’s the most well known luxury watch. With the trend toward retro styles, I think a vintage Sub in particular would appeal to a broader audience. The Omega Speedmaster is another watch that’s in every collector’s arsenal so that’s another crowd pleaser. As for ladies, I’d recommend a really iconic and timeless piece like a steel Cartier Tank Française, or if it’s for someone in their 20s or 30s, the Chanel J12.
Ready to find the perfect gift? Shop our authentic collection of men’s and women’s luxury watches here.