You’ve scrimped, you’ve saved, you’ve sold your grandma and now you’ve got a sizeable amount to spend on a watch. Bearing in mind this is the kind of money you could splurge on a first-class-all-the-way trip around the world, you’re not going to put it all on black, so to speak, without mulling things over.
The good news about watches under £10,000 is that this price bracket comes with plenty of choice. You’re not in precious metal territory yet but, thanks to this sector being mostly about the mechanics, your complications options include super high-tech chronographs, second time zones to GMTs. Your style options are broad, too – from dress to diver you’re bound to find something to suit.
You also get your pick of some of the big names, the luxury watch brands everyone will recognise around the boardroom table. The only decision really is do you spend the whole lot at once. Or keep some back for the next addition to your watch wardrobe?
Piaget Polo S
Just sneaking in under the threshold is this sporty little number from Piaget. The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that it bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain Genta-designed fleur-de-lys branded watch, but you won’t be buying one of those unless you’ve got a spare £23,000 lying around. So, there’s this instead.
It’s made from the same metal, is powered by Piaget’s in-house 1110P and looks great with absolutely everything.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Small Seconds
Born on the polo pitches of India at the request of the British soliders stationed there who were fed up with their watch crystals getting destroyed by flying balls and wildly swinging mallets, the Reverso is now a day watch and a dress watch in one.
Its elegantly elongated rectangular case is instantly recognisable and, although Jaeger-LeCoultre has added complications and colourways, there is something perennially desirable about this simple steel version. And it has the added retro touch of being manual wind, so you’ll have something to do while you wait for your perfectly mixed after-match gin and tonic to be mixed.
Zenith Defy El Primero 21
You most definitely get a lot of horological bang for your buck with this Zenith. The present Defy traces its history back to 1969 and was relaunched in 2017, sporting a brand-new, very high-tech movement – the El Primero 21. This clever calibre now has two escapements – one running at 36,000vph for the time and one at 360,000vph for the chronograph, which means that when you start the timing function the seconds hand does one rotation of the dial per second.
Both escapements are also equipped with balance springs made in a new patented material, Carbon-Matrix Carbon Nanotube. It’s an incredible piece of kit for the price that looks insanely good on the wrist too.
Rolex GMT Master II
A watch so iconic it has its own Wikipedia page, the Rolex GMT-Master II is the ultimate world timer. It was first launched in 1955 without the II, though not as the aforementioned Wiki page attests in collaboration with Pan American World Airlines; it just adopted it as its official watch after release. In 1982, a new movement was introduced which allowed the hour hands to be set independently of the other hands so a “II” was added to the name.
It retains a reputation for being one of the easiest GMTs to set – it’s all down to crown positions with the third time zone set via the bezel – and its two-tone bezel colour combinations from the Pepsi to the Root Beer via a Coca Cola inspire One Direction levels of fandom. This here is the Batman. It doesn’t get cooler than that.
For Panerai, 2019 was the year of the Submersible, which has been given its own breakout collection rather than being lumped in with the Luminors. And this gorgeous model makes a compelling case for a stylish new breed of diving watches that look as good under water as lounging by it.
It’s all about the sartorial details here – the dial is a textured grey inspired by shark skin; the case is brushed rather than polished steel and the blue on the bezel is described as diesel blue. It is also, at 42mm, positively diminutive for a Panerai, making it extremely wearable and not just with a wetsuit.
Tudor Black Bay Bronze
It might be possible that there isn’t a man (or woman for that matter) alive who doesn’t want a Tudor Black Bay in their watch collection. It was the talked-about design that spearheaded Tudor’s re-emergence into the market in 2012 and every iteration since has garnered significant column inches. In 2016, it went bronze and now that watch has been updated with a slate grey bezel and dial.
It is just a colour change but one that transforms this watch from ok to outstanding. The subtle ombre of the dial is almost hypnotic and transfers a real warmth onto the bronze. A strap switch from NATO to leather completely alters its personality making it a versatile week-to-weekender timepiece and you also get a Tudor’s in-house movement inside as well. This might just be the most desirable watch of the year.
Grand Seiko SBGA407
Whether it is because it is made in Japan or just because the incredibly detailed techniques used in the making of these watches, but there is something calmingly zen about a Grand Seiko. Here that zen effect is all in the dial. Called the ‘Snowflake’, its particular pattern was inspired by the snow that can be seen outside the Shinshu Watch Studio, where the Spring Drive – Grand Seiko’s revolutionary invention that powers this watch and combines a mechanical movement with an electronic regulator for extra precision – is made.
Created in the brand’s own Shiojiri dial workshop, it is built up from multiple layers to mimic the way snow builds into a texture that can only be caused by severe cold. This is watchmaking as imagined by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Bell & Ross BR V2-92
Yes, you could opt for one of Bell & Ross’s more iconic bevelled-square cases designs but there is something achingly cool about this retro military bit of deliciousness. Once you get beyond the fact that “military beige” sounds like the colour of an old serviceman’s slacks, there’s plenty to get on board with. Whereas the original Bell & Ross designs were an intellectual and witty take on cockpit instruments from a very aesthetic perspective, this is fond, nostalgic homage.
The dial is clean and simple, though some may object to the squeezed-in date; the red-tipped second hand is a nice aviation nod and although there is a steel bracelet option, it’s the canvas that rounds off the whole “smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast” feel. Chocks away!
Bulgari Octo Solo Tempo
Think of watches designed by the legendary Gerald Genta – Patek’s Nautilius, Audemars’s Royal Oak – and you’re going to have to fork out more than £10K to own one. However, there is a tendency to forget that Bulgari is the brand that acquired Gerald Genta, along with all his designs, to boost its fine-watchmaking capabilities. This much more wallet-friendly Octo is one of the results of that purchase.
Bulgari has taken Genta’s original design and softened it by marrying it with round bezel and simple dial. It is also powered by Bulgari’s own in-house time-only movement – the BVL 191. Although there is a 41mm version, the 38mm wears better under a shirt cuff. Or maybe just peeking out from under a nonchalantly rolled white linen shirt sleeve, Italian style.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic Spitfire
Bronze case with green dial? Tick. Vintage-style lume? Tick. World War II aviation reference in the name? Tick. IWC’s new Automatic Spitfire may be crossing off every single major watch trend for the year, but who cares when it has produced such a cracking watch. It is the perfect everyday pilots watch but with a few luxury flourishes, the most important of which being IWC’s recently developed 32000 calibre, which is entirely new for the brand and its first movement to use silicon.
The 39mm case means it isn’t too bulky on the wrist and it’s got a 72-hour power reserve, so you won’t need to worry about resetting that date come Monday morning.