If you’re just getting into the the world of luxury watches, you may have already discovered that it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or just starting out, this crash course is essential for anyone who loves a great timepiece. And while some of the most sought-after, iconic watches (and most of the ones on this list) happen to be at the higher end of the price spectrum, there are plenty of amazing options available at a wide variety of price points. However, if you’re specifically interested in learning about some of the most coveted and most famous watches out there, you’ve come to the right place. And if you’re completely new to the scene, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered with a helpful guide to everything you need to know before making your first watch purchase.
Patek Philippe Nautilus
The Patek Philippe Nautilus, inspired by the sea, is a steel sports watch that has become one of the most elusive and highly coveted watches in the world. Designed by Gerald Genta, the Nautilus collection has evolved since its launch in 1976, featuring precious metals, gemstones, a ladies model, and added complications. The brand’s prestige, craftsmanship, and exclusivity, as well as the scarcity of watches, contribute to the high value of the watch. The Nautilus 5711 is the most sought-after model, which is now discontinued and replaced by the Nautilus 5811. There are other noteworthy references, such as the Nautilus Moonphase, Nautilus Chronograph, and the Nautilus Annual Calendar Moon Phases.
F.P. Journe Chronometre Souverain
There are few watch brands quite like F.P. Journe. With fewer than 1000 pieces produced per year, these Swiss-made watches are highly sought after by serious watch collectors. One of their most iconic models is the Chronometre Souverain, a watch that pays homage to 19th century pocket watches in wristwatch form. The name “Souverain” is simply a term that Francois-Paul Journe liked the sound of, but the watch itself is all about accuracy. The in-house calibre 1304 movement crafted by Journe showcases his relentless pursuit of precision, which is one reason why ardent watch enthusiasts worldwide are willing to go to great lengths to acquire one of these exquisite pieces.
Rolex Daytona “Panda”
The Rolex Daytona is a legendary watch that’s evolved over the years since its initial release in 1963. This baby was made famous by none other than Paul Newman, and its iconic black and white color scheme is what earned it the “Panda” nickname. Despite its humble beginnings as an “ugly duckling,” the Rolex Daytona has risen to iconic status as the quintessential chronograph watch. Its timeless design has endured for over 60 years and is the epitome of what comes to mind when you think of a classic chronograph. With its limited annual production and growing fan base, the Rolex Daytona Panda is one of the rarest and most sought-after luxury watches on the market.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual
The terms “Oyster” and “Perpetual” are central to Rolex, and they can be a little confusing for those new to the brand. Technically, they mean any Rolex watch with an Oyster case and an automatic-winding Perpetual movement. However, the Rolex “Oyster Perpetual” watch specifically is the brand’s entry-level model, with a straightforward time-only dial and a variety of size options. Its design serves as the foundation for most of Rolex’s various other watch collections. We love the Oyster Perpetual watch for its simplicity and perfect in-between sport and sophisticated style, which makes it a versatile staple piece in a watch collection, and one of the icons of luxury watchmaking
The Cartier Tank is undoubtedly one of the most iconic watches of all time. With over 100 years of history, it is still a classic and a staple in the world of luxury watches. The Tank has graced the wrists of some of the most influential figures in history, from Andy Warhol and Muhammad Ali, to Hedi Slimane and even JFK. The rectangular case, which was groundbreaking when it first appeared on the wristwatch scene, has become a signature feature of the Tank’s design. Despite its age, the Cartier Tank has never gone out of style and continues to be highly coveted by watch enthusiasts all over the world. Over the years, it has been copied and imitated, but never rivaled in status – it truly is a legend in the world of watchmaking.
The Rolex Submariner is arguably the most recognizable watch on the planet. Its design has crossed over into mainstream public consciousness, spawning an entire industry of copycats trading off its famous tool watch silhouette. Introduced in 1954, the Submariner was the first commercial watch that could dive 100 meters underwater. Since then, the watch has been seen on the wrists of musicians, actors, athletes and 007 himself. Its illustrious history has made it one of the most instantly recognizable watches in the world. And it wasn’t just a dive watch, but “the” dive watch, credited with pioneering the category (though purists tend to agree that Blancpain came first).
While the overall design has changed very little since its release, it has been revised and upgraded many times. The Submariner has gone from a professional tool watch to a luxury sports watch and a status symbol.
PATEK PHILIPPE CALATRAVA
Known for its simple and elegant design, the Calatrava wristwatch has been a flagship model of Patek Philippe since its introduction in 1932. Inspired by the Bauhaus principles, the watch is renowned for its sleek lines and understated elegance, and despite 37 models being released since its birth, the design has barely changed. The Calatrava’s movements have been tweaked and adapted to each model, but the watch has endured through the ages thanks in part to its simplicity. The watch is crafted entirely by hand in-house, and its lifespan often passes from generation to generation, thanks to the materials used and the craftsmanship employed in creating each watch. Today, most references are available in yellow, rose, or white gold, among other precious metals, with the standard white or cream face, and some models featuring an elegant black dial. The Calatrava is undoubtedly Patek Philippe’s quintessential model, representing the pinnacle of Swiss watchmaking.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is among the most coveted watches out there, gracing the wrists of A-listers like Jay-Z, Drake, and Kylie Jenner. There’s something about the Royal Oak’s sleek and almost industrial design that sets it apart, giving it a sporty feel and a sense of luxury, and making it an enduring favorite that transcends fashion trends and hype. With its octagonal bezel with exposed screws, a waffle-like Tapisserie dial, and an integrated bracelet, the Royal Oak was widely seen as a trailblazer in the world of luxury sports watches when it was introduced in 1972. Since then, the Royal Oak has become one of Audemars Piguet‘s staple timepieces, with over 550 different permutations, each paying homage to the groundbreaking original.
Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso
The Reverso watch by Swiss watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre is highly regarded among luxury timepieces by enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike. This classic art deco watch features a rectangular face that can be flipped over to reveal a protective solid-steel face (or on some models, a different dial entirely) making it as practical as it is stylish. Originally designed for British officers who needed a watch that could withstand the rigors of polo matches, the Reverso has since become an iconic piece in the world of horology.
The Reverso’s slim design makes it pretty versatile, being suitable for both casual and formal occasions, and there is a wide variety of different models available, including different sizes, finishes, and materials. The watch has also made appearances on the big screen, with memorable roles on the wrist of Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne and Don Draper in Mad Men. With nearly a century of history and a design that has stood the test of time, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso really is an icon in the world of watchmaking.
A.Lange & Sohne Saxonia Thin
The Saxonia Thin from A. Lange & Söhne is an ultra-thin dress watch that boasts a minimalist two-hand design. The short and curved lugs give the watch an even slimmer profile, making it a discreet option for dressier occasions.
The Saxonia Thin comes in both 37mm and 39mm versions and Its in-house caliber L093.1 movement is the same one that has powered the Saxonia family of watches since they debuted in 1994, making it a true classic.
Despite its refined aesthetic, the A. Lange & Sohne Saxonia Thin works surprisingly well with more casual clothing. The dial is elegant and precise, offering a clean execution of the watch’s simple functionality. The case is comfortable and proportional, perfectly complementing the watch’s understated appeal. With the Saxonia Thin, A. Lange & Söhne proves that sometimes the simplest designs can make the biggest impact.
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional
The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional is arguably one of the most legendary timepieces in history. As the first watch to be worn on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission, the Moonwatch has secured a special place in the hearts of watch collectors and enthusiasts alike. This historic achievement was not only a milestone for space exploration but also for horology, solidifying the Moonwatch as a true icon in the world of watches.
Despite being released over 60 years ago, the design of the Moonwatch remains virtually unchanged, with only a few modifications made over the years. The classic look and feel of the watch has aged incredibly well, and the original tool watch design continues to be appreciated by watch lovers worldwide. The Moonwatch’s enduring popularity can be attributed to its reliability, legibility, and comfort, making it a sought-after timepiece for both entry-level collectors and seasoned watch aficionados.
The Omega Seamaster is a true icon in the world of watches, with a history that spans over 70 years. Originally designed as a water-resistant dress watch, the Seamaster has evolved over the years into a robust and reliable sports watch that is a favorite among divers and watch enthusiasts alike. The Seamaster Diver Professional 300m, in particular, has become famous thanks to its appearances in the James Bond movie franchise since 1995. This watch is a true tool watch, with a stainless steel case, impressive water resistance, and an official chronometer certified movement. Its “train track” five-link steel bracelet, helium release valve at the 10 o’clock position, wave pattern dial, and skeletonized handset are all hallmarks of the Seamaster Diver Professional 300m and make it instantly recognizable to watch enthusiasts around the world.
When it comes to aviation watches, the Breitling Navitimer is undoubtedly the undisputed champion. This classic timepiece owes its popularity to its unique and functional design that allowed pilots to perform complex calculations on the fly, and decades later has become one of the real icons of modern horology. One of the most recognizable Swiss watches in the world, the Breitling Navitimer’s distinctive circular slide rule bezel has become synonymous with the brand. First introduced in 1954, this groundbreaking innovation quickly became an essential tool for pilots, allowing them to perform various calculations such as airspeed, distance, and fuel consumption without needing to consult a separate instrument. Today, the Navitimer continues to be the flagship model of Breitling‘s modern-day collection, and its timeless design and impressive functionality make it a must-have for any watch aficionado.
Breitling Superocean Heritage
The Breitling Superocean is a watch with a rich history, having been first introduced in 1957. Even today, over 60 years later, it remains one of the brand’s flagship models. The Superocean Heritage pays homage to the original model, but with a modern twist. This watch is larger and more robust, featuring a mesh bracelet or textured rubber strap. The Superocean Heritage combines classic ’50s aesthetics with modern-day technology, including a sapphire crystal and COSC-certified Caliber B20 movement. The watch is a true diver’s watch with its unidirectional bezel, triangular-shaped hands, and polished ceramic ring, available in stainless steel or 18k red gold, and a variety of colored dials to choose from. The Superocean Heritage is the perfect blend of sporty and elegant style.
The Nomos Tangente is the watch that started it all for the German brand. Part of the original quartet of watches launched back in 1991, it’s the foundational icon of Nomos. The Tangente is a modern take on historic mid-century designs. With its slim, minimal case and long, thin lugs, the Tangente has a distinctive Bauhaus-inspired aesthetic. The tall Arabic numerals, thin stick hands, and small seconds dial above 6 all pay homage to early Bauhaus-style watches. It’s a versatile timepiece that can dress up or down with ease, and Nomos’ reputation for quality makes it a surprisingly affordable luxury option. Since 2005, Nomos has used in-house calibers, further cementing their reputation for high quality.
The Nomos Orion is a watch that stands out for its refined and sophisticated style. Its sleek, minimalistic design is a perfect balance of form and function, making it a go-to choice for any man looking to elevate his wardrobe. While it shares some similarities with the Nomos Tangente, the Orion stands out for its cleaner dial and slightly dressier appeal. Whether you’re dressing up for a formal occasion or just want to add a touch of refinement to your everyday look, the Nomos Orion could definitely be a staple in your watch rotation.
Tudor Black Bay 58
The Tudor Black Bay 58 is a vintage-inspired dive watch that pays homage to the brand’s history in the dive watch market. With its sleek stainless steel case, domed crystal, and elegant black dial, the Black Bay 58 exudes a timeless, classic style that is both sophisticated and sporty. Its pared-down design and smaller size make it the perfect choice for those who prefer a more understated look. The Black Bay 58 is powered by Tudor’s reliable in-house movement and is water resistant up to 200 meters, making it a reliable choice for both daily wear and diving. Overall, the Tudor Black Bay 58 is a versatile, stylish, and high-quality timepiece, definitely one of our favorites on this list.
TUDOR BLACK BAY 41
The Tudor Black Bay 41 is a watch that exudes vintage elegance and modern sophistication. Its 41mm stainless steel case pairs perfectly with a variety of outfit styles, from casual to formal. The domed crystal and screw-down crown add a touch of refinement, while the self-winding movement ensures reliable timekeeping. Available in a range of colorways, the Tudor Black Bay 41 is a versatile accessory that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Whether you’re heading to the office or out on the town, this watch will elevate any outfit.
LONGINES HERITAGE 1945
The Longines Heritage 1945 is a throwback to the golden age of watchmaking. With its vintage-inspired design and intricate mechanical movement, this timepiece is the perfect blend of nostalgia and technology. The Heritage 1945 features a sleek stainless steel case and a silver dial with blue hands and indices. The watch is powered by a self-winding mechanical movement, ensuring accurate timekeeping and long-lasting reliability. Whether you’re a watch collector or just appreciate timeless style, the Longines Heritage 1945 is a great option and something definitely worth checking out.
Junghans Max Bill
The Junghans Max Bill watch (really, a line of watchs) is a classic timepiece that exudes minimalism and sophistication. Designed in the 1950s by Swiss architect and designer Max Bill, this watch is a true masterpiece of form and function. The clean, uncluttered dial is accented by sleek, slender hands and a simple, yet elegant, leather strap (also looks great with the milanese loop!) . Whether you’re dressed up or dressed down, the Junghans Max Bill works with almost any type of outfit – it’s a great one if you have a smaller watch collection as it can easily crossover between dressy and casual depending on the band or bracelet you put on it.