Watch Hunt: The Superheroes of Luxury Watches

With Superhero Day around the corner (April 28, for the uninitiated), this got us thinking about which timepieces we would consider as superheroes of luxury watches. And we’re not referring to nicknames like the Rolex Batman or the Rolex Hulk, but rather, the watches that are so revered that they champion above the rest. Like superheroes, these timepieces are instantly recognizable thanks to a signature style, have intriguing histories, are often mononymous, and have more than a few tricks up their sleeves. After plenty of back and forth, here are the models that we consider as the superheroes of luxury watches.

 

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

Bursting onto the scene in 1972, the big, bold, and brash Audemars Piguet Royal Oak was vastly different from the refined and demure gold timepieces that elegant men wore every day. Yes, there were other steel watches from top watch brands during this era, but this was not created to be a tool watch like, let’s say the Rolex Submariner, but as a daily luxury sports watch.

 

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (Image: Audemars Piguet)
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (Image: Audemars Piguet)

 

Audemars Piguet enlisted the help of famed designer Gerald Genta to design a groundbreaking watch that would—like a superhero—save the day since the manufacture was facing bankruptcy at the hands of the Quartz Crisis. Genta’s Royal Oak design featured a 39m steel case, an octagonal bezel with exposed screws, and a glorious integrated steel bracelet. Over four decades later, the Royal Oak is still one of the most coveted watches with a host of different versions available.

 

Breitling Navitimer

Making its debut in 1952 as a spinoff of the Chronomat watch, the Breitling Navitimer quickly became a favorite chronograph of professional pilots due to its slide rule that allowed the computation of complex navigational calculations while in flight. The large size and technical look of the Navitimer—a name that aptly combines the words “navigation” and “timer”—is now enjoyed by an audience that goes far beyond the pilot population.

 

Super Hero of Luxury Watches Breitling Navitimer
The Breitling Navitimer

 

Like most popular luxury watches today, the Breitling Navitimer aviation watch is offered in a range of materials, sizes, configurations, and price points. Regardless of the version, the Navi’s unique aesthetics is always on-point and well deserving of its iconic status.

 

Cartier Santos

While the Cartier Santos is probably not the first watch you think about in the realm of pilot watches, it was indeed the first pilot watch ever created. Made especially for aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont by Louis Cartier in 1904, this square Cartier timepiece was developed to be worn on the wrist for easy accessibility during flights—a much more practical and safer solution than digging for a pocket watch.

 

The Cartier Santos
The Cartier Santos

 

Although the model is well over a century old, the Cartier Santos has retained its signature style characterized by a square case and bezel, Roman numeral dial, sword-shaped hands, and a blue stone on the winding crown. Just this year, Cartier presented a brand new Santos collection available in an array of materials and featuring an innovative strap changing system.

 

Omega Speedmaster

As the first watch to reach the moon, the Omega Speedmaster Professional has certainly earned its superhero standing! When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made history in 1969 as the first men to make it to the moon, the Omega Speedmaster went along for the ride. In fact, Aldrin had his Omega Speedmaster strapped around his astronaut suit when he took his lunar steps. Since then, the Omega Speedmaster, a.k.a. the Moonwatch, partook in all of the six lunar landings and other space exploration missions.

 

The Omega Speedmaster
The Omega Speedmaster (Image: Omega)

 

Omega has continuously offered new iterations of the famous Speedmaster Moonwatch chronograph, many including key elements like a stainless steel construction, a black dial and black tachymeter bezel combo, and a hand-wound movement.

 

Panerai Luminor

The Panerai Luminor began its life as a stealth superhero watch as it wasn’t available to the public. Exclusively made for the Italian Royal Navy (and a few other countries’ militaries too) Panerai dive watches were military grade instruments built to accompany the Navy’s frogmen unit during their missions. It was only in the 1990s that these massive timepieces were finally sold to civilians and they caught the eye of Hollywood action stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. The brand took off and legions of Panerai fans, known as Paneristis, followed.

 

The Panerai Luminor

 

Compared to the Radiomir, the Panerai Luminor is the more robust model from the brand’s lineup, donning its customary oversized bridge-like winding crown protector, highly luminescent dial, and large cushion-shaped case.

 

Patek Philippe Nautilus

Following in the footsteps of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Patek Philippe also released a Genta-designed steel luxury sports watch in 1976. This time, the legendary watch designer took inspiration from circular ship windows and created the now-famous porthole-shaped case of the Nautilus watch, pairing it with a steel integrated bracelet and a grooved dial with two center hands and a date window.

 

Patek Philippe Nautilus (Image: Patek Philippe)
The Patek Philippe Nautilus (Image: Patek Philippe)

 

Since the inaugural steel version, Patek Philippe has reissued their flagship sports watch in a variety of precious materials, as well as with an array of watch complications. However, the steel Nautilus watches with simple time and date functionality remain as the most popular—and hardest-to-find—editions.

 

Rolex Submariner

A superhero watch that has the biggest fan base by far, the Rolex Submariner is in a league of its own. While the Submariner was explicitly built as a tool watch for divers in the 1950s, today it is the ultimate status sports watch. Despite its specs and heritage, you’ll most likely find the Submariner on the wrist of desk divers over actual scuba divers.

 

The Rolex Submariner

 

While Rolex has greatly enhanced the Submariner over the last 65 years, the famous dive watch has retained its distinct style. Whether in steel or gold, in black, blue, or green, with or without a date window, vintage or modern, the Rolex Submariner is immediately identifiable due to its unidirectional rotating bezel, Mercedes-style hands, round lume plots, Oyster bracelet, and iconic crown logo.

 

From the Sub to the Navi to the Speedy and all the other top timepieces we listed, these particular models have endured decades of fleeting trends and remain as living legends in the luxury watch world.

Holiday Gift Guide: The Best Luxury Watches To Give This Year

There are only six Fridays left until December 25th! So it’s about time to start thinking about what gifts you’ll be giving your loved ones this holiday season. We are of course partial to luxury watches. After all, a luxury watch is a fantastic gift that is both beautiful and practical. A fine timepiece is a special gift that will not only make a big impact on the day it’s given, but it will also be enjoyed for a long time to come. What’s more, a luxury watch is a suitable gift for either him or her. Finally, a pre-owned luxury watch is a savvier choice since you’ll be saving plenty of money while still gifting a prestigious and well-respected timepiece.

So with that, read on for our recommendations on the best luxury watches to gift this holiday season covering a range of budgets, for both him and her.

 

The Best Luxury Watch Gifts for Him: Under $2,000

 If you have less than $2,000 to spend on a high-end timepiece, then you’re in luck because there are plenty of fantastic choices in the secondary market.

For him, we’d recommend a Breitling watch. A masculine and sporty watch brand that boasts technical prowess and great design, Breitling is tough to beat. For less than $2,000 there are several choices. The super sporty stainless steel Breitling Transocean Chronograph Stainless Steel (ref. A530401) includes a generous 42mm case housing a dynamic red, white and blue dial. Plus, the watch offers tons of functionality including time, date, and chronograph, all powered by an extremely precise and accurate quartz movement.

If however, you’d prefer a smaller sized watch, then there’s the stainless steel Breitling Colt Ocean Chrono (ref. A53050) with a 37mm case complete with a black dial displaying the time, date, and chronograph functions.

Alternatively, for an automatic version, there’s the stainless steel Breitling Superocean (ref. A17040) with a 41.5mm case with time and date displayed on the rich blue dial topped with steel rotating bezel.

Or, for a touch more preciousness, then the automatic Breitling Chrono Cockpit (ref. B30012) fits the bill. With its 37mm stainless steel case and yellow gold rider tabs on the bezel coupled with a classic black leather strap and clean white dial indicating the time, date, and chronograph functions, this Breitling is an elegant approach to a luxury sports watch.

 

The Best Luxury Watch Gifts for Her: Under $2,000

For less than $2,000 we’d recommend a Cartier watch as the perfect gift for her. And at this price point, there’s an abundance of styles to choose from.

A favorite among celebrities and fashionistas the world over, the steel Cartier Tank Francaise (ref. W51008Q3 / 2384) with a 20mm x 25mm rectangular case features all the signature Cartier details. From the black Roman numerals to the blued-steel sword-shaped hands to the eight-sided winding crown set with a synthetic spinel cabochon, this is a modern take on the classic Tank watch.

Considering that Cartier just revived the Panthere watch collection earlier this year and that two-tone style is making a huge comeback, this yellow gold and steel Cartier Panthere (ref. 166921) is completely on-trend. Sporting a 24mm steel square case topped with an 18k yellow gold bezel and outfitted with the characteristic brick-lay link bracelet in both yellow gold and steel, this is the must-have ladies’ watch of the moment.

For a leather strap alternative that flaunts a retro vibe, the Cartier Tank Divan (ref. 2599) is a great choice. Accompanying the watch’s 32mm wide rectangular steel case is a sophisticated alligator leather strap in a dark blue hue.

Part jewelry piece, part wristwatch, the Cartier Panthere Ruban (ref. 2420) does double the duty. Set among the eight rows of the brick-lay link bracelet is the 21mm square case along with the bezel with exposed screws and famed Cartier dial with Roman numerals and blue hands.

 

The Best Luxury Watch Gifts for Him: $2,000 – $5,000

If your gift-giving budget ranges from $2,000 to $5,000, then we’d recommend an Omega as a men’s watch option. As one of the most popular high-end timepiece brands available today, Omega is cherished for their solid designs and reliable movements.

One of the most iconic Omega watches is undoubtedly the Speedmaster Moonwatch—named so for its historic journey in 1969 aboard the Apollo 11 mission during mankind’s first lunar landing. The Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch (ref. 3573.50.00) is a modern iteration of that legendary timepiece, complete with a 42mm steel case, black dial, black tachymeter bezel, and manual-wound mechanical movement powering the time and chronograph functions.

Turning our attention to marine exploration, the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M Co-Axial Chronograph (ref. 232.30.46.51.01.001) is part of the company’s line of professional diving watches. Along with the unidirectional rotating diver’s bezel on the 45.5mm steel case and water resistance to 600 meters, there’s also the duo of chronograph registers on the dial and the famous broad-arrow hands.

For a more classic watch, there’s the two-tone steel and yellow gold Omega Constellation Automatic (ref. 368.1201) featuring the distinct bezel with Roman numerals, four claws (a.k.a “griffes”) on the sides of the 36mm case, and an integrated bracelet. Driving the time and date functions is an automatic mechanical movement.

Vintage watch enthusiasts and dapper gents will appreciate the traditional style of the 18k yellow gold vintage Omega Automatic (ref. 2709) timepiece. Housed within the restrained 34mm gold case is a beautifully retro dial with yellow gold indexes, yellow gold hands, and a running seconds subdial at 6 o’clock.

 

The Best Luxury Watch Gifts for Her: $2,000 – $5,000

With a budget of $2,000 – $5,000, your best bet for a gift for her would be a ladies’ Chopard watch.

Famous for their floating diamond motif, the Chopard Happy Diamond Sport ladies’ watch collection is a varied assortment of modern gem timepieces. There’s the contemporary midsize Chopard Happy Sport 27/8236-23 where seven floating diamonds are housed within a round 32mm steel case. Particularly beautiful are the flashes of color on the otherwise monochromatic watch from the blue center hands to the blue cabochon sapphires on the winding crown and lugs.

For a sportier version, there’s the limited edition Chopard Happy Sport (ref. 28/8507) with a 38mm black ceramic case, stainless steel bezel, and black rubber strap. Of course, adorning the dial are the characteristic floating diamonds—a trio of them in this particular example.

Yet another version is the square Chopard Happy Sport (ref. 27-8325-23) sized at a refined 26mm. Within the steel case are seven floating diamonds while the lugs and winding crown are topped with the signature blue cabochon sapphires. Finishing off the stylish watch is a blue leather strap.

Finally, the Chopard A Fine Lady’s (ref. 493 1) timepiece in 18k white gold flaunts a flurry of diamonds on its dainty 19mm rectangular case and dial. The perfect companion to any cocktail party or grand gala event, the watch is presented with a sophisticated black leather strap.

 

The Best Luxury Watch Gifts for Him: $5,000 – $8,000

If you’re ready to spend between $5,000 and $8,000 on gifting a men’s watch this holiday season, then it’s got to be a Rolex watch. In terms of recognition, prestige, legendary designs, and dependable movements, this Swiss watchmaking giant is at the top.

Among the Rolex tool watches, the highly sought-after Submariner dive watch is in a league of its own. And a classic choice is the Rolex Submariner ref. 16610 with a 40mm steel Oyster case, matching steel Oyster bracelet, black dial with lume plots and Mercedes-style hands, and black aluminum diver’s bezel. Encased within the 300-meter water resistant case is the famous Rolex Cal. 3135 automatic movement driving the time and date functions.

The GMT-Master is yet another iconic Rolex tool watch, but due to its ability to keep track of multiple time zones simultaneously, it was built to serve pilots. A particularly popular variant is the Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 16710 “Coke”, nicknamed after the soda brand because of its black and red bezel. Completing the celebrated style of the watch is the 40mm steel Oyster case, ubiquitous steel Oyster bracelet, and red arrow-tipped GMT-hand on the black dial.

Along with their renowned sports watches, Rolex is also recognized for making iconic dress watches, such as the Datejust. The two-tone Rolex Datejust ref. 116233 dons a style typical of the collection thanks to its classic combination of yellow gold and stainless steel, fluted bezel, 36mm Oyster case, champagne dial, and Jubilee bracelet.

For a more robust version of the traditional Datejust dress watch, there’s also the larger Rolex Datejust II ref. 116334­. Measuring a heftier 41mm, the steel Oyster case sports an 18k white gold fluted bezel. There’s also the rich blue dial with luminescent baton indexes and sporty steel Oyster bracelet.

 

The Best Luxury Watch Gifts for Her: $5,000 – $8,000

Similarly, if you have $5,000 and $8,000 to spend on her gift this year, then a ladies’ Rolex watch is the way to go. Especially since women’s Rolex watches run on mechanical movements rather than quartz ones.

The stainless steel Rolex Datejust ref. 116234 with a pink floral and diamond dial is an everyday luxury watch with a difference. Moreover, adding to the fine details of the 36mm timepiece is the intricate Jubilee style bracelet, the 18k white gold fluted bezel, and the oversized 6 and 9 numerals joining the date window on the dial.

For added luxury, there’s the two-tone Rolex Lady-Datejust ref. 179173, which combines precious 18k yellow gold with rugged stainless steel. The 26mm steel Oyster case includes a yellow gold fluted bezel and yellow gold winding crown, while the steel Oyster bracelet features yellow gold center links. Around the periphery of the slate dial are yellow gold Roman numerals, along with the date window at 3 o’clock magnified by the Cyclops lens.

Offering the wearer a touch of jet-set chic is the solid 18k yellow gold Rolex Yacht-Master ref. 69628. Clearly inspired by the nautical lifestyle, the ladies’ Yacht-Master has a 26mm Oyster case equipped with a sporty rotating bezel. The matching champagne dial sets the stage for the luminescent hour markers and Mercedes-style hands, while at 3 o’clock is a date aperture.

For the lady who is drawn to the finest things in life, the solid 18k yellow gold Rolex Datejust ref. 69178 will surely impress. Nicknamed the “Lady President” for its legendary President bracelet with the distinct semi-circular links, the lavishness of the watch is further emphasized by the diamond hour markers on the black dial.

 

The Best Luxury Watch Gifts for Him and Her: $8,000+

With such a substantial budget allocated, you want to make sure that you select absolute icons from the finest watchmakers.

For him, we’ll start with the 18k white gold Cartier Tortue Perpetual Calendar (ref. 2540), whose tonneau-shaped case was designed in 1912 by Louis Cartier himself. Offering the very practical perpetual calendar function, the timepiece automatically indicates the correct time, day, date, month, and leap year without the need for manual adjusting (until 2100 when the leap year is ignored that year). Her equivalent would be the ladies’ 18k white gold Cartier Tortue (ref. 2644) with a lavish diamond bezel.

Following that, the solid 18k yellow gold Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Moonphase (ref. 25594BA.O.0477.BA.01) men’s watch is one not to miss. Originally developed by legendary designer Gerald Genta in 1970, the Royal Oak’s distinct octagonal bezel and integrated bracelet kicked off the entire luxury sports watch genre. This particular example includes a trio of subdials to indicate the day, date, and phases of the moon. Additionally, the 18k yellow gold ladies’ Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (Ref. 67601BA.ZZ.D012CR.03-FX2UC2) with diamonds on the eight-sided bezel and a white leather strap is a great match to the men’s version.

And finally, a holiday gift guide to the best luxury watches wouldn’t be complete without the famous Patek Nautilus—also designed by Genta in the seventies. Proudly showcasing its porthole-style 37.5mm stainless steel case and integrated bracelet, the Patek Philippe Nautilus (ref. 3800/1A-001) includes Roman numerals and a date window on its black dial. For the ladies, there’s the ultra-precious 18k yellow gold women’s Patek Philippe Nautilus (ref. 4700/51), beautifully embellished with diamonds on the bezel as well as diamonds serving as hour markers on the black grooved dial.

And there you have it; our holiday gift guide to the best luxury watches money can buy—regardless of your budget. Happy shopping!