No matter if your style is over the top or understated, nothing says who you are as much as your wristwatch. Some business titans wear a simple Timex, others collect Patek Philippe timepieces. One thing is for sure—the most luxurious watches in the US are all from European watchmakers. And one more thing—the most valuable watches are not new, but rather vintage pieces. In fact, fine vintage watches are a really good investment. This is a strong selling point in the rarefied world of super-luxury timepieces.
What Makes a Watch Luxurious?
Luxurious watches are fine jewelry. They're handcrafted from precious metals, with precious stones, elegant styling, and precision engineering all being the hallmarks of an extravagant timepiece. They're also produced in limited quantities. When you buy an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch in 18kt white gold with 860 brilliant-cut diamonds and 25 baguette diamonds on the hour markers, for a cool $200,500 USD, you want it to be unique. By the way, Jay Z and Serena Williams are fans, so you're in great company if you buy one.
Rolex takes the luxury materials a step further. They actually make their own gold in a Swiss foundry, exclusively for the brand's bracelets and watch cases. Rolex also has the patent for their proprietary shade of rose gold, called Everose. Now that's a luxurious approach to watchmaking!
Hand-finishing also puts a watch in the luxury category. This attention to detail means that Patek Phillipe can only produce so many watches every year and still maintain the quality and exacting specifications their customers demand.
The Most Luxurious Watches in the US
In the US, you can buy luxurious watches at the watch retailer, fine jewelers, or online. The following are the most popular. You can buy one right off the shelf for that instant gratification you get from a fabulous new purchase.
Rolex watches aren't cheap by any means. But when you compare them to other brands with similar quality, they look like an absolute bargain. Vintage Rolexes are so popular because these watches really held their value over the years. In fact, even fine jewelry stores deal in vintage Rolexes.
The great thing about Rolex is that there are so many choices. You can get the classic steel Oyster sports watch for a cool $5,495, or a ladies watch with gold and diamonds for a hefty $36,850. Lots of celebrities wear Rolex watches, although tennis champ and Swiss hero Roger Federer might be their biggest spokesperson.
Cartier watches have the same premium materials and exquisite detailing as their jewelry. Some of the most iconic luxurious watches in the world are from Cartier. The classic tank, with an alligator band and sapphire bezel on the stem, is the definitive men's dress watch. Although women love this style for its classic simplicity. A Must de Cartier tank starts at $2,740 for a new model, and other style tank watches can go as high as $20,000.
You'll see the white gold Panther ladies' watch on Kate Middleton's wrist. But if you want more bling, the Panther also comes with diamonds or other precious stones, and in rose or yellow gold.
Here's a fun fact about Cartier watches. The Roman numerals on the face use IIII for the 4, instead of the traditional IV. It's one way to tell a fake from an authentic watch.
These are the aspirational watches—a new Patek Phillipe watch costs over $12,000. The company is the last of the great family-owned Swiss watchmakers. Their brand is exclusivity and quiet luxury, although they do bling up some watches. Lots of celebrities wear Patek Phillipe, like Conor McGregor, John Mayer, and Ed Sheeran. But they actually pay for their watches—no freebies for brand ambassadors, this company barely advertises!
Yet another Swiss watchmaker, TAG Heuer is best known for the wristwatch that John Glenn wore when he circled the earth for the first time in 1962. TAG Heuer luxurious watches are engineered to keep precision time in situations where milliseconds matter—like going into space when astronauts used slide rules for calculators. Modern Heuer watches keep that sport-utility look, but with a luxury price—around $3,000 USD. Although the prices do get higher with more exclusive models—the Mikrograph Limited Edition will set you back over $50,000 USD.
AP, as it's known in the watch world, was the first luxury watchmaker to use stainless steel and still charge precious metal prices. Divers with deep pockets have made the Royal Oak Offshore watches the most popular diving watch ever, but one even on the resale market costs $60,000.
One brand that's making waves in the US is not Swiss, it's an American brand based in Detroit, Michigan. Shinola watches are inexpensive compared to a Patek Phillipe or Audemars Piguet. But with a price point that averages $600, they're taking the US market by storm. Shinola watches come in a huge range of sizes and styles, and you can shop online anytime. The high-end Shinola Ice Monster is a titanium timepiece that sells for $1,695.
Rare Watches Cost Millions
Some of the most expensive watches in the world aren't all that opulent. The beautiful Patek Phillipe you see at a jewelry store aren't their priciest watches, even though the Nautilus model in rose gold costs almost $50,000 USD. Patek Phillipe creates luxurious watches that sell at auction in the millions. In fact, collectors highly prize their vintage pieces. One watch, the Grandmaster Chime, sold for over $31 million USD, and the band isn't even gold. The watch casing is white gold and the band is a blue alligator.
Luxurious watches are not just accessories, they're investments. When you invest in a luxury wristwatch, you're buying a practical tool that says a lot about who you are, and where you are in life. Because they are good investments, you can buy and sell watches just like you would other commodities. Or you can hand them down, like the Patek Phillipe ads say.