BUYING a watch is never as easy as one may assume. It’s a personal, intimate rite of passage that should hold one’s personal values as a watch enthusiast, but also as a person. Above all else, a watch will elicit such emotions that there’s no denying its sentimental currency, symbolising what will be a ‘forever’ purchase to many. So, considering these factors, you want to be set on your decision before splurging on a new timepiece.
Here to guide you on your “splurge”, Esquire has curated a definitive, unbiased guide on the best watches right now to consider under 20K. While undoubtedly an intimidating price point, there’s many horological wonders to be found if you know where to look.
Happy watch hunting/buying!
ROLEX Submariner (date)
If you’re fortunate enough to be invited — yes, you read that correctly — to purchase any Rolex timepiece right now, you’re either doing something right or luck has found its way to you. While most Rolex watches are very hard to come by in today’s climate — any watch on steel is near impossible to acquire — it would be remiss of us not to include the quintessential diver’s watch in this roundup: the Rolex Submariner. While, arguably, one of the world’s most popular watches, there’s a reason for its popularity; it’s just the perfect all-rounder watch, whether you’re a desk diver or taking to the seas. This watch, first revealed in 1954, is the epitome of the classic Rolex watch. It’s timeless, it’s stylish, it’s versatile, it’s rugged; it’s one of the best ‘everyday’ watches you can buy.
JAEGER-LECOULTRE Reverso Classic Monoface Small Seconds
The Reverso plays an integral part in the success of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s portfolio of fine Swiss watches. Since 1931, this swivelling timepiece started out as a practical solution for Polo Players to protect the glass of the watch during play, but today has become one of the most stylish, quintessential dress watches one can own. Naturally, part of the charm of owning a Reverso is the idea that you can truly make it your own; just flip over the case to reveal a solid steel caseback ready for you to design with a sentimental message, portrait or even artwork. On one side, you get an iconic dress watch with all the hallmarks of the classic Reverso: brushed silvered dial, handsome guillochéd centre, blued hands, and a small seconds display. But when flipped over, you’ll be able to make the watch truly yours thanks to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s customisation possibilities.
OMEGA Seamaster Diver 300m ‘James Bond 60th Anniversary’ Edition
It was in the 1995 classic, GoldenEye, that the partnership between James Bond and Omega was cemented, with the world’s best secret agent donning a stunning steel Seamaster. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the James Bond franchise, Omega cemented the milestone with the unveiling of the new Seamaster Diver 300m which pays homage to the 1995 Seamaster. While you might be thinking that this watch is somewhat gimmicky compared to Omega’s rock-sold catalogue of timepieces, it’s anything but. Crafted from stainless steel, this Seamaster features a stunning blue oxalic anodized aluminium dial with laser engraved waves that is directly inspired by the Seamaster Diver 300M worn by James Bond in GoldenEye. Turn over the watch and you’ll find a transparent crystal caseback etched with the iconic movie opening sequence on the back. Bond’s silhouette and spinning gun barrel plays out on the caseback — the “moiré” effect animation is linked to the spinning of the lollipop seconds hand. This watch combines the very best design aesthetics of the iconic Seamaster married with watchmaking art of the iconic James Bond franchise. Finished on a brushed stainless steel mesh bracelet, it really is the perfect timepiece for everyday wear.
CARTIER Tank Louis Cartier
The Tank Louis Cartier is one of the most iconic of all Cartier timepieces. This stunning iteration of the original Tank, first unveiled in 1919 and worn by Louis Cartier himself, features all the classic hallmarks of the Tank, like its iconic rectangular form, round lugs and overly, “Art Deco” design married with contemporary touchpoints that today’s consumer will know and love. A timeless piece that will be forever stylish and relevant.
TAG HEUER Carrera Chronograph
TAG Heuer revealed one of its most significant timepieces this year to mark the 60th anniversary of the famed Carrera collection: the Carrera Automatic Chronograph in 39mm. Reimagined from the iconic reverse panda 2447 NS model, this new glass box design encapsulates the Carrera’s signature aesthetic with a modern twist. Honestly, TAG Heuer has nailed this new Carrera release, giving vintage lovers what they have long been asking for. This new Carrera comes equipped with a luxurious perforated calfskin leather strap which really accentuates the rich driving history of the Carrera and its link to motorsport.
ROLEX GMT-Master II Ref. BLRO
There wouldn’t be a list of this kind without mentioning some sort of GMT model, and naturally, the one of the first models that will come to mind will be the Rolex GMT-Master II BLRO, colloquially known as the “Pepsi” GMT. Designed in 1954 as a way for pilots to quickly and efficiently track two time zones, the Rolex GMT has remained a staple in the lineup of watches since the very beginning. Today, it presents as one of the most difficult timepieces to acquire, often heralded as one’s “grail”, but such a piece isn’t impossible to get… you just have to be patient. Of course, as with all good things, the wait is well worth it. The black dial juxtaposed with the two-colour Cerachrom bezel insert in red and blue ceramic makes this watch instantly recognisable. Presented with an option of an Oyster bracelet or Jubilee bracelet, we think the five-piece link Jubilee is a classy addition to an otherwise rugged/sporty timepiece.
ZENITH Chronomaster Original
Zenith will tell you that it designed the world’s first automatic chronograph movement back in 1969, and while that might not exactly be the case, it doesn’t really matter — the release of the Zenith El Primero was significant in itself. Fast forward over 50 years later, and not only does Zenith represent one of the best makers of chronograph movements, but its Chronomaster Original is a faithful reissue of the ‘69 El Primero. Crafted in a 38mm steel case, the Chrono Original is the same proportions as the original A386, paired with the iconic tri-colour dial and a steel bracelet. Powered by the El Primero 3600 automatic high-frequency chronograph movement with 1/10th of a second chronograph function, this watch offers 60 hours of power reserve and a power reserve of 60 hours. A must-have for chrono lovers or anybody partial to a sporty, rugged everyday timepiece.
IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40
When IWC unveiled its new Ingenieur at this year’s Watches & Wonders trade show, the proverbial mic was dropped leaving watch pundits a-gasp. Why? For one, this release will undoubtedly be one of the most significant of the year. It not only harks back to watchmaker/visionary Gérald Genta’s original design of the 70s — Genta first designed the Ingenieur SL for IWC in 1976 — but perhaps it is one of the greatest sport watches ever designed, period. IWC have re-engineered the new Ingenieur perfectly, keeping its proportions in-line with the wants and needs of today’s consumer, and modernising it enough but without stripping away its core DNA. A stunning watch that comes in a few variants, such as with a black, white and aqua dial, or in a full titanium design.