How to Buy a Watch at Every Price

There are few consumer goods that command such a wildly diverse range of prices as the humble wristwatch. The most important thing to understand is that time-telling has relatively little to do with a watch’s value. Instead, watchmakers price their wares according to the skilled craftsmanship, unique technology, and specialized materials (and, yes, marketing) that go into them. Here’s a breakdown of what you’re getting for your money.

Up to $1,000:

Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical


A sound investment here is something with a quartz (battery-powered) or automatic (wound mechanically as you wear it) movement from a reputable Swiss or Japanese brand. Seek out sapphire crystal faces over glass or plastic.


Up to $5,000:

Norqain Adventure Sport Auto


A good starting range for dress and dive pieces. You may still be getting a mass-produced movement (as opposed to one designed and assembled in-house by the brand), but you’ll still have a high-quality watch.


Up to $15,000:

Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 Pan Am Edition



With the prestige (and the price) of big brand names comes great design and engineering (including the movement, which should be made in-house), plus basic complications like GMTs.


Up to $50,000:

Rolex Cellini Moonphase


Precious metals are in the mix here, as are complications requiring specialized manufacturing, like perpetual calendars. Everything in this range should be chronometer-certified, a sign of accuracy.



Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon


At this lofty tier, you’re going to find gold and platinum, plus specialized complications like tourbillons. Individual parts are often finished and polished by hand. Think of them as fine art.