If five figures is the hard cap for your next timepiece, you should feel some serious trepidation before pulling the trigger. This is, after all, the world of in-house movements, increasingly convoluted (yet lustworthy) complications, and some of horology’s heaviest hitters.
With that in mind, our favorite choices run the gamut: watches for divers, chronographs for drivers, slimmed-down timepieces for would-be CEOs and a few that dip toes in all waters at once. These are the ten best watches for under $10,000.
There is little to be written about the Rolex Submariner that hasn’t been before. The Oyster Perpetual earned its reputation through associations to Bond, Hilary and the Marianas Trench. This 40mm Oyster case iteration is machined from 904L stainless steel, a superalloy that contains more nickel and chromium in its composition — which makes for a more robust timepiece that holds its shine much longer. Powered by Rolex’s in-house 3135 calibre self-winding movement, this Sub is a certified chronometer that utilizes a Parachrom hairspring to maintain impeccable accuracy.
Panerai Luminor Marina 8 Days Acciaio
Exclusively available to North American customers, the Panerai Luminor Marina 8 Days Acciaio is a hand-wound powerhouse with up to 192 hours of power reserve. This is thanks the P.5000 calibre that beats within the hallmark 44mm cushion case. Panerai’s historic relationship with the Italian Navy is celebrated on the engraved case back, which features an attack method used by the Marina Militare, the human torpedo.
Frederique Constant Slimline Perpetual Calendar
It’s rare to find an in-house, automatic, full perpetual calendar for under five figures. And yet, at Basel this year, Frederique Constant unveiled just that. To put their Slimline Perpetual Calendar into perspective, the next-most-affordable perpetual calendar timepiece comes from Montblanc, and it retails for pennies less than $13,000. Credit Frederique Constant’s dedication to delivering affordable luxury to clients and collectors more concerned with complications than marketing budgets. The all-new FC-775 calibre came together over three years of development and its ease of assembly is what manages to keep costs surprisingly low.
Zenith El Primero
There are few dials as exquisite as the trademark Tri-Color chronograph of a Zenith El Primero. There is a casual elegance to this timepiece that few marques can balance. At 42mm, the case is of contemporary size without wearing large, and delivers just enough golden-era sportiness to pair perfectly with a set of stringbacks and a Nardo wheel. Of course, the El Primero’s claim to fame resides with its 36,000 vph, calibre 400 B automatic movement. Those extra oscillations (compared to the standard 28,800 vph) made the original 1969 El Primero a more accurate version of the world’s first mechanical chronograph, besting joint efforts by Heuer and Breitling.
Jaeger LeCoultre Geophysic True Second
While any watch aficionado can sing you the praises of Omega’s Moonwatch, few will raise an eyebrow for JLC’s Geophysic. And that’s a damn shame. The Geophysic is Jaeger LeCoultre’s most formidable tool watch, with roots tracing back to 1958’s International Geophysical Year, when an historic collaboration of nations led to a number of important scientific explorations. The Geophysic True Second continues this tradition of packaging a bombproof tool watch into a gentlemanly package. Its “True Second” nomenclature means this JLC employs a deadbeat seconds hand, which ticks instead of sweeps. How it does so — a spiral spring and metal whip powered by JLC’s Gyrolab balance — is infinitely mesmerizing.
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Omega’s pursuit of extreme accuracy dates back to Geneva’s Observatory Trials in the early to mid 1930s and culminates, for now, in their Master Chronometer, the Globemaster. Designed with a nod to Omega’s past, the pie-pan dial is instantly recognizable as a member of the Constellation family and offers an attractive statement in classicism. The 39mm stainless steel case works incredibly well as a dress watch or as an everyday, casual timepiece. Of course, the Globemaster’s claim to fame is the METAS certified, Omega 8900 Co-Axial self-winding movement found within. It was subjected to eight extra steps of testing beyond standard COSC recognition.
Oris Arelier Calibre 112
The Oris Artelier Calibre 112 is perfect timepiece for travelers bouncing between business affairs and adventure. At 43mm in diameter the Artelier is large, but its curved lugs help it sit thin on the wrist. Powered by Oris’s in-house, hand-wound calibre 112 movement, the Artelier features a GMT subdial at the 12 o’clock position complete with Day/Night indication and a 10-day power reserve. A seconds subdial resides below the date window. Superluminova coatings adorn the polished nickel hands that point towards equally shimmering applied indices. A pair of sapphire crystals sandwich the watch to eliminate scuffs and glare, and to allow a peek under the hood.
IWC Ingenieur Automatic
Bearing the trademarks of the Gerald Genta-designed original, the IWC Ingenieur Automatic is known as the elegant workhorse of the horological world. Its integrated stainless-steel bracelet and five bored holes flanking its bezel pay homage to Genta while the soft-iron inner cage fends off magnetic fields up to 40,000 amperes per meter and the case protects against 120m of water pressure. In fact, this is one of the few Ingenieurs that currently guards against magnetic fields — which was kind of the point of this timepiece in the first place.
Breitling Navitimer 1884
From 30 yards out, even the most casual observer can recognize a Navitimer; of course, they would need to get much closer to actually read one, thanks to the plethora of information contained within its 46mm case. There is a slide rule, a pointer-date calendar and twin day/month apertures, as well as three subdials that include a 24-hour military time display, a 30-minute chronograph and a 12-hour counter. Typically, such a smorgasbord would be overwhelming, but the Navitimer continues to pull it off with impeccable style.
RGM Watch Co. 801 A
RGM Watch Co. founder Roland Murphy cites the inspiration for the 801 A as, among other things, an eBay purchase: a pair of Hamilton-built WWII aircraft clocks informed the 801 A’s vintage vibe, with yellow and aquamarine colorway and spread arrow hands. Inside the American-made, elegantly brush-finished 42mm case whirs the hand-wound, in-house RGM 801 movement — a spectacle to behold, which can even be ordered with wolf’s-tooth winding wheels. Which is to say that we highly recommend exploring some of the customization options.