If five figures is the hard cap for your next timepiece, you have some incredible watches to choose from — but it's a choice you likely want to make carefully. This is, after all, the world of in-house movements, increasingly exotic (yet lust-worthy) complications, and some of horology’s heaviest hitters.
With that in mind, our favorite choices run the gamut: watches for divers, chronographs for drivers, timepieces for would-be CEOs and a few that dip toes in all waters at once. These are the ten best watches under $10,000.
At one time, Grand Seiko needed to explain its luxury pricing and what made its watches so many steps above the ultra affordable Seikos upon which the company built its reputation — not so anymore. On top of a supremely balanced design and high level of refinement, the brand's Heritage line offers several models with an exotic hi-beat automatic movement (which operates at 5Hz rather than the more typical 4Hz) with a GMT function. With an in-house movement and lightweight titanium case to boot, you probably can't do better for $6,300 for an everyday watch.
Movement: Seiko 9S86 automatic
The Reverso probably belongs on any list of the most iconic watches of all time, and its modern version is as cool as ever. Not only is it brimming with history as one of the rare non-round watches to really have staying power, but it's got a neat little gimmick that almost no other watch can match. Aside from its distinctive and handsome look, the case itself can be flipped around (on-wrist) in order to protect the dial. It's got such a solid and satisfying action that you'll just want to fiddle with it (rather than need to protect the dial from rough polo matches, as was its original purpose). Available in a wide array of variations, this Medium model has a manually wound movement that helps it wear nice and thin.
Movement: Jaeger-LeCoultre 822/2 hand-wound
Based on a dive watch that Omega originally launched in 1957, the Seamaster 300's throwback look contrasts with the brand's more contemporary and aggressive models like the Planet Ocean. Omega typically offers a strong value, and the Seamaster 300 is no exception with its impressive build quality and in-house automatic movement featuring its famous Co-Axial escapement. At 41mm, it's just the right mix of sporty and conservative to constitute a perfect everyday watch.
Movement: Omega 8400 automatic
For $6,600, this 42mm-wide world timer displays the time in both hemispheres as represented by domed globe motifs — each turning opposite directions on the dial. Other elements like a 24-hour hand at 9 o’clock and rotating bezel all come together to offer plenty of useful information presented in an exceedingly elegant way. The dial, including the continents, is amply lumed and glows for a striking effect in low light. If you're hunting for a world time complication, this is simply one of the coolest available.
Movement: MB 29.25 automatic
The often-sportily styled IWC Portugieser has stood the test of time as one of the most versatile chronographs available. The new 2020 models got outfitted with in-house movements that make the Portugieser ever more compelling. These are well made and nice-looking movements, to boot, which can be viewed through display case backs. Further, the new movements allow for a 41mm case, which is the magic size for many people. The entire design comes together with classic dials which retain their striking look with strong legibility and pleasing balance.
Movement: IWC 69355 automatic
There is a sporty yet casual elegance to this timepiece that few marques can balance as well as Zenith. At 37mm, the case has a very retro profile, but its all-black treatment gives it a distinctly modern feel. Of course, Zenith's claim to fame resides with its 36,000 vph El Primero automatic chronograph 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, beating joint efforts by Heuer and Breitling.
Movement: Zenith El Primero 400 automatic
From 30 yards out, even the most casual observer can recognize a Navitimer — they would need to get much closer to actually read one, of course, thanks to the plethora of information contained within its busy dial. There's a slide rule as well as three subdials for the chronograph which together amount to a striking and distinctive look. Typically, such a smorgasbord would be overwhelming, but the Navitimer has pulled it off with impeccable style since 1954 and continues to do so. Here with contrasting subdials to make it a "reverse panda" and an in-house movement, what's not to love?
Movement: Breitling B01 automatic
There is little to be written about the Rolex Submariner that hasn’t been before. The Oyster Perpetual earned its reputation through associations with James Bond, Edmund Hilary and the Marianas Trench. As always, the new 41mm 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 3235 calibre self-winding movement, this Sub is a certified chronometer that utilizes a Parachrom hairspring to maintain impeccable accuracy.
Movement: Rolex 3235 automatic
It’s rare to find an in-house, automatic, full perpetual calendar for under five figures. And yet Frederique Constant offers just that. Credit Frederique Constant’s dedication to delivering affordable luxury to clients and collectors more concerned with complications than marketing budgets. The FC-775 calibre came together over three years of development and its ease of assembly is what manages to keep costs surprisingly low. Here, it's housed in an elegant new case with a gorgeous grey dial with sunray decoration.
Movement: Frederique Constant FC-775 automatic
Exclusively available to online, the Panerai Submersible Azzurro is practical and wearable as an everyday dive watch with an automatic movement with up to three days of power reserve and a delicious 42mm case. Though the basic Panerai design is rooted in dive watches for the Italian navy, the modern brand's dedicated dive watch highlights that history and offers 300m of water resistance. Though brightened up with sporty blue, its handsome look is going to pair with straps of all kinds.
Movement: Panerai P.900 automatic