by Dana Li
Whether you’re someone thinking of buying their first piece or an enthusiast who wants to expand their collection, there is a watch for you. In this 2 part series, I will be putting together a compilation of watches based on budget that aren’t necessarily designated in brands’ traditional women’s collections, but wear well on women. First up, here are my top 10 picks for watches that are $5,000 and under.
*Note: While I would love to include some vintage options in this series, the prices of vintage watches change so frequently that it’s difficult to predict which price range they will fall in. Therefore, I’ve focused this article on modern pieces that should be available for purchase without a waitlist as of February 2022.
This watch is downright fun and makes a statement with its pop of yellow on an otherwise simple, clean white watch. The inner workings of the quartz movement are also visible and almost resemble a skeletonized watch design. The 34mm case is also made from Swatch’s innovative Bioceramic, which is a blend of ceramic and bio-sourced plastic.
Coming in at 36mm (which to me is the most universal watch size), this rose-gold plated Orient Stela has an exhibition case back and an open heart display, making it great for anyone who wants to watch the movement power the watch. This particular Stela also has a mother-of-pearl-like dial, adding a special touch that really catches your eye. Even better, this watch is currently on sale (as of February 2022 2022) for less than $300 - an absolute steal!
The Seiko Presage Cocktail Time collection is probably my favorite line from the brand. The ice-blue dial on this Seiko SRPE19 is amazing and reminds me of Grand Seiko dial designs. The 40.5mm watch also features an exhibition case back that showcases the Seiko movement. Though it comes with a bracelet, pairing this piece with a blue or light gray leather strap would make it even more stunning. For less than $500, it’s hard to beat the design, functionality, and beauty in this Seiko piece.
This jet black Hamilton Khaki Field watch is just as robust and functional as it is sleek. Inspired by the military watches designed by the brand during World War II, this watch is perfect for those who want a solid, practical watch to wear everywhere. This 38mm stainless steel watch with a cool PVD coating also comes with an 80-hour power reserve, meaning it can run for up to 80 hours without needing to be wound.
$1,000 - $3,000
If you love clean, modern design, the NOMOS Glashütte Ludwig 33 may be the watch for you. Featuring a gorgeous champagne dial, the neutral tones on this watch will can be worn with just about anything from casual to dressy. The smaller 33mm case will also wear well on any wrist. For an additional $300, you can also select the option for an exhibition caseback.
Affectionally called the Cotton Candy collection in Oris’s Divers Sixty-Five line, these dive watches have dreamy pastel-colored dials that are sure to catch anyone’s attention and, in Oris’s words, “bring a smile”. The bronze case gives a twist on the traditional stainless steel cases found on most other Divers Sixty-Five and is great for those who love patina.
I love the current Longines Heritage collection because it reminds me of the designs found on the vintage Longines chronographs I’ve come across. This black and white chronograph stays faithful to the aesthetic of the vintage chronographs from the brand while still having a modern flair to it. This watch is on the larger side at 40mm but is nonetheless a great piece.
$3,000 - $5,000
For those who are looking for a casual piece to wear that still makes a statement, the IWC Pilot Mark XVIII Le Petit Prince is a great option. This beautiful piece pays tribute to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “Le Petit Prince” with the little prince character featured on the case back. Saint-Exupéry himself was also a successful pilot, having been a commercial pilot and a part of the French Air Force during World War II. The blue dial and brown leather strap are also an homage to Saint-Exupéry’s flight suit.
The Tudor Black Bay 58 needs little introduction as one of the most quintessential dive watches. It has a great sporty look while the taupe grey dial and NATO strap give it a cool monochromatic twist. The silver case also makes this piece unique since silver is a relatively uncommon material used for dive watches.
Grand Seiko makes some of the most beautiful and detailed dial designs I’ve ever seen on a watch. The SBGA465 has a bright white and textured dial that is inspired by the early morning frost in Shinshu, where Grand Seiko creates its Spring Drive watches. A Spring Drive watch uses aspects of quartz technology in a mechanical movement to create the one of the most accurate mechanical movements in the market. For under $5,000, this piece offers great value without compromising on quality and design.