The Best Watches Under £10,000

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The Best Watches Under £10,000

Words by Mr Alex Doak | Photography by Ms Rebecca Scheinberg

5 September 2021

When it comes to watch advice, what everyone wants to know is, “What’s a good investment?” To which the stock response goes, “There’s no such thing, unless you’ve scored on the waiting list for a platinum Patek Philippe that’ll never leave its polythene bag. Buy with your heart not your head, dummy.”

But if you’re still in the mood for building a hit-parade watch wardrobe that will hold its value and edge you closer to “collector” status, then for £5,000 or more you’re primed for some sure-fire sentimental investments – watches that will last a lifetime, whatever their financial performance.

What’s more, in this price bracket, more of your cash goes towards the sheer graft required to craft a wristwatch, meaning that you are now looking at buying from “manufacture” brands, ie, those watchmakers that build their own movements and accompany them with a higher degree of hand-finishing and general build quality.

This, then, is our pick of the stone-cold Swiss classics, seven watches each costing less than £10,000 and boasting more pedigree than Crufts, as well as a personal value that can only appreciate.

Panerai’s cushion-shaped watches first ventured behind enemy lines in 1940, at the behest of Italy’s Regia Marina frogmen. Today, the Florentine military supplier’s sundry flashlights, depth gauges and more have long gone overboard purely in favour of timepieces developed at Panerai’s Swiss manufacture, spiked with mil-spec tech. In terms of underwater pedigree, the Submersible is closest to the origin story, being a pure 300-metre diving watch, fitted with a coral-proof ceramic bezel and that iconic, levered crown guard, sealing the rubber gaskets tighter than a submarine hatch.

While brothers Messrs Pierre and Jacques Cartier built their father’s Parisian jewellery empire, Mr Louis-François Cartier’s passion for watches drove Cartier’s parallel enterprise in horology. His dainty but far-out shapes were fuelled by the maison’s creativity in the jewellery business, allied with the burgeoning interest in wristwear over pocket watches – a trend sparked by the trenches of WW1, when men started strapping on their watches for convenience. Appropriately enough, Cartier’s icon was the Tank, inspired by the footprint of the British Army’s caterpillar tracks and it remains an evergreen dress watch staple, more than 100 years on. Cased in gold with a brown alligator leather strap, it’s an all-time classic.

Girard-Perregaux is considered the quiet man of Swiss watchmaking’s “big five” old-school manufactures, lending a cultish cool beyond the reach of its more classical contemporaries Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin. Hence Girard-Perregaux’s recent endeavours with entry-level Laureato, showing everyone just how a groovetastic 1970s re-edition should be done. Designed in 1975 by Milanese architect Mr Adolfo Natalini in keeping with the era’s octagonal, integrated-bracelet, steel sports-watch craze, today’s collection remains accessible (bear in mind you are getting an in-house GP01800 movement) and just as refined (the dial’s Clous de Paris engraved pattern). It’s the very epitome of “if you know, you know”.

More than 80 years ago, two Portuguese businessmen approached their friendly local International Watch Company rep and requested a wristwatch with marine-chronometer levels of precision. Never to shirk from a challenge, the industrious Swiss marque complied with a gamechanger, transposing pocket-watch precision to wristborn convenience. Come the late 1990s, IWC updated the mid-century design with an elegant chronograph edition – which remains one of the most recognisable on the market – now powered by an in-house movement, complete with column wheel and a 46-hour power reserve.

Ulysse Nardin was a pioneer of early 20th-century nautical timekeeping – its chronometers were used by more than 50 different military powers to navigate the high seas. Riffing on the retro instrument aesthetic of a prize-winning torpedo timer made for the US Navy, this is nonetheless as luxurious a mil-spec as the battlefield will permit, fitted with Ulysse Nardin’s in-house-crafted UN-118 chronometer movement. Quite rightly, it’s chronometer-rated to within +4/–6 seconds a day, while benefitting from the brand’s modern-day “DIAMonSIL” tech – diamond-coated silicon parts that enhances the longevity and durability of its relentlessly ticking escapement.

Legend has it that on a business trip to colonial Jaipur in 1930, Swiss watch dealer Mr César de Trey was ambushed by British officers, who challenged him to make a watch robust enough to weather the action on the polo field. Spying a ripe opportunity, de Trey wasted no time. A cascade of collaborations that saw watchmaker LeCoultre and instrument-maker Jaeger seek help from French engineer Mr René-Alfred Chauvot ended in Paris on 4 March 1931, with a patent application for “a watch capable of sliding in its support and being completely turned over”. An Art Deco icon was born, and 90 years on Chauvot’s mechanism is still as addictively tactile and hard-wearing. In this case, however, not so mallet-proof thanks to a second time-zone dial on the reverse.

Just… look at it. It’s difficult to do anything else, to be fair. In little over 25 years, Mr Karl-Friedrich Scheufele’s top-flight passion project L.U.C has well and truly brought the titular mr Louis-Ulysse Chopard’s horological clout of 1860 back to a marque that, thanks to Scheufele’s sister Caroline, was becoming more renowned for its spectacular jewellery. Nestled in the conifers of Fleurier village, the L.U.C isn’t just about in-house nous such as micro-rotors, fine finishing and cleverly stacked winding barrels (this slimline example packs a 58-hour reserve). It also wields a rare, contemporary design language fusing classical with cool.