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Starting a watch collection? Here are the best timepieces to withstand the test of time

Luxury watches for beginners

Iconic, sensible, and timeless. These 5 luxury watches are perfect for beginner collectors who want to ensure they’re getting the best value and quality.

Starting a collection of luxury watches can be a formidable task for beginners, especially since there are thousands of options to choose from. There are simple timepieces that are valued for their precise craftsmanship, while some are decidedly avant-garde pieces that make artistic statements on the wrist rather than tell the time.

For those who want to delve deeper into the horological world, here are the must-haves for any budding timepiece enthusiasts. These collectibles aren’t just iconic in their own right, but they’re also worthy investments that’ll last for years to come.

1. Rolex Submariner

Rolex Submariner
Image: @timepieceswede via Instagram

Think luxury watches and Rolex is a brand that immediately comes to mind. So it’ll come as no surprise that getting one of their most recognisable timepieces is a must for a starter collection. 

The Rolex Submariner was first introduced in 1953 as a watch for diving, but it has since adorned the wrists of non-divers aplenty. Most notably, it was the watch of choice for actors playing James Bond in the eponymous films from 1962-1987.

Key features of the Submariner include its hardy steel body, oversized crown, unilateral rotating bezel, and waterproof casing of up to 300m. These hallmarks were first conceptualised for divers to easily read and handle the watch while underwater. Now, they’re not just what make this watch iconic, but a rugged piece that can be passed down to future generations.

Price: From $19,000

Full list of Rolex retailers

2. Omega Speedmaster or Seamaster

For watch collectors who prize craftsmanship and precision over all else, it’s got to be Omega – bar none. After all, they’ve been the official timekeeper for the Olympics since 1932, where split seconds distinguish silver from gold.

That isn’t to say Omega watches are any less stunning. The Seamaster and Speedmaster are proof of that. The Seamaster was introduced first in 1948, while the Speedmaster was released in 1957.

Omega Speedmaster
Image: Omega

If you follow horology history closely, you’d know that the Speedmaster has been worn on every lunar expedition led by NASA. That’s because it was the only watch that could withstand the space administration’s rigorous testing. The chronograph, AKA the Moonwatch, made its first galaxy debut on the wrist of Buzz Aldrin, one of the astronauts of the first moon landing in 1969.

luxury watches - Omega Seamaster
Image credit: Omega

The Seamaster’s legacy is equally legendary. From its name, it’s easy to think that the timepiece was made for diving, but the watch was made to withstand high changes in pressure – whether hundreds of metres in the deep blue or thousands of miles in the sky. It’s more famous, however, as the choice of accessory by Agent 007 in the James Bond films since 1995.

As to which one to get – it all boils down to preference. Speedy fans often enjoy the tactile features of the chronograph, which has subdials you can fiddle with. For beginner watch collectors, the Seamaster would be more ideal since it has automatic and quartz movements, which don’t require manual winding. We say, it’s worth completing your collection with both.

Price: From $3,400 (Seamaster) | From $5,300 (Speedmaster)

Full list of Omega retailers

3. Tag Heuer Carrera Chronograph

luxury watches - Tag Heuer Carrera Chronograph
Image credit: @rjgreenbay via Instagram

Collectible timepieces have come a long way from just being able to tell time. One of the earliest auxiliary features of watches was the chronograph, and synonymous with that technology is Swiss brand Tag Heuer. They were one of the first watchmakers to popularise the chronograph, making it wearable on wrists since the early 1910s.

Most Tag Heuer watches now come with a chronograph, but for a standout piece for a collection, then the Carrera would be your best bet. The watch is named after the Carrera Panamericana, a gruelling motor race in Mexico that lasted for only five years.

Jack Heuer, great-grandson of founder Edouard Heuer, was the one to conceptualise the watch, which combined the chronograph with a tachymeter, which calculates speed. He saw the Tag Heuer Carrera as the ultimate watch to wear from the racing track to the after party. Now in its 60th year of production, the Carrera continues to adorn racing drivers, such as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

If the Carrera name sounds familiar, it’s because Porsche also took a liking to the name and named their 911 model after the race. A fitting car to match your new Tag Heuer, perhaps?

Price: From $6,400

Full list of Tag Heuer retailers

4. Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

luxury watches - Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso
Image: Jaeger-LeCoultre

Necessity births invention, and sometimes an icon, which is the story of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. The watch with the reversible case was the solution for polo players who often scratched their watch dials during intensive matches. It only requires a simple push, twist, and lock manoeuvre without having to remove the watch from the wrist to keep the dial protected.

Off the field, the watch then gained a cult following once watchmakers saw the potential of the plain casebacks as canvases for personalisation – think engravings of initials and even enamels of paintings and family crests.

The Reverso even offers a second watch dial on the caseback in models like the Duetto and Duoface. The Duetto has light and dark faces, so the watch can be worn from day to night. As for the Duoface, the second dial can be set to a different time zone for frequent travellers. This iconic marriage of form and function is what makes the Reverso a popular watch for beginner watch collectors.

Price: From $10,100

Full list of Jaeger-LeCoultre retailers

5. Cartier Tank

luxury watches - Cartier Tank
Image: @thetimespellers via Instagram

You may know Cartier as a jewellery brand, but the French design maison has been making watches since 1904. Their first watch was the Cartier Santos, which is still highly sought after today. But it’s the brand’s second watch – the Cartier Tank – that is the sine qua non of watch collectors everywhere.

Its elongated, rectangular body was inspired by Renault military tanks, and it is this slim shape that popularised wearing wristwatches as an accessory across genders. Fashion icons like Jackie Kennedy, Yves Saint Laurent, and Andy Warhol sported the Cartier Tank on red carpets, which only catapulted the watch’s popularity as a staple in any jewellery box.

The Cartier Tank has been in production since 1917 – a testament to its timelessness as a fashion accessory. Over the years, slight modulations have been introduced to suit various aesthetics. This includes a larger case for the Tank MC and a crocodile leather offering on the Tank Louis Cartier. 

Price: From $4,700

Full list of Cartier retailers

Luxury watches to get to start your collection

There you have it – some of the more classic pieces for novice watch collectors to get to start a lifelong hobby of collecting timepieces.

But before starting a watch collection, it’s important to note what you want your selection to say about you as a collector. Are you in it for the workmanship, the aesthetics, or the technology The ones we’ve chosen cover a good selection of all three, but it’s up to you to see where you want to take your collection.

Cover image: Omega, @timepieceswede & @thetimespellers via Instagram

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