It was once said that the only jewelry a man should wear is a wedding ring and a watch. While that’s no longer true today, the gift of a good timepiece is always welcomed. It can easily set the tone for style or cement a look like no other accessory. Moreover, a good watch is about proper timekeeping, whether it’s quartz, solar-powered, hand-wound mechanical, or automatic. Giving a watch as a gift is also no longer relegated to occur between spouses or at a retirement party. What’s more, a well-made watch with premium materials is no longer exclusive to high-end watch brands with models that cost more than most men may want to spend on a watch.
When shopping for a watch, it’s not just the brand name that’s important (and that should not be your sole criterion, by the way). Look for high-grade materials such as solid 316L stainless steel for the case and bracelet, sapphire glass with an anti-reflective coating, applied markers, quality lume paint, and a mechanical automatic or hand-wound movement. You can find some of those same materials in a $300 watch, as well as in a $3,000 watch, so do your homework. In case, you’re not keen on doing too much research, we’ve curated ten watches that will have the recipient grinning like a Cheshire cat this holiday season so you can give the gift of telling time in style. We’ve selected them a nearly all reasonable price points, and across the range of styles.
The 417 ES is one of our favorite watches this year, and it has heritage behind it having been used by German fighter pilots and later to the French Air Force. The new 417 ES is faithful to the original from the ’50s but with some important changes. The bi-compax layout carries over but the recessed and concentric-circle textured subdials are moved closer to the center of the dial for a cleaner look. The chronograph second hand is now a leaf shape with an elegant but very subtly skeletonized counterweight. The modern domed sapphire crystal is a thing of beauty, and the wonderful coin edge bezel with red marker is still present. The Sellita SW 510 M is a hand-wound movement and makes the ownership experience even more of a delight.$2,140
Can you tell we have a love for vintage-style watches and bund straps? The Khaki Field Auto Chrono is brand new this year, and it’s a field watch to covet. The bead-blasted case is tough and low-on-the-radar, while the numerals and markers pop off the matte black dial with its recessed subdials. Vintage lume and pencil hands harken to the military past, and the automatic chronograph movement will delight with its twin pushers and solid action. The matte green bund strap is a pilot’s delight, and the whole package will delight the recipient, especially if that special someone is you.$1,745
[Partner] If we had to pick a desert island watch, it might very well be the Vaer D4 Dive. Built here in the USA and engineered to last, this solar-powered dive watch features a 20ATM water resistance rating, a scratch-resistant double domed top crystal, and a deep-etched 38mm caseback. And a single solar-powered charge should last you up to 6 Months. With customizable straps (we’re partial to the single-pass khaki) the Vaer D4 can handle dressy and casual occasions and the watch is backed by Vaer’s guaranteed waterproof warranty.$329
The German company is primarily known for classic pilot’s watches, but they also make a line of superb tactical/dive watches that includes the Himalaya. Although it’s the least colorful model in the line, it still has a contrasting orange minute hand against the black dial. The modestly sized 41mm case has a great notchy unidirectional bezel for easy gripping. The scorpion embossed screw-down caseback keeps the elements away from the automatic movement, and the double-domed sapphire crystal is anti-reflective for easy reading. Its 1,000-meter depth rating and rubber dive strap mean it’s just as ready to take on the waters as it is the rigors of the field.$1,130
The Golden Horse is another reissue watch we’re in love with. Based on the 1957 original of the same name, the new Golden Horse keeps the 37mm diameter and the vintage styling while adding an automatic Swiss ETA movement with an 80-hour power reserve and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. It still has great details like the faceted hands, sunburst dial, beads of rice bracelet, and the famous moving anchor symbol. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more stylish dress watch for this price.$1,800
You don’t have to buy a Bell & Ross to evoke aircraft instrumentation. The flagship watch from AVI-8 costs far less, and its design is inspired directly by the famous Spitfire fighter plane from WWII. The 42mm case has great wrist presence, and the bold hands and numerals look like the Spitfire’s high-contrast gauges. Even the small seconds subdial at the 5 o’clock position looks the part. The Spitfire Type 300 Automatic is powered by a reliable Japanese automatic movement$425
If you call the Prospex Speedtimer a Japanese Omega Speedmaster, it’s no insult. But you’d be wrong to think it’s a copy. The new Speedtimer issued this year nods to Seiko’s sport chronos from the ’60s. In its current format, the Speedtimer is solar-powered and as handsome as ever. The modest 39mm case houses a Seiko Caliber V192 quartz movement with true chronograph functionality. The panda dial lets the black subdials and tachymeter bezel pop nicely, and the vintage beige Lumibrite hands and markers bring a touch of the horological past to the new watch.Learn More
This is about as classy as you can get for a vintage-styled sports watch at this price. The new M79 line harkens back to the original Q Times from the ’70s, and it has all the right cues including a right-sized 40mm case, domed acrylic crystal, and a finely meshed tapering steel bracelet that’s the epitome of comfort. The 21-jewel mechanical automatic movement has a 40-hour power reserve, and it’s water-resistant to 50 meters. The best part, however, is the fact that it’s a gift that the recipient will love for its sport and dress versatility, as well as its totally unpretentious but still completely handsome look.$279
So nicknamed for its case shape’s resemblance to the famous (and far pricier) Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the carbon and resin GA2100-1A1 is actually a totally no-nonsense analog-digital tactical watch with just the right amount of flair. In all black, it’s an intimidating watch that also happens to be modestly sized at 45mm in diameter by 11.8mm in thickness. The whole watch is black, except for the digital readout and the hands, so it’s a stealthy formula that will still get attention. The arsenal of standard G-SHOCK features is present including 5 alarms, stopwatch, countdown timer, 31 time zones, world time, and of course, shock resistance. The price is perhaps the most shocking part at under $100.$99
The EVO2 is the redesign of the Mondaine Railway Watch icon that has real history in Swiss train stations dating back to 1944 and for the first time, it has an automatic movement. The dial treatment is still the iconic minimalist black on white, while the case is now rounded, not unlike an Ikepod Hemipode. The EVO2 also gets a domed sapphire crystal on top and a see-through caseback through which the Sellitta SW-200 movement is viewable. The Mondaine flagship is no longer just a design icon but a true Swiss automatic timekeeper.$720