Fine Watches Under $50,000

Fine Watches Under $50,000

| 01.08.24

A $25,000, $35,000, or — dare we even say it aloud — $50,000 wristwatch?

Yes, they exist. And yes, they can conceivably cost as much as a large automobile. What brings a watch into this realm of pricing, you might ask? There are myriad factors: Complications; precious metals; unusual materials; popular designs; limited editions; and, of course, the name on the dial. 

At the end of the day, each person must decide what brings them “value” in a watch. For some, a $20 Timex is just the ticket — and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. Others wouldn’t bat an eye at spending $100,000 on a complicated piece from Patek Philippe, and you know what? That’s equally OK. Your iPhone can tell you the time — everything else is just gravy. Personal taste; what your budget can stand; what your significant other will tolerate; and the like. 

That being said, spending between $25,000 and $50,000 on a wristwatch is no mean feat — and if you’re gonna shell out this much moolah for a timepiece, you want to be sure you’re buying something special. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up a host of compelling pieces — ones whose features mean that they’re probably not “first watch” purchases. (Or even “second watch” — or “tenth,” for that matter.) 

While certain of these pieces exist firmly in the realm of haute horlogerie, others are simply incredibly rare or highly sought after. Again: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder — but the greater market has deemed these beautiful, and such is reflected in their pricing. Want to learn more about a specific watch? Dive deep into the product description of each piece, where we’ve written up a full history of the model as well as its parent company. And if you’re looking for something specific that’s not on this list? Reach out to us — we’d be more than happy to help you find what you’re looking for. 

Girard Perregaux Laureato 38mm Green Ceramic Aston Martin Edition ($26,000)

Girard Perregaux Laureato 38mm Green Ceramic Aston Martin Edition - IN THE SHOP

Combining automotive inspiration with luxury sports watch aesthetics is by no means a simple design remit — but Girard Perregaux’s collaboration with Aston Martin somehow manages to do the trick. Executed in green ceramic with a ‘webbed’ dial and powered by an automatic movement, it’s a subtle nod to the most British of car manufacturers, and it comes complete with its factory goodies.

Blancpain Air Command Flyback Chronograph ($27,300)

Blancpain Air Command Flyback Chronograph - IN THE SHOP

While the deep cut Air Command was never adopted by the U.S. Air Force, the reissue from 2019 was widely adopted by eager collectors everywhere. This 18K rose gold version ups the ante and offers a more luxurious take on an excellent tool watch design, pairing a precious-metal case with the Blancpain Calibre F88B flyback chronograph movement. 

IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar ($28,000)

IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar - IN THE SHOP

Typically, a perpetual calendar is a more delicate affair, with modest proportions and elegant lines. The Reference IW503401, on the other hand, announces itself boldly with a 44.2mm white gold case, a deep blue dial in a sunray finish, and a positively enormous moon phase display at 12 o’clock. Packed with information and beautiful to behold, it’s everything we love about IWC in a single timepiece.

Patek Philippe Calatrava ($29,000)

Patek Philippe Calatrava - IN THE SHOP

Produced for nearly 30 years beginning in the 1930s, the Reference 570 is an upsized version of the original Calatrava, the Reference 96. Measuring 35mm, this white gold example — with its satin silver dial, applied indices, and ‘dauphine’ handset — is simple, elegant, and versatile. In short: It’s everything you could want in a dress watch, and nothing more. 

Breguet Tradition ($33,850)

Breguet Tradition - IN THE SHOP

Inspired by the company’s 19th-century ‘souscription’ pocket watches, this Breguet Tradition seamlessly melds classical watchmaking with modern aesthetics in a breathtaking piece of haute horlogerie. With its engine-turned dial and exposed gear train, it’s clear proof of the maison’s inventiveness and whimsical approach to contemporary watchmaking. 

Audemars Piguet Signed Disco Volante Dress Watch 'Gübelin' ($34,750)

Audemars Piguet Signed Disco Volante Dress Watch 'Gübelin' - IN THE SHOP

Before the 1972 debut of the Royal Oak, Audemars Piguet’s focus was on outstanding time-only and complicated dress watches, often in precious metals. This wonderful ‘Disco Volante’ — so named for its flying saucer-esque lines — was retailed by Gübelin, and is thus double-signed on its silver crosshair dial. Made of white gold and paired to a matching, integrated bracelet, it’s a standout in the maison’s back catalog. 

Lange & Söhne Grand Lange 1 'Luminous' ($34,900)

Lange & Söhne Grand Lange 1 'Luminous' - IN THE SHOP

An upsized version of the famed Lange 1 — the watch that has come to define modern A. Lange & Söhne — the Grand Lange 1 Reference 115.029 features a striking black dial coated in luminous material. The melding of innovative complication, classical typography, and tool watch-esque lume makes for a timepiece unique in specification — and one that only Lange could deliver. 

Universal Genève Tri-Compax Moonphase ($39,990)

Universal Genève Tri-Compax Moonphase - IN THE SHOP

The culmination of decades of innovation in complicated watchmaking in parallel to strides in tool watch design, this Tri-Compax Moonphase Reference 881101/03 is simply a gem of mid-20th century horology. Measuring 36 mm in stainless steel, its colorful dial boasts a triple-calendar display, plus a triple-register chronograph as well as a moon phase. 

Arnold & Son Perpetual Moon Stellar Rays Limited Platinum ($38,990)

Arnold & Son Perpetual Moon Stellar Rays Limited Platinum - IN THE SHOP

Many complicated watches include a moon phase display, but few of them are designed as thoughtfully as the Perpetual Moon Stellar Rays Limited Platinum by Arnold & Son. Housed in a 41.5mm platinum case, the upper half of its breathtaking, salmon-toned guilloché dial is given over almost entirely to an oversized moon phase indicator in beautiful blue and silver detail.

Cartier Tank Chinoise 'Extra Plat' ($42,990)

Cartier Tank Chinoise 'Extra Plat' - IN THE SHOP

Released in 1922, the Cartier Tank Chinoise took inspiration from the porticoes of Chinese temples. This example from the 1970s — an ‘Extra Plat’ model with a particularly flat profile — features the Tank’s classic ‘Roman’ dial, a hand-wound movement, and a stunning yellow gold bracelet that matches the case material. Contemporary looking even today, it’s a beautiful riff on a timeless design.

Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Moonphases ($44,000)

Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Moonphases - IN THE SHOP

The Reference 5396 manages to pack an annual calendar into 38.5mm of white gold without feeling crowded or overdesigned — no easy feat. Dating to the 2010s and powered by Patek’s in-house Caliber 324 S QA LU 24H automatic-winding movement, its satin silver dial with applied indices conveys the day, date, month, and phase of the moon in addition to the time.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Day-Date Moonphase ($47,300) 

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Day-Date Moonphase - IN THE SHOP

While many picture a certain Rolex when the words “day” and “date” come to mind, this ‘90s-era Royal Oak turns the concept on its head by offering a dual-register dial in which the day is displayed at 9 o’clock, and the date at 3 o’clock. Housed in a 36mm stainless steel case, it’s a complicated version of the luxury sports watch that can easily be worn by both men and women.

IWC Portugieser ($48,000) 

IWC Portugieser - IN THE SHOP

Historically significant and wildly handsome, this IWC Portugieser Reference 325 from the 1940s stems from a time when a 42mm wristwatch was completely out of the norm. Incorporating the thin, hand-wound IWC Calibre 74 movement, its patina-speckled black dial with radium lume and ‘Arabic’ numerals is a beautiful time capsule from a more elegant era. 

Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes De Vache Chronograph ($48,950)

Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes De Vache Chronograph - IN THE SHOP

The Corne De Vache is one of the most beloved vintage chronograph designs from the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Swiss watchmakers. While snagging an original, mid-20th century model is a difficult proposition, this reissue from the 2020s is no less compelling. With its stainless steel case, ‘cowhorn’ lugs, and satin silver dial with base-1,000 tachymeter scale, it’s a gorgeous, timeless design updated with modern proportions. What’s not to like?