The best designer watches to invest in this year

A quality time-piece is the ultimate investment-buy guaranteed to last a lifetime, and this year feels like a timely moment to invest in one of the best designer watches

Words: Tracey Llewellyn

With so much put on the back-burner this year – party dresses not needed, holidays forbidden, restaurants closed – a lot of people have resorted to so-called ‘revenge’ buying, a nose-thumb to the gods of fate that have taken so much away from our daily lives. And, it would seem that one of the sectors to benefit most from this ‘treat-yourself’ culture is the watch industry.

If 2020 taught the world of horology one thing, it is just how flexible and adaptable in can be. For years, it was a mainstay of tradition, refusing to comply with the demands of new audiences in an increasingly digital world. But, as a global pandemic swept across continents, effectively halting traditional bricks-and-mortar retail, watch brands started to show a new acceptance of the worldwide web.

With the largest watch fairs cancelled, the industry quickly moved to showing new products online, something that would have been unthinkable just a year ago and, importantly, many brands and retailers started selling via e-commerce, with virtual, one-on-one appointments.

While many new releases were simply moved to 2021, others carried on as scheduled with some like the SuperOcean Heritage 57 ‘Rainbow Dial’ by Breitling selling out. Others, from the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight ‘Navy Blue’ and candy-coloured Rolex Oyster Perpetuals were delayed in making an appearance and so highly-anticipated that waiting lists began before launch dates were even announced.

Brian Duffy of WoS Group, which encompasses Watches of Switzerland, Goldsmiths and Mappin & Webb, has reported record business through the summer – thanks, no doubt to the brands his stores stock and pre-ordered pieces arriving for collection. And it seems that the vintage and pre-owned market is also faring well with Paul Boutros of Phillips NY declaring 2020 a record year, and the auction house announcing its highest ever annual sale total for Geneva sales with a combined figure of CHF69m.

For the LVMH brands it was close to business as usual with Chaumet and Dior both releasing their high jewellery masterpieces as usual in July and Dior introducing specific Grand Bals such as the Masqué and Ruban throughout the year. TAG Heuer’s year-long 160th anniversary party with the Carerra taking centre stage still allowed for some sparkly new Links to debut, and Bulgari – fortunate to take part in two physical shows outside of lockdown – launched some sensational pieces from the record-breaking Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton to the world’s smallest women’s tourbillon, exquisitely housed in a Serpenti snake-head case

And this year also showed that there was something for everyone. Many brands revisited their archives, taking inspiration from the best of the past, whether a whole family of watches as in Cartier’s much-missed, 1980s classic the Pasha and Chanel’s array of J12s (this year celebrating its 20th anniversary), or smaller collections such as the Longines’ Spirit watches that pay tribute to aviation pioneers such as Amelia Earhart and Elinor Smith and the Piaget Limelight Gala in styles loved by some of the 20th century’s most stylish women from Gina Lollobrigida to Jackie Kennedy. Elsewhere, individual pieces with a vintage feel popped up, such as the stunning Omega Tresor on bracelet – a nod to the unusual gold work of the 1960s.

Although watches have fared comparatively well so far this year, signs are positive that the best is yet to come. With new models being announced almost daily it seems that the gift of time is still viewed as the perfect present for the holiday season and beyond. Despite the potential tears caused by tiers, a touch of sparkle never fails to brighten even the darkest day and there is glitz and gold aplenty to be found this Christmas, from Dolce & Gabbana’s new DG7 Barocco to Louis Vuitton’s Tambour Slim Star Blossom, Patek Philippe’s new version of the square, quartz Twenty-4 and the Hublot Classic Fusion Orlinski.

With Chinese New Year limited editions already announced and rumours circulating about what’s to come later in 2021, the future for watches looks strong – both in terms of consumer appetite and product creation.

The designer watches worth investing in

Here are the dreamy designer watches we’re lusting after right now…

Breitling Superocean Heritage ’57 Limited Edition II – £3,990 | Breitling 
This limited edition rainbow-inspired design from Breitling is much more than just a classically chic time-piece. Part of the proceeds from sales will be donated to leading charities supporting healthcare workers on the frontline of the global fight against COVID-19. This one would make a very special Christmas gift with a cause.

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TUDOR Black Bay Fifty-Eight ‘Navy Blue’ – £2,760 | TUDOR
With a riveted steel bracelet with polished and satin finish, this TUDOR Black Bay Fifty-Eight is a timeless design you’ll want to wear and cherish forever.

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Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 – £4,450 | Rolex 
Universally classic and unmistakably Rolex, the new Oyster Perpetual 36 has an elegant but hardwearing Oystersteel bracelet and pretty candy pink dial face. This one’s an investment that will last a lifetime.

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Dior Grand Bal Ruban – £42,500 | Dior 
Dior’s dreamy Grand Bal collection is inspired by the twirl of a ballgown. Adorned with gold thread, fishnet, silk, feathers, stones, and even scarab beetle wings, the refined collection serves as a nod to Christian Dior’s iconic atelier.

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Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton – POA | Bulgari
A triumph of architectural elegance and innovative watchmaking, Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo Swiss-made time-piece offers a glimpse into the inner workings of its movements. With a blue alligator bracelet and platinum ardillon buckle for added style credentials.

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Pasha de Cartier watch – £87,500 | Cartier 
One of Cartier’s most lusted-after designs, the Cartier Pasha has been a modern icon since it first launched back in 1985. A square inside a circle, clous de Paris, Arabic numerals, a chained crown: there’s no mistaking this cult watch as anything other than a classic.

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Longines Spirit – £1,750 | Longines 
Drawing inspiration from its iconic heritage, the Longines Spirit Collection links timeless style with modern innovation. Stainless steel with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass, this one’s practically chic in every way.

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Hublot Classic Fusion Orlinski King Gold White Pavé – $32,500 | Hublot 
Crafted from a new, warmer gold than the traditional 5N 18K gold that the brand is famed for, this show-stopping time-piece combines architectural brilliance with Hublot’s unmistakeable craftsmanship.

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Omega Moonshine Gold De Ville Tresor – £20,850 | Omega 
A slim 36mm case is crafted in 18K Moonshine™ gold with 38 full-cut diamonds to make this Omega Tresor a truly unforgettable luxury time-piece.

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Twenty~4 manchette quartz watch – POA | Patek Philipe
With a timeless face that also manages to be startlingly contemporary, Patek Philipe’s medium-format Twenty~4 watch is available with a blue or grey sunburst dial, with gold applied hour markers.

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Piaget Limelight Gala Watch – POA | Piaget 
Opulence meets contemporary design with this stunning  precious Limelight Gala watch with a 32 mm rose gold case, a mother-of-pearl dial, and a rich burgundy alligator strap to offset the sparkle.

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Dg7 barocco watch with black satin strap – £1,250 | Dolce & Gabbana 
We’re dying to find this Dolce & Gabbana DG7 Barocco watch with our name on it under this tree this Christmas. With a statement forest-green iguana strap balanced by a subtle gold face, you’ll love and cherish this one for many years to come.

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Chanel J12·20 watch – £6,700 | Chanel 
Chanel’s cult J12 watch is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year – so what better time than now to invest. This perennially chic J12.2 white ceramic and steel model is top of our wish list.

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