Choosing the right gift can be tricky, but if a reasonable budget is earmarked for a new watch, you won’t be shy on options. While the inventory here can be a bit overwhelming, there’s something to be said for gifting a real classic watch.
Step one is certainly to skim his watch collection to ensure that these pieces aren’t already in the house, but from there, any of these classic mens’ watches are really a no-brainer. They are icons, they are staples, and they’re the kind of thing that will always hold at least a little clout in the watch collecting world. We’ve selected a broad cross-section here, from black tie to weekend warrior, along with a couple of options that can easily do duty as an anywhere/any occasion wrist companion.
IWC Pilot Chronograph
The slightly larger IW3777 replaced the now-discontinued 3717 in 2012. The IWC Pilot’s watch collection is the benchmark against which all pilot-style watches are measured, and this 43mm brushed steel case fits perfectly on the wrist without feeling the least bit overbearing (as many larger pilot watches can).
Rolex Submariner 16610
Again a quintessential classic, it doesn’t get much more iconic than the Rolex Submariner. Its roots go clear back to 1954, and several appearances on the wrist of James Bond further cemented its position in the annals of culture and status. Opting for a 16610 means a slightly more understated variant of the Sub than in current guise, as its aluminum bezel insert is not nearly as flashy as that of its Cerachrom ceramic counterpart that came years later. Though the modern perspective of Rolex is all about status, these pieces (much like their current model year counterparts) are pretty much bulletproof when it comes to reliability. There’s a reason you see so many older examples in the secondary market–they just keep on ticking!
Patek Philippe Calatrava
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, we have the Patek Philippe Calatrava. Sure, it’s not surrounded by the same (ridiculous) level of hype that we’ve been seeing around the Nautilus in the last couple of years, but it’s also about as timeless as they come. Looking at this example in particular, you’d be hard-pressed to be certain what decade it was produced in–that’s the best part. Is it a current production model? Is it from the ‘50s? When it comes to many Calatravas it’s not all that easy to tell unless you’re much more well versed with the brand’s extensive production history.
Panerai Luminor Marina Acciaio PAM 001
Whether your preferences lie with the Luminor or its sibling the Radiomir, Panerai is another safe go-to brand so long as the intended recipient has larger wrists. Classic Panerai models like this example are on the heftier side, but they’re a great classic statement piece. With examples like this, you get the benefit of an in-house manufacture caliber (manually wound)
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic Small Second
Some years ago I once said “not every watch collector needs to own a Speedmaster in their lifetime, but they definitely need to own a Reverso.” I still stand by this statement, as a Reverso convert myself as of the first time I was loaned one for review. Often written off as “too dressy” or “too conservative” by some, the Reverso is the kind of watch that wears so much better on the wrist than photos or specs could ever convey. There’s good reason it remains a mainstay of the JLC collections through to present day.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph
You had to know this was coming. The Gerald Genta designed Royal Oak defined the luxury sports watch category, and to this day remains a benchmark against which any and all modern sports watches are measured. While the simple 3-hand model would be more than acceptable, the silver Tapisserie dial chronograph in 39mm seen here is a fantastic and versatile offshoot of the classic watch.
Omega Seamaster Diver 300m
Another watch of Bond fame graces our list, and for good reason. The Seamaster diver has been around for ages, and while not always as popular as the Speedmaster chronograph (and its “first watch in space” notoriety, it’s one of those watches that just about everyone owns or has owned at one point or another in their collecting trajectory. In this recently refreshed form its case size has increased to 42mm, making the piece a touch more versatile for all wrist sizes than its predecessor was.