The Bonus Watch

The Best Upgrade Watches to Buy Yourself After a Good Year


November 20, 2019 Buying Guides By

It’s a great feeling to be in a position to up your watch game, and a new timepiece can be a satisfying reminder of your achievements. Whether you’re looking for that first “nice” watch with a Swiss mechanical movement, or if you had a really good year and want the prestige of a storied watchmaker like Patek Philippe, there are lots of choices. Whatever your price range is, if it’s been a good year, you can find a watch here to serve you well for many more good years to come.

Rolex GMT-Master II 126711CHNR “Root Beer”

Price:$14,050
From: stockX.com

This two-toned Rolex GMT-Master is a perfect year-end treat. And when you buy through StockX, you’ll know you are getting the best quality for a fair price. With a new movement, rose gold steel bracelet, and a chocolate and black bezel, the Rolex GMT-Master II makes for a modern throwback.

1. Stowa Flieger Verus 40

Price: ~$640
From: stowa.de

Stowa is a historic German brand making pilot’s watches much like those it supplied for actual military use decades ago. With characteristically strong legibility, the Verus 40 represents continuity in the pilot’s watch tradition but with some modern refinements, a 40mm size good for daily wear and a Swiss automatic movement inside.

2. Hamilton Khaki Field Murph Auto

Price: $995
From: hamiltonwatch.com

The Murph watch started life as movie prop supplied by Hamilton for the 2014 sci-fi film Interstellar. It was so good-looking fans clamored for a production version, and the result is a 42mm-wide Swiss automatic watch with a classic vibe you can appreciate even if you never saw the movie.

3. Monta Atlas

Price: $1,795
From: montawatch.com

Despite being a young boutique brand, Monta has had incredible success thanks to its focus on a level of finishing typically found only on more expensive watches. The Atlas has a mildly sporty but refined aesthetic and the very handy GMT complication, all in a 38.5mm steel case. It’ll feel like an upgrade even for those accustomed to watches near the Atlas’ price range.

4. Oris Big Crown Pointer Date

Price: $1,800
From: oris.ch

The Big Crown Pointer Date from Swiss company Oris is a nominally formal watch, but it’s got enough interesting, sporty touches to keep it exciting and satisfying for daily and even casual wear. With a few options of dials, case materials, as well as bracelets and straps, this is one of Oris’ more popular collections for good reason.

Gear Patrol Magazine Subscription

Price: $39
From: store.gearpatrol.com

Gear Patrol Magazine is a deep dive into product culture. Inside each issue, you’ll find seasonal buying guides, rich maker profiles and long-form dispatches from the front lines of product design. Get four print magazines — delivered quarterly — with an annual subscription.

5. Rado Tradition Captain Cook MkII

Price: $2,150
From: rado.com

Vintage-styled watches are popular, and Rado did an excellent job with the details on this dive watch, which resurrects a 1962 design. Though thoroughly modern with over 200m of water-resistance, a box-style sapphire crystal and 37mm steel case give it a unique, retro flare on the wrist. That stylish beads-of-rice bracelet just tops off the whole package.

6. Ophion OPH 786 Vélos

Price: $2,580+
From: ophion-watches.com

Ophion is a small brand with a direct-to-consumer sales model that helps keep its range of otherwise premium features much more affordable. The OPH 786 Velos is the company’s latest model, and it offers a stunning execution with features like CNC-machined guilloché dials, specially designed and finished movement bridges and a host of other details that are sure to delight.

7. Tudor Black Bay GMT

Price: $3,950
From: tudorwatch.com

Some folks might reach for a Tudor when a Rolex is still out of reach. But Tudor has its own personality distinct from Rolex, and it offers remarkable value for money. This includes some of the best finishing at its price level and even in-house automatic movements. Tudor itself is thus the upgrade brand for many people, and this GMT, with its classic, bi-colored “Pepsi”-style bezel and useful dual-time complication, is an absolutely solid choice.

8. Omega Seamaster Diver 300m

Price: $5,200
From: omegawatches.com

Omega’s Seamaster Diver 300m has always stood out as distinctly modern and different from the familiar look shared by so many other luxury dive watches (read: those influenced by the Rolex Submariner). The latest generation introduced updates such as an upgraded movement that excited the watch world. Many are also fans of the watch thanks to its association with the James Bond movie franchise.

9. Ulysse Nardin Diver 42mm

Price: $5,800
From: ulysse-nardin.com

Ulysse Nardin’s Diver 42mm makes for a classic look but with the prestigious name and high level of refinement the brand is rightly known for. At 42mm wide, it’s wearable as an everyday watch but just a little different from the competition from around the same price range. A Ulysse Nardin Diver is a bit of a sleeper and a good upgrade option for the right wrist.

10. TAG Heuer Monaco “Caliber 11”

Price: $5,900
From: tagheuer.com

The TAG Heuer Monaco is iconic for having introduced a famous chronograph movement, being immediately recognizable, and for its association with Steve McQueen and the fictional Walter White of Breaking Bad. The modern Callibre 11 Monaco design is close to the original, well-sized at 39mm and available in a range of attractive variations.

11. Grand Seiko Hi-Beat SBGH271

Price: $6,300
From: grand-seiko.com

Grand Seiko’s Seasons collection represents a lot of things the brand does well and why its watches are white-hot popular: details, finishing, overall build quality, incredible textured dials, and interesting movements all abound. There are Spring Drive options as well as Hi-Beat automatic ones in the collection, such as the SBGH271, whose color scheme is meant to represent summer.

12. Zenith El Primero Revival A384

Price: $7,600
From: zenith-watches.com

This is a near replica of the A384 that helped introduce the famous El Primero movement in 1969, and the aesthetic still looks killer today, suggesting it should hold up for another 50 years into the future. The retro style and 37mm sizing is seductive, and the El Primero movement history commands respect.

13. Rolex Datejust 36

Price: $8,200
From: rolex.com

Of course, any Rolex is going to be a good upgrade watch for many people. The Datejust 36 is a strong choice, however, and a little less obvious than the famous sport watches that tend to represent the brand in many markets. The Datejust 36mm is shown here in steel and white gold with the iconic fluted bezel, but other options are also worth a look.

14. Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition

Price: $8,600
From: breitling.com

The Breitling Navitimer stands out on the wrist as an upgrade watch should: boldly but tastefully. Its busy dial is captivating and tends to give the Navitimer a presence quite unlike anything else. The Reference 806 “1959 Re-Edition” is meant to be faithful to the original model of that year, and it measures 41mm wide with the distinctive beaded bezel.

15. Panerai Submersible 42mm

Price: $9,500
From: panerai.com

A rugged and totally unique diver, the Panerai Submersible now accommodates more wrists than ever at its scaled-down 42mm size. If you’re upgrading to this price range, you can’t find much that’s got more mojo than the Italian stallion of watches. Ready for diving with 300m of water resistance, it features an automatic Panerai movement, and it’ll get the nod of approval from hardcore watch enthusiasts.

16. IWC Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Chronograph 80 Years LE

Price: $13,100
From: iwc.com

At this price range, you can start to expect some more complications and features from your upgrade watch. The Timezoner not only combines world time and chronograph functions, but also includes a truly useful method of changing the time zone via the bezel. This version with a cool brown dial and bezel is a limited edition, but the standard black model is worth a look as well.

17. Chopard L.U.C Time Traveler One

Price: $13,700
From: chopard.com

The L.U.C range of watches from Chopard tends to fly under the radar but offers an incredible level of detail, refinement, and design for its price — perhaps to the point of being undervalued. Another world timer (like the IWC above), the Time Traveler One has an automatic movement from the brand’s manufacturer in Fleurier, Switzerland, and a 42mm case in steel.

18. Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Barakuda

Price: $14,100
From: blancpain.com

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is a serious dive watch with a seriously luxury feel. The Barakuda model takes inspiration from a watch made for the German navy and has a strong vintage vibe, with “aged” lume color, a 40mm diameter, and a relatively thin profile for a dive watch. It’s powered by Blancpain’s excellent in-house automatic movement with a mighty 100-hour power reserve.

19. Lange Saxonia Pink Gold

Price: $17,500
From: alange-soehne.com

The Saxonia represents one of A. Lange & Söhne’s entry-level models, but it’s treated to the same high level of finishing and craftsmanship as the brand’s most expensive, complicated watches. The result is a watch that’s palpably special when handled in person. If you’re leaning toward a formal style for your upgrade watch, you can’t do much better than this deceptively simple, manually wound, two-hand dress watch in pink gold.

20. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra Thin

Price: $24,700
From: audemarspiguet.com

The Royal Oak is one of the most famous watch designs of all time. Uniquely shaped, it’s credited with helping create the concept of the “luxury sport watch,” and the idea of a steel timepiece that costs as much as one made from precious metals. This version is in steel and measures 39mm wide and a slender 8.1mm thick on its iconic bracelet. The beautiful Audemars Piguet automatic movement is visible through a sapphire case back.

21. Patek Philippe Weekly Calendar 5212A

Price: $33,450
From: patek.com

The Weekly Calendar has the prestigious name and incredible level of detail and finishing expected from Patek Phillipe, but it’s also cool for being a bit of a departure for the brand. Not only does it offer calendar information with the week number, but it has the rare (for Patek) feature of a steel case. Featuring an automatic movement, it’s shows the brand’s more versatile, modern side.

Gear Patrol Special Edition Dive Watch

Price: $745
From: store.gearpatrol.com

With a robust 40mm stainless steel case, automatic movement, quickset date, and a totally unique colorway, this limited production diver is the perfect sidekick for all your pursuits, from the boardroom to the beach and beyond.

The Complete Rolex Buying Guide: Every Current Model Explained

We distill down the world of modern Rolex to something easily decipherable to help give you a leg up for your next purchase. Read the Story

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