A nice watch can last a lifetime—sometimes even two or three. It can mark a special milestone, become a family heirloom, or become symbolic of a treasured moment. Several of this year’s new releases were not only the kind of classic, clean watches meant to be an everyday style staple, but they also came packed with historical significance, accessible new price points, and philanthropic ties. Some are not only approachable, but collectible.
Whether you opt for an Omega or Breitling under $8,000 or splurge for a limited-edition Blancpain or Montblanc for up to $30,000, the gift of time is always meaningful and lasting. Below are a handful of highlights from 2018 to tick off your holiday gifting list.
Breitling SuperOcean Heritage II B01 Chronograph
A gift for the environmentally-concerned, Breitling’s new 44 mm SuperOcean Heritage II B01 Chronograph ($7,665) helps keep the world’s ocean and beaches clean. The watchmaker is donating part of the proceeds of the diver watch to Ocean Conservancy, an NGO dedicated to cleaning up beaches and creating a healthy ocean. Breitling has teamed up with Ocean Conservancy not only to donate proceeds from the watch, but also to play an active role in some of the NGO’s initiatives, such as beach cleanups and recycling collected trash (the organization has picked up some 230 million pounds of trash to date).
The SuperOcean collection, based on a design originally released in 1957, was introduced last year, but this 2018’s introduction features the caliber B01 movement. That’s big news if your loved one geeks out on watch movements—the caliber was the result of a 5-year-long R&D process and was considered a technical feat when it was introduced in 2009. While the B01 movement ups the price, the B01 was also designed to be easy to service, which is to say, this watch should be easy on the wallet in the long run. It’s a gift that keeps on, well, ticking.
Omega 1948 Seamster Limited Edition
For fans of retro-style or WWII-era timepieces, the Omega 1948 Seamster Limited Edition timepieces introduced this year are the perfect gift and they come with serious historical gravitas. This year marked the 70th anniversary of the Seamaster collection and these two watches—a small seconds version on a brown leather strap ($6,420) and a central seconds model ($5,900) on a sturgeon navy leather strap—pay tribute to the very first models. Both are limited to 1,948 pieces and come in a soft brown collector’s box containing a spare NATO strap in Admiralty gray.
The original Seamaster was born as a commercial take on timepieces developed in partnership with the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) between 1940 and 1945 for use by the Royal Air Force and other branches. Omega introduced the Seamaster to civilians in 1948.
The new timepieces improve on the original with a larger size (enlarged from 34 mm to 38 mm), a water resistance of up to 200 feet, and a brand new caliber 8804 movement. And in a reference to its historical ties, the sapphire crystal caseback comes engraved with a hand-lacquered Chris-Craft boat—the watchmaker created boat motors and crafted 12,000 small boats for the U.S. military during WWII—and a Gloster Meteor aircraft, the first fighter jet used by the Royal Air Force.
If you’re feeling extra generous this season, you may also spring for the platinum version of the 1948 Seamaster, which was just released this month and retails for CHF 39,500 (or $39,277 at current exchange) for the small seconds model and CHF 39,000 (or $38,000 at current exchange) for the central seconds model.
Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix Selfwinding Watch in Steel
A Vacheron Constantin priced under $12,000 is a very rare thing, indeed. This year the watchmaker aimed to approach a new customer with a very, at least for this watchmaker, approachable price point. Vacheron Constantin was able to offer a simple steel hours and minutes self-winding watch with a day date ($11,900) in its new Fiftysix Collection—complete with all of its esteemed watchmaking expertise—at such an enticing price point, because the watch uses a supplied movement and does not include the Geneva Seal hallmark.
This is an incredible chance to own a Vacheron Constantin at a new price point, and it makes for a pretty impressive gift. But if you’re really looking to up the ante, and still get a great value, you may opt for the rose-gold Fiftysix Tourbillon with peripheral rotor, priced at $113,000—the watchmaker’s lowest price to date for such a high complication.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscape
Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms dive watch is an under-the-radar favorite in watch collecting circles. This year’s Bathyscape Quantième Annuel introduction, while not exactly easy on the pocket at $28,000 in a steel bracelet and $26,100 on a canvas or NATO strap, comes with some particularly nice bells and whistles. The new 43 mm satin-finished steel model houses a new movement, the automatic Caliber 6054.P, based on Blancpain’s in-house twin-barrel 1150. It also features an annual calendar function with the day of the week at 2 o’clock, the day date at 3 o’clock, and the month at 4 o’clock.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms (first used by French Marine Nationale divers on the Cote d’Azure), making it a particularly collectible year for the model. The latest introduction is a tribute to the watchmaker’s best-known model from the late ‘50s (the first commercial Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was launched in 1953). What better way to gift a loved one this holiday season than with a collectible tribute to the original modern dive watch?
Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph
There were some seriously good-looking watches introduced in Montblanc’s 1858 Collection this year, which paid tribute to 168 years of Minerva watches. (In 1997, Montblanc acquired Minerva, a company specializing in mechanical movements dating back to 1858, to broaden its business from writing instruments into timepieces.) The undeniable standout of the collection was the 40 mm green Monopusher Chronograph with a forest green dial, cream hour markers, and hands.
The dial’s bi-compax design has a small seconds counter at nine o’clock, a chronograph 30-minute counter at three o’clock, and a tachymeter scale on the outer part of the dial. Its caliber 13.21 is a derivative of the historic Minerva caliber 13.20—a movement first developed in the early ‘20s that was one of the first commercial chronograph calibers available to the public in a wristwatch. The crowning touch on this handsome watch is its green crocodile strap made in Montblanc’s artisan workshop in Florence, Italy.
With just 100 pieces manufactured, the Monopusher Chronograph makes for a very special gift, at $30,000. But if you can’t get your hands on this one, the new line also features a very reasonable 42 mm chronograph for $4,300 in stainless steel and $5,000 in bronze. A 40 mm stainless-steel automatic version model in the 1858 collection is also available for $2,760.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris World Timer
Although Jaeger-LeCoultre is most recognized by its iconic flip-face Reverso models, the watchmaker has actually been producing sport models as far back as the ‘20s—including pocket watches for the military. They even made a Reverso sports watch, produced in 1931 for British military officers stationed in India, and dive watches were introduced in 1959, around the time the sport was becoming popular with the public. That introduction ultimately led to the creation of the Polaris dive watch in 1963. The Polaris has since become a staple sports watch collection for the brand.
While Jaeger-LeCoultre did introduce a much talked about new dive model to its Polaris collection this year, one of the other highlights was the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Geographic World Timer ($14,200). The 42 mm stainless steel timepiece comes in at a relatively reasonable price of $13,600 and showcases a subtlety striking blue to black ombre dial highlighted by white luminescent numerals. The watch features a subdial for the day date, a subdial for the hour and minutes, a partial subdial for the power reserve, and 24 time zones for a dual-time zone display. Not only is this a true world time complication from Jaeger-LeCoultre with a lot of visual impact, but it also makes for an extra special gift as the piece is limited to just 250 and available only at Jaeger-LeCoultre boutiques.