The concept of time has taken on a new meaning in the last two years, and with Valentine’s Day approaching, this seems like a good time to show your loved one why every passing second, minute and hour with them matters. A luxury watch is guaranteed to lighten the mood and lift her spirits. It could be anything from a blingy party piece loaded with gemstones, like the Harry Winston Emerald Signature, to a modern icon of classic daywear, like the Cartier Ballon Bleu. A Rolex always makes a nice gift and, since you’re likely to have trouble finding the right one at retail (the brand is hotter than ever and product is short), there is always the pre-owned universe, where we found a great example. If you are looking for a more literal approach, the Breguet Reine de Naples will fit the bill with a seconds-hand in the shape of a red heart. Not to mention it is based on what is said to be the first wristwatch ever created for a woman. But your practical side may sway you towards the investment option, in which case Patek Philippe is the obvious choice. Ultimately, no matter which piece of wrist candy you choose, one can imagine the recipient won’t be disappointed.
Ballon Bleu de Cartier
Cartier updated its Ballon Bleu line this year with a new 33 mm automatic model, including this rich red gold version with a matching dial. The bezel is set with 47 round brilliant diamonds totaling 0.68 carat. The Ballon Bleu, named for its distinctive blue-sapphire-set crown built into the case side, was first introduced in 2007 and has been a popular go-to model ever since in both size and presentation. The red gold dial on this model adds an extra level of presentation that is worth the splurge.
After 20 years as a rectangular, manchette-style watch with a quartz movement, the Patek Philippe Twenty~4 collection was augmented in 2018 with a round-cased automatic version. Early last year, Patek added an 18-karat rose gold model to the Twenty~4 line, which now includes 12 references. Considering Patek Philippe’s very limited production, this represents a solid commitment to ladies’ watchmaking. It is set with 160 diamonds.
Paraiba tourmaline is a rare and unique gemstone, and this watch comes set with one large emerald-cut version of the stone on its sliding dial cover. The 98 brilliant-cut Paraíba-color tourmalines on the dial, bezel and cover are matched by a satin strap in the same hue. A total of 192 brilliant-cut, 38 baguette-cut and 24 marquise-cut diamonds complete the Art-Deco style geometric design. The best part? This is a three-in-one gift that can be worn not only around the wrist, but also as a pendant or a brooch. Price on request.
Despite being set with over two carats of diamonds, this classic three-hand is understated and, at 34.9mm, highly wearable. Strap color options include peacock green, midnight blue, satin white, lemon yellow, tangerine orange and lilac. The case comes in either 18-karat red or white gold. The Ladybird collection is a tribute to Betty Fiechter, co-CEO of Blancpain in the 1920s and ’30s, known as a maverick of ladies’ watchmaking.
The Datejust is an eternal classic that is both reliable and reliably fashionable. It’s instantly recognizable design has been interpreted over the years in numerous subtle variations, many of which were limited in production. But rollies of any kind are becoming harder and harder to acquire fresh-to-market. If you can’t get the one you want from an authorized dealer, you can always opt for the pre-owned market. This one, from Bob’s Watches is steel with a white gold bezel, mother-of-pearl dial, diamond hour markers and a diamond bezel.
Omega first used the Trésor name (meaning “treasure”) on a ladies’ watch in 1949. It resurrected the concept a few years ago with a new collection designed to be ultra-slim—a mere 9.75mm—with classic features combined with striking oversized Roman numeral hour markers. The slender numerals, a lacquered dial, curved diamond setting on the bezel and a reliable quartz movement make it the ideal robust-yet-feminine, day-to-evening watch. A single diamond is set into the crown.
The classic Happy Sport concept, inspired by drops of water splashing from a waterfall, has been around since the 1970s. It involves setting diamonds in gold bezels and placing them between two sapphire crystals where they float freely with the movement of the wrist, catching the light as they move around the dial. This red-hot version positions seven diamonds in front of a textured mother of pearl dial in an 18-karat rose gold case with an automatic movement.
This petite, classic quartz watch is proof that even the simplest detail can make a big statement. Its unusual case shape—fashioned like a horse stirrup in a nod to the brand’s roots as a saddle make—and the unconventional crown position at 6 o’clock instead of 3 make this piece stand out in a crowd. Although it is just 26 mm, its grained silvered opaline dial adds a dose of sparkle so that your wrist won’t be missed.
In a nod to haute couture fashion, the engraved pleated motif on the edge of the dial of the Égérie is inspired by the pleats on a skirt. The name is also a metaphor for the female muse, referenced in a French book about artists’ muses, called “Égéries, dans l’ombre des creatuers” (Muses in the Shadow of Creators). The name also nods to the nymph Egeria from Roman mythology, who was a counselor to kings. Diamonds line the bezel in a row of 58 stones and 34 diamonds surround the date ring at 2 o’clock.
The Reverso started out as a sports watch for polo players who wanted to protect their watches by flipping the dials toward their wrists during play, but Jaeger-LeCoultre has created ladies’ versions since the beginning. This beet-red Reverso One with a quartz movement was inspired by a 1931 design. The color is the result of firing multiple layers of lacquer over a guilloché base. The 26 diamonds on the gadroons at top and bottom are grain-set to allow more light return. And, as an added bonus for the season of love, the reverse side is blank, so it can be personalized with an engraving for someone special.
Since it was launched in 1999, the J12 has almost become as iconic as Chanel’s quilted bags. Its design, however, is inspired by autos and sailing boats, both fairly masculine motifs (Coco Chanel, after all, was a master at converting menswear staples into female wardrobe must-haves), it has become a favorite ladies’ watch. With that in mind, Chanel has introduced a smaller, 33 mm version, developing a new automatic movement (the 12.2) that has been scaled to perform in a smaller case. The bezel is a single-piece ring made of scratch-resistant sapphire crystal that is grooved to resemble baguette-cut gems.
Taking a more obvious approach with hearts for Valentine’s Day isn’t for everyone, but heart motifs are having a moment. The seconds hand between 6 and 7 o’clock has been constructed in the shape of a red heart to tie in with the ruby crown and cherry-colored leather strap. Plus, in a clever burst of functional gem-setting, a trail of rubies set below the moon phase at 12 o’clock on the dial serve as a gauge for the power reserve indicator. It is set with 128 diamonds on the flange and bezel, and 28 diamonds on the buckle, and it is limited to 28 pieces. Plus, the Reine de Naples is literally fit for a queen. It is modeled after what is said to be the first wristwatch, made by Breguet founder, Abraham-Louis Breguet and delivered to Caroline Bonaparte, Queen of Naples in 1812. Available at Breguet’s NYC boutique at 699 Fifth Avenue (646-692-6469, $50,200).