On April 7th, the world of haute horlogerie turned its eyes to Watches & Wonders 2021, the latest incarnation of SIHH—the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie. With Baselworld no longer happening, this digital-only event has become the most prestigious event in the luxury watch calendar—and offers great inspiration for your next timepiece purchase.
To help you on your search, we’ve picked out the hottest new luxury watches on sale today. Fancy a dress watch to wear to an upcoming event? Or maybe you’re looking for a classic pilot’s watch or got your heart set on a Rolex.
We’ve got you covered with our rundown of the most desirable watches of 2021. After checking out the top offerings from all the big name brands—Rolex, Piaget, Patek Philippe, IWC Schaffhausen, and Jaeger-LeCoultre, to name a few—we’ve narrowed it down to our favourite 11. And we reckon they’re going to be your favourites too.
Sometimes time flies. Sometimes it drags. Either way, keep an eye on the time with one of these luxury watches.
The 11 best luxury watches of 2021
- Rolex Explorer II Ref. 216570
- Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Memovox
- Cartier Santos-Dumont
- Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711/1A-014
- Hermès Arceau Automatic
- H. Moser & Cie. Venturer Concept
- IWC Schaffhausen Pilot’s Limited Edition
- Piaget Polo S Automatic Chronograph
- Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer
- Montblanc 1958 Geosphere Limited Edition
- Panerai Radiomir Mediterraneo
Rolex Explorer II Ref. 216570
When legendary luxury watch brand Rolex celebrates a birthday, everyone sits up in their seats. And the company has decided to mark the momentous occasion of its 50th anniversary with a new release. The updated Explorer II ref.216570 is definitely one of the best new watches of 2021.
Made from Oystersteel—corrosion-resistant and with an attention-grabbing gleam—this timepiece, as the name suggests, is for explorers. With its Chromalight display that glows blue at night and 24-hour display that can also serve as a compass in the right conditions, it’s ideal for those with a passion for adventure and pushing their limits.
The white lacquer dial features black hour markers and minute hands while the 24-hour hand retains the orange hue of the original Explorer II. But the case houses a new movement—the in-house calibre 3285, the same one found in the GMT-Master II, showcasing Rolex at its most ingenious.
The Rolex Explorer II represents the apex of efficiency, accuracy, and durability. With the new upgrade, it feels fresh while maintaining everything we loved about the original.
Best for: A refreshing yet respectful upgrade of a seriously iconic watch. Price: $$$ Case diameter: 42 mm Movement: automatic Functions: hours, minutes, seconds, and 24-hour display
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Memovox
The Master Control Memovox by JLC is the newest addition to the brands ‘Master Control’ family, a collection of watches defined by their technical prowess and understated style. If you’re exploring new watches, then this one should be a top contender for your next purchase.
The watch features a built-in alarm, which you don’t see very often in luxury watches. The open-case back allows you to watch the intricate workings of the calibre 956AA movement, including the hammer striking the gong—something you’ll never get bored of watching, trust us.
The Memovox reference dates back to the 1950s and this particular model has a delightfully retro vibe, with a pared-back silver dial and those large crowns that are a hallmark of all Memovox designs. It evokes a rather mid-century mood but wouldn’t look out of place paired with a cool and contemporary get-up.
Twist the upper crown of the Master Control Memovox to set the alarm and it will wake you up with a suitably old-fashioned school-bell sound.
Best for: Adding polish to your every day with a premium dress watch. Price: $$$$ Case diameter: 40mm Movement: automatic Functions: hour, minute, seconds, and date window
Cartier is a favourite among the world’s VIPs, sported by members of royal families, celebrities, and the ‘it’ crowd. The luxury jewellery brand is behind some of the hottest new watches and the Santos-Dumont is no exception.
The watch first appeared in 1911 after a Brazilian aviator by the name of Alberto Santos-Dumont asked Louis Cartier to create a wristwatch, rather than a pocket watch, that he could wear when flying.
The result was this incredibly glamorous timepiece with a streamlined design and striking square case—better suited to the catwalk than the cockpit, in our opinion, and ideal for the modern dapper gentleman.
The Santos-Dumont is housed in a polished 18-karat rose gold case with a charcoal-coloured strap, and features the brand’s signature blue-steel sword-shaped hands, a sapphire crown, and eight screws around the dial.
Best for: An unconventional pilot watch with undeniable prestige. Price: $$$$ Case diameter: 33.9mm Movement: hand-wind Functions: hour and minute
Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711/1A-014
Patek Philippe’s Nautilus is an indisputable cult-favourite. Luxury watch fans would fall over their feet at the chance to own this iconic sports watch and while any Patek Philippe timepiece raises eyebrows—thanks to the brand’s 175-year history of making exquisite timekeepers—this one is particularly special.
The most notable feature of this particular Nautilus model is the brand-new sunburst olive-green dial, adding a bit of service-man chic. The silhouette is the same as the original Nautilus watches but with a subtle yet eye-catching alternation between a satin and polished finish. And you can check out the movement hard at work through the transparent sapphire crystal case-back.
The Nautilus Ref.5711/1A-014 is water-resistant to 120 metres, which means you can take it swimming and snorkelling. Sure, it’s one of the more expensive watches on our list. But you can’t put a price on engineering and craftsmanship of this calibre.
Best for: A utilitarian upgrade of a classic and highly covetable luxury watch. Price: $$$$$ Case diameter: 40mm Movement: automatic Functions: hour, minutes, seconds, and date
Hermès Arceau Automatic
Just like its creative and cutting-edge couture, Hermès makes watches that are much more than just a practical accessory. These are statements of style and the Arceau Automatic is ideal for all your discerning dressers out there.
The best dress watches offer laid-back luxury. They’re discreet yet distinctly elegant, just like the Arceau. Imagine this peeking out beneath a shirt cuff. People won’t be able to help but comment. It has to be one of the most beautiful new watches out there.
Featuring the brand’s signature Barenia leather (a rare and supremely high-quality calf leather) strap, the Arceau Automatic features an automatic movement in a 40mm stainless steel case. The dial has subtle herringbone detail along with striking Arabic numerals, as well as a handy date window. Flip it over to see the exhibition case back where you can watch the oscillating weight at work.
Best for: An impeccably classy and exceptionally compliment-worthy timepiece. Price: $$$ Case diameter: 40mm Movement: automatic Functions: hour, minute, and date window
H. Moser & Cie. Venturer Concept
They say that black never goes out of fashion and so you’re in safe hands with H.Moser & Cie’s Vantablack Venturer Concept. One of the latest watches to create a stir on the horological scene, it has to be the epitome of timepiece minimalism, ideal for urban slickers and ultra-swish jet-setters.
The Vantablack dial is made from vertically aligned carbon nanotubes. When light hits these tubes, it can’t bounce back. Instead, it’s scattered and absorbed as heat. With no light reflections, you get what has been named ‘the darkest material known to man.’
This black-hole-like impression contrasts beautifully with the warm glow of the 18-karat red gold case—a classic black-and-gold combination, but on steroids. The dial is impressively simple, with just an hour and minute hand. But there’s also a power reserve indicator at the back so you know when the HMC 327 manual movement is in need of winding.
All of which is to say, H. Moser & Cie.’s Vantablack Venturer Concept is a definite stand-out timepiece.
Best for: Pure steal and sultry style from these masters of the horological craft. Price: $$$$$ Case diameter: 39mm Movement: hand-wound Functions: hour, minute, and power reserve indicator
IWC Schaffhausen Pilot’s Limited Edition
This IWC watch is a tribute to the brand’s Pilot’s Chronograph 3705—also known as the FliegerChronograph, or the ‘Black Flieger’, released in 1994 and famous for being the first ceramic chronograph ever made.
This future-forward update on that original pioneering design is not made from ceramic but Cerantanium, a unique material that combines the properties of both titanium and ceramic. The result is a light, robust, ultra-durable, and scratch-resistant—appropriately military-grade given IWC is famous for its purpose-built pilot’s watches.
IWC’s Pilot’s Limited Edition Automatic Chronograph feels modern but with a slight vintage vibe too, thanks to those oversized numerals. The in-house movement tracks day and date while luminous hands allow you to check the time in the middle of the night—or at high altitude if the occasion arises.
Best for: A function-packed pilot watch with old-school panache. Price: $$$$ Case diameter: 41.1mm Movement: automatic Functions: hand, minute, second, second sub-dial, day and date windows, and 60-second, 30-minute, and 12-hour counters
Piaget Polo S Automatic Chronograph
The Piaget Polo watches are some of the sportiest watches in the brand’s horological catalogue and this particular model—the Polo S—is ideal for those seeking something fresh-faced, full of energy, yet also refined.
This timepiece certainly does look like it’s just waltzed off the polo field with its sleek grey dial (with guilloché patterning) and chunky 42mm stainless steel case. It features a 1160P automatic movement, visible through the transparent back and with an impressive 50-hour power reserve. Scratch-resistant sapphire crystal offers long-lasting durability.
Piaget’s Polo S features hour, minute, and seconds hands, a date window, chronograph, and a balance stop. The steel bracelet has an integrated folding clasp for ease and comfort while Super-LumiNova coated hands allow you to check the time even in low light levels. The mood is wonderfully casual yet indisputably high-end.
Best for: Easygoing equestrian-inspired elegance. Price: $$$$ Case diameter: 42mm Movement: automatic Functions: hour, minute, second, date window, chronograph, and balance stop
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer
Inevitably any list of the best new luxury watches will feature Rolex more than once. And our second pick from the famous brand is this new-generation Oyster Perpetual Explorer.
This iconic timepiece stands out, first of all, for its two-tone design, known as Rolesor and now a recognisable Rolex hallmark. The combination of Oystersteel and yellow gold unites practicality and durability with pure luxury, making this one of the most desirable watches around.
To pair with this sumptuous colour palette, you’ve got a distinctive black dial where the numerals 3,6, and 9 are luminescent, emitting a lasting blue glow for optimum legibility.
The Oyster features a strong yet comfortable bracelet with a folding clasp known as the Oysterlock, designed to prevent accidental opening. Finally, the self-winding movement offers ultimate precision and efficiency as well as shock and magnetic field resistance.
Best for: An eye-catching two-tone timepiece with a tangible spirit of adventure. Price: $$$ Case diameter: 36mm Movement: automatic Functions: hour, minute, seconds, and stop-seconds
Montblanc 1958 Geosphere Limited Edition
Inspired by a mammoth trek across the Gobi desert by famous mountaineer Reinhold Messner, this Montblanc 1958 Geosphere is 100% the watch for any trail-blazer or daredevil.
With its appropriately sandy-coloured dial, bronze case, and light and dark brown accents, this watch is definitely unconventional, conjuring up thoughts of distant dunes and a fiery sun overhead. The leather strap feels seductively old-school while on the back there’s an illustration of the desert’s famous Flaming Cliffs. Too much? Definitely not.
And it’s not just the aesthetics of this Montblanc 1858 Geosphere that feel adventurous. The functions of this field watch are perfect for travellers, with two hemispheres on the dial, showing the time anywhere in the world as well as red dots to mark the peaks of the Seven Summits Challenge. There’s a 12-hour second time-zone display at nine o’clock too. Plus, the bidirectional rotating bezel does double-duty as a compass if necessary.
Best for: Intrepid travellers tempted by the thought of a desert-inspired timepiece. Price: $$$ Case diameter: 42mm Movement: automatic Functions: hour, minute, date window, dual time zones, day/night indicator, and a 24-hour scale
Panerai Radiomir Mediterraneo
An Italian brand with a history of making dive watches for the navy, it’s no surprise Panerai took inspiration for this particular timepiece from the Mediterranean sea—evident in the rich blue sunburst dial with matching blue alligator strap. Because black might be timeless but blue is something extra special.
Made in Switzerland, the timepiece features a polished titanium case—non-toxic, corrosion-resistant, and lightweight—and is powered by an in-house P.4000 calibre automatic mechanical movement. A 3-day power reserve should be plenty for all you go-getters while the hard-wearing sapphire crystal case back (also featuring unique wave patterns) means you can enjoy watching the movement at work.
Luminous Arabic numerals and hour markers offer faultless legibility, even in the depths of night (or the ocean), while the 45 mm size of the Radiomir Meditarraneo feels suitably masculine and no-nonsense.
Best for: A mega deluxe design with a dash of the ocean’s magnetism and mystery. Price: $$$$ Case diameter: 44mm Movement: automatic Functions: hour, minute, and second sub-dial
Frequently asked questions about new luxury watches
The best luxury watch for the money is the Arceau Automatic by Hermès, an exquisitely elegant dress watch. If you’d rather something more rugged, Montblanc’s Geosphere Limited Edition ‘Desert’ is also quite affordable by luxury watch standards.
The top ten luxury watch brands are Rolex, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Cartier, Patek Philippe, Hermès, H. Moser & Cie, IWC Schaffhausen, Piaget, Montblanc, and Panerai. For more inspiration, check out our guide to the top new luxury watches of 2021.
The best entry-level luxury watch is the Rolex Explorer II Ref. 216570. Recently updated, it features everything that’s special about the original Explorer II with some subtle upgrades. It’s also surprisingly affordable for a Rolex.
Many luxury watches hold their value. If you want to be certain that you’re making a good investment, we recommend purchasing a Rolex, Patek Philippe, or Jaeger-LeCoultre timepiece, all of which are some of the hottest new watches around today.