best men's watches under £5,000

The best men’s watches for under £5,000

17 Jan 2024 | |By Richard Brown

From Bell & Ross and Breitling, to Cartier and IWC, welcome to the big-league of watchmaking

All products are chosen independently by our editors. Luxury London may earn commission on items purchased.

If steadily ascending prices in jewellery shop windows and the bonkers premiums being paid on the pre-owned watch market have you resigned to the fact you’ll never own a proper, Swiss-made mechanical timepiece, then allow us to be the bearer of some rather good news. Rolex might have jacked up its prices so that entry to the Submariner club now starts at a lordly £8,050 – astonishingly, you’ll struggle to source a second-hand version of the world’s most famous dive watch for anything less than that online – but there are bucket-loads of big-hitting horologists offering blockbuster men’s watches for under £5,000.  

Not exactly chicken feed, granted. But if you can justify the outlay, £5,000 will provide access to the top flight of watchmaking, an arena in which you’ll find some of the most celebrated – ‘iconic’ even, if we’re using that word – watch designs from the most fêted of horologists: see Breitling’s Superocean Heritage, Cartier’s Santos and IWC’s Portofino, among some significant others.  

Look hard enough, and you might even unearth an ‘in-house’ movement. The buzz you’ll get from doing so will very much depend on the level of value you attribute to the provenance of the gears and cogs that make your watch tick. But that’s another topic for another day.  

Introducing the heaviest-hitting watches you can bag for under £5,000…

Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra

Sister model to Omega’s fabled (and more expensive) Speedmaster, the Seamaster was one of the first series-produced underwater timepieces. Since 1995, the Seamaster has become best known as James Bond’s all-action timepiece of choice. Nodding to Omega’s storied maritime past, this retro-informed Aqua Terra model features a horizontal teak pattern inspired by the wooden decks of vintage sailboats.

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Tudor Black Bay

It’s a Tudor, so you know you can run it over with a tank and it will continue to tick. That ticking is guaranteed to be accurate to within -2 and +4 seconds a day, which, at £3,550 for this blue-bezelled, steel-braceletted version, makes the Black Bay one of the biggest steals in modern watchmaking. It also comes with a 70-hour power reserve and five-year guarantee. Make that THE steal.

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Oris Divers Sixty-Five Chronograph

For bangs per buck, few watch brands beat independently-owned Oris. The understated, mid-century-inspired Diver Sixty-Five has become the brand’s most emblematic watch almost by proxy. It’s based on an early dive watch from 1965 – geddit? – and sports all the signature features that came to define the underwater watch genre. This 41mm chronograph boasts an automatic movement with 48-hour power reserve. Choose between a metal bracelet or sustainably-sourced deer-leather strap.

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Carl F Bucherer Manero Autodate

If you had to guess how much this watch cost from looks alone, we’d wager you’d overshoot by some distance. With its classic styling, elegant proportions and fetching two-tone dial, Carl F Bucherer’s Manero Autodate is an expensive-looking piece of kit. In fact, it comes in at under £3,000. A price that gets even more impressive when you learn that the watch comes with a Swiss-made, automatic movement.

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Montblanc Star Legacy Moonphase

Montblanc’s Star Legacy takes its design cues from pocket watches of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This version features a moonphase indicator with a date hand at six o’clock. Other elegant touches include a guilloché pattern dial, leaf-shaped hands, a fluted, onion-shaped crown, and Montblanc’s own chic take on Arabic numerals. A slate-grey dial is matched with a slightly darker grey, calf-leather strap.

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Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic 10692

When it comes to value for money, the specs of Baume & Mercier’s Clifton Baumatic 10692 speak for themselves: on the outside, a satin-finished stainless steel case, sapphire crystal caseback and a finely-stitched black alligator strap; on the inside, a Swiss-made, automatic movement offering a 120-hour power reserve. Oh, and it’s good to a depth of 50 metres. A snip at sub £3,000.

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IWC Schaffhausen Portofino Automatic

Looks more expensive than it is, right? IWC’s three-hand Portofino Automatic is one of the chicest, most considered and most elegant dress watches out there. Pared back gold-tone hands and sleek baton hour markers on a clean (silver-plated) white dial. Class.

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Bell & Ross BR 03-92

Few are the modern watch brands that can boast a genuine Hall of Famer among their ranks. Bell & Ross can. Not long after the Swiss-French horologist dropped the BR 01 in 2005, the square-faced, cockpit-inspired timepiece took on cult status. The watch’s modern iteration, the BR 03, has garnered similar credentials among watch types. The ‘Black Matte’ version punches hardest.

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Hermès Arceau Automatic

Hermès has built its reputation on paying meticulous attention to the finer things. Case in point: the brand’s Arceau Automatic dress watch. At first glance, it may look restrained. But look again. See the italicised typography, the two-tone dial, the asymmetrical lugs, the fluted crown. As ever, the devil is in the detail.

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Breitling Superocean Heritage

An updated reissue of the original Superocean from the 1950s, Breitling’s modern Superocean Heritage is available in wide sweep of case materials, dial colours and strap options. But it is this entry-level chronograph – with a black ceramic bezel, silver-on-black indices, and black rubber strap – that boasts the most presence on the wrist. Admittedly, it’s a smidge over £5,000 – but we reckon it’s worth it.

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Bremont Argonaut Bronze

Like getting your money’s worth? Then you’ll like Bremont’s Argonaut Automatic. A COSC-certified automatic movement, a harder-than-standard-brass brass case, a date-window at three o’clock, and a case-back embossed with Her Majesty’s Armed Forces heraldic badges. The watch is water resistant to 300 metres and is guaranteed to be accurate to -4 and +6 seconds per day. All of this from an indie brand based in Henley.

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Cartier Santos-Dumont

It’s horologic folklore. In 1904, renowned Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos Dumont asked his chum, Louis Cartier, to help him tell the time while flying. The jeweller aided his sky-bound friend by manufacturing one of the world’s first wristwatches. With its famously square dial and angled Roman numerals, Cartier’s modern Santos has become one of the brand’s flagship models.

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Rado Captain Cook

Rado remains something of an under-the-radar brand outside of watch circles. Known, among those who are familiar with the brand, for its pioneering use of ceramic, Rado also does a line of lesser-celebrated tool watches. See the robust construction and stylish detailing of the brand’s Captain Cook dive watch for why the brand deserves more time in the limelight.

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Longines Presence Automatic

It’s called Presence for a reason. Longines’ dress watch collection is full of sleek, black-tie ready pieces that possess plenty of charisma. Take, for example, this stainless-steel, 38.5mm automatic. Simple silver baton markers on an uncluttered ice-white dial, the only numerals being the date window at three o’clock. A snip at less than £1,400.

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Read more: The best men's watches under £500