Allow me to start with a bit of advice. If I were to spend €5K on my first-ever luxury watch, I would want a familiar name on the dial. For your first big horological purchase, you’ll want a confidence-inspiring name. Once you have familiarized yourself with the world of watches and become more experienced, knowledgeable, and confident, that’s when you can leave the beaten path. In the beginning, though, you most likely won’t trust yourself enough to spend thousands of euros on a watch from a brand you’ve never heard of or seen on someone else’s wrist before. I know I started my journey with well-known brands. And that’s why in my “Best Watches Under €5,000” list, you will find brand-new sure shots from Longines, Grand Seiko, and Cartier, as well as a pre-owned one from IWC.

Before I present the first of my choices for the best watches under €5,000, keep in mind that the picks were made by my 20-year-younger self. That’s someone new to the world of luxury watches who’s still developing an individual taste and playing it safe. My current self, someone who gained knowledge (while messing up sometimes) and experience, would probably go for a little less obvious/famous brands, perhaps even ones with a little less allure. But be honest; when you buy your first luxury watch, it’s nice to be able to show off with it, right? That’s why I picked the Cartier Tank Must XL over the Oris ProPilot X Calibre 400. No, not the extremely green Kermit but the powdery pink version. The Longines I chose is also a solid pick, and so is the IWC. My Grand Seiko of choice is probably the most adventurous pick for an aspiring watch enthusiast.

Best Watches

The best watches under €5,000: Longines Spirit Flyback

Since the unveiling of the Spirit collection in 2020, the watches had my attention. Their contemporary style with very subtle retro touches never looks overwhelming and just works. The Spirit collection — a sort of modern take on the classic pilot’s watch — has grown over time, and as you would expect, the chronograph is a prominent member of the ever-expanding product family.

Best Watches

My pick from the collection is the Spirit (L3.821.4.53.2). That’s the most sober and classic-looking iteration. This reference comes in a 42mm steel case with a subtle satin finish and polished facets on the lugs. The version with a brown leather strap has a price of €5,000. The version on a steel bracelet is €100 above budget. I prefer the strap over the bracelet, but I’m sure with a bit of sweet-talking, you will be able to persuade your local jeweler to sell you the bracelet version — the L3.821.4.53.6, that is — for €5,000.

Typical technicalities

The Longines Spirit Flyback both looks and feels very solid, yes, but there’s more. It all starts with the L791.4 movement that feels great to the touch when operating the chronograph. This caliber was developed by ETA but is exclusively produced and delivered to Longines. The basis is the ETA A08.L11, a chronograph with a column wheel as well as a flyback function. The Longines bonuses are an antimagnetic silicon balance spring and a chronometer certification by COSC. Through the sapphire window on the back, you can feast your eyes on the movement with its perlage, blued screws and column wheel, and engraved rotor. There, you’ll find the Longines winged hourglass, the brand’s logo since 1889. The back of the watch also reads the collection name as well as the water resistance (100 meters/10 bar), a nice practical touch.

Speaking of practical touches, there’s plenty of Super-LumiNova on the dial’s small diamond-shaped markers, Arabic numerals, and handset to use the watch in the dark. And since you want to show off your watch and also talk about it, maybe it’s useful to know that the five stars on the dial represent the high quality and reliability of the movement inside. It’s a historical marking that Longines uses, and it identifies the highest internal rating the brand gives to its movements. It’s a fun fact but also a reassuring reason to buy the Spirit Flyback. And if you like blue dials better, you can pick that version for the same money.

Best Watches

Grand Seiko SBGA465

The Grand Seiko SBGA465 might border on nerdy, but be honest: if you’re reading Fratello, so do you. It’s all good! And that’s also definitely the case with the SBGA465, a Spring Drive model from the Heritage collection with a price of exactly €5,000. Yes, I realize that this is the second watch in a row that has not technically been under €5K. Trust me, though; that one extra euro is worth it.

Let’s start with the hard facts. The SBGA465 comes in a steel 40mm steel case measuring 46.6mm long and 12.3mm thick. That case is water resistant to 100 meters and bears a dual-curved sapphire crystal with an internal antireflective coating. The case also has a 20mm lug spacing, and the solid three-row steel bracelet is outfitted with a folding clasp with push-button release.

Best Watches

Grand Seiko SBGA465 — Image: Grand Seiko GS9 Club

Frozen appeal

Inside the case beats the 30-jewel Spring Drive 9R65 caliber. If, after three IPAs, you can still manage to exactly explain to your friends how that quartz/mechanical hybrid movement works, you have embraced your nerdy side. Good for you. This special automatic movement that comes with the characteristic power reserve indicator on the dial is a wondrous and precise power plant with an accuracy of ±15 seconds per month (±1 second per day).

Still, this Grand Seiko is more than precise. It’s also superbly finished. It also has a shimmering dial that mimics what happens when winter arrives in Japan’s Shinshu region. The dial looks like it’s frozen and glistens in the light like frost on a tree before the morning sun melts it away. This Grand Seiko appeals to your every side, be it the technical, the poetic, or the value-driven one. Yes, this Grand Seiko SBGA465 will set you back five large ones, but it also will give you large amounts of watch pleasure.


Cartier Tank Must XL — Image: Watches of Switzerland

The best watches under €5,000: Cartier Tank Must XL

Nobody will ask you if you’re wearing a Rolex. Even to the untrained eye, it’ll be pretty obvious that you’re wearing a Cartier. A Rolex on the wrist is an obvious choice to show off your first big success in whatever field, be it college, work, or what have you. But it’s also a bit on the nose and all too cliché. The Cartier Tank Must XL, however, also tells of success but does so in a much more stylish way. There’s the case shape of course, and its precise proportions. But there’s also the beaded crown set with a synthetic cabochon-shaped spinel, the silver-plated flinqué dial, and the blue steel sword-shaped hands. All of these elements make it crystal clear: this is a Cartier creation.

The grained black calfskin strap with an interchangeable steel folding clasp is exactly what you’d expect. As such, it’s also part of what gives this watch its distinct look. But you know what? This watch will also look good on a fresh blue or classic brown strap. Maybe from a strict hardware perspective, the aforementioned Longines and Grand Seiko offer a bit more value for money than this oversized Tank. Yes, that might be true, but the Cartier with its €4,850 price tag does outclass both watches in terms of style and brand perception.


Cartier Tank Must XL — Image: WatchProSite

Still, inside the 41mm × 31mm × 8.37mm steel case beats the automatic-winding caliber 1847 MC. Introduced in 2014, this movement has a date display at 6 o’clock and a power reserve of 42 hours. It’s nothing to get too excited about, but it’s also nothing to worry about, and that’s just as important.

Best watches

IWC UTC IW3251 — Image: Horbiter

Pre-owned bonus pick under €5,000: IWC UTC IW3251

This watch caught my attention right from the start when it was launched back in 1998, but it was way out of my budget then. It was the clever and original way of showing an additional 24-hour time zone that fascinated me. The 39 × 12.5mm UTC IW3251 is a very neat and clever pilot’s watch. What you get is a sober, very pilot-like watch with a very original touch, the 24-hour display in the window at 12 o’clock. There, the international time standard is shown. In aviation, that is known as Universal Time Coordinated (UTC), and that’s the name IWC decided to go for.

It’s the automatic caliber 37526 that gets the show off the ground. The hour hand is independently adjustable in one-hour steps — IWC calls that TZC (Time Zone Corrector). Furthermore, the date at 3 o’clock is linked to the hour hand, making this watch a flyer GMT. Other features are the central hacking seconds, an inner case made of antimagnetic soft iron, and the screw-in crown.

The way the complication shows itself in a purely functional way on the dial is so very IWC. I promised you a shortlist of sure shots, and this one sure fits the profile. You get the black dial, Arabic numerals with luminous hour markers, luminous hands, and the large luminous triangle at 12 o’clock. On Chrono24, you can find an IWC UTC IW3251 in good condition for well under €5,000. There are plenty to go around that hover near the €3,500 mark.

So, what do you think of my safe choices for the best watches under (or around) the €5,000 price point? Are they good picks, and did I give a solid piece of responsible advice? Or should I have taken more risks? Let me know what you think.