Imagine that you woke up this morning to find $10,000 in your Venmo account. In the notes field you found the following improbably delightful message:
“Spend this on a watch (nothing illegal has transpired here) 🤑.”
We asked some HODINKEE staffers to role-play this scenario and then tell us which watch they’d run off and buy. Below you will find a wide array of choices, some stretching to the very end of the budget, some coming in well below, all great choices. Read on and then, in the comments, let us know how you’d spend your own windfall.
Laine V38 ($9,765)
To be completely honest, this question gave me heartburn. You can buy so many incredible pieces for $10,000! How could I choose just one? I started writing up a Blancpain, a Zenith, an Omega, and a Grand Seiko before I eventually settled on a watch I think is even more special – the one above, the V38 from Torsti Laine, an independent Finnish watchmaker based in Le Locle, Switzerland.
We’ve yet to cover Laine’s work officially on HODINKEE (so please give the man a warm welcome), but he’s been on my radar for a while, and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a higher level of hand decoration for the price anywhere else. And, for me, if I’m dropping five figures on a watch I know that I’ll want it to be inherently special. This one is.
For CHF 9,400 (approximately $9,765 USD), the V38 utilizes a Vaucher ébauche with a tungsten rotor that’s meticulously hand-engraved by Laine himself. The polished steel case comes in a great size for me (38mm × 9mm), and there are plenty of customizable options available. I change my mind often, but the combination that I’m currently coveting is a “Moonfrosted” inner dial, with heat-blued steel hands, heat-blued and applied Breguet numerals, and a natural tan leather strap. The stock salmon dial tone is hard to resist, but I’d love to see something in a dark shade of violet. Or maybe a crisp burnt orange. See? I can’t make a decision to save my life. – Logan Baker, Brand Editor
Cartier Santos (Santos de Cartier), Steel ($7,100)
So you’re saying I’ve just woken up $10,000 richer, and I have to buy a watch? Don’t tempt me with a good time.
She’s French, she’s glamorous, she’s ready for anything. She’s the Santos de Cartier, and I have it on good authority that I’m not the only member of the HODINKEE design team who’d snap up this do-it-all icon in the event the watch fairy blessed them with the same stack of cash.
I like watches that I know I can wear with anything, and while the Santos skews a bit dressier than the rest of my collection, its versatility and class make it perfect for a black-tie event, a casual Friday at the [home] office, or any other occasion on that continuum.
Cartier’s design language has not only been consistent for decades, but it’s stood the test of time. Not only that, but with multiple case sizes available, there’s a Santos for everybody. This is a watch that’s been cool, is still cool, and will be cool for lifetimes to come. That makes it an easy choice for this design nerd. – Alex Fortney, Lead Product Designer
Cartier Ballon Bleu, 36mm Steel ($6,350)
For the sake of this exercise let’s assume my student loan is paid, my eggs retrieved and in a freezer, and my bathroom remodeled. Then I’d go for a Cartier Ballon Bleu 36mm in steel.
I’m 14 months into my watch journey, haven’t bought anything yet (excluding my $7 Savers steal), and this watch is the one I’ve spent the most time with outside of the office. And by most time, I mean a 30-minute appointment at the Cartier boutique on 5th Avenue with my former situationship because he’s into watches and he suggested I try it on.
Walking in, I thought I was a Pantheré girl. I was wrong. Turns out I want mechanical, round, metal, timeless. I also appreciate that crown guard and how it disrupts the flown from the 2 to the 4 indices with a subtly chaotic 3 o’clock index. Anyone who knows me knows I’m into subtle chaos. – Lisa Gonzalez, Production Director
Omega Speedmaster Cal. 3861 With Hesalite Crystal ($6,400)
This is a tough one, simply because there are so many high-quality, compelling options in this price range. The Grand Seiko SBGY009 Spring Drive immediately pops to mind, as do the Tudor Pelagos (blue) and Omega Seamaster 300 41mm. All good stuff. But right now, as of this moment, I’d jump all over the Omega Speedmaster Pro 3861 with Hesalite crystal.
Along with the patented Speedmaster look, it goes that step further by leaning into the heritage of the model (read: the closed caseback inscribed with “Flight-Qualified By NASA In 1965 For All Manned Space Missions” and “The First Watch Worn On The Moon”). Every now and then we need a reminder of great exploits, and if it’s as easy as looking down at your wrist, all the better. – Will Holloway, Director of Content
Zenith Chronomaster Original, Black Dial On Bracelet ($9,500)
Generally, I’m more drawn to vintage items than brand new. Perhaps it’s some ironic horological contrarian mindset, but when it comes to the look and feel of watches I like to live in the past. The Zenith Chronomaster Original Black Dial on bracelet does double duty for me; it has all the look and feel of classic Zenith design but with the benefit of modern production and quality. And yes, it has what some might call “faux-tina” creamy lume markers, but I think when a brand has the kind of historic design DNA like Zenith, you can do whatever you want. $10k well-spent. – Myles Kusaba, Buyer – Luxury
Hermès H08 Satin-Brushed Titanium On Bracelet ($5,400)
This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve bought a watch for the bracelet. But it would be the first time I’ve bought a watch for the polished center links. Look at them shine! What a cool contrast against all that brushed titanium. And since my $10,000 watch actually costs $5,400, I’d have four grand left over to spend a night at the Amangiri and admire my new center links glinting in the desert sun. – Nick Marino, EVP of Content
Zenith Chronomaster El Primero Revival ‘Shadow’ ($9,000)
In my real life, I’m on the hunt for something old and gold, but I know enough not to tip my hand until I’ve found the one. But now that I’ve got ten thousand imaginary bucks to blow on a watch, just because? I’m going for the Chronomaster El Primero Revival ‘Shadow.’
I’m a sucker for funky-shaped cases and this one hits just right, likely thanks to the vintage proportions at 37 x 12.6mm. The blasted titanium case also lends to set-it-and-forget-it wearability, which is what I want to do if I’m spending this amount of money on a watch (real or imagined). Watches are made to be worn! Plus, I tend to gravitate toward watches with sparkly bracelets, so this is an opportunity to try something completely new: Flat finish, black, and on a strap. What’s imaginary money for, anyway? – Jonathan McWhorter, Video Producer
Glashütte Original PanoMaticLunar ($9,900)
At first, I thought this watch had too much going on, what with its hours, minutes, seconds, date, and moonphase. But the arrangement is neat enough that the elements work together. The blue with polished steel are both soothing and celestial. Finally, I like the easy-to-read date. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I really wanted the Lange 1, the watch this is clearly modeled on, but the idea here isn’t “which watch would you buy for $50,000,” and at $9,900 it’s a close second for a fraction of the price. – Sarah Miller, Senior Writer
Rolex Datejust 36mm Silver Dial ($8,750)
I have a sickness. Give me any hypothetical watch challenge, even with total freedom to dream, and I’ll imagine that I’m buying the only watch I’ll ever wear for the rest of my life. The watch I buy – even in my mind – has to work everywhere. Which is why with my imaginary Venmo money I’m buying a 36mm Rolex Datejust. A bona fide, can’t-go-wrong classic.
And I want the classic-est manifestation: Silver dial, fluted bezel, Jubilee bracelet. It’s almost the Paul Newman Color of Money Datejust, but I’d go with the white gold and fluted bezel since I theoretically have the budget (and the Datejust just looks weird without it). Also, $10,000 is no small sum – and at that price point, I will always aim for the “safe” pick because even my imagination doesn’t have an imagination. But that doesn’t mean my choice isn’t right. It’s right for me. – Danny Milton, Senior Editor
Cartier Tank Must SolarBeat ($2,395)
Before I joined the HODINKEE team, I knew relatively little about – okay, nothing about – the watch world. However, I did know a thing or two about video editing. And as part of my job application, I was tasked with creating my own version of this A Week On The Wrist video. I will never forget the excitement I felt when I passed the test and earned a spot among some of the most passionate and enthusiastic people I’ve ever met.
So, the Cartier Tank Must (particularly the small model because I’ve got a tiny wrist) would be my choice. It might not cost the whole $10k, but to me, it’s worth much more in sentimental value. – Vic Ottomanelli, Video Editor
Grand Seiko SBGH289 ($7,300)
I love Seiko divers, and what Grand Seiko has done with the SBGH289 is take their tried-and-true formula from a model like the SKX007 and crank it up to 11. Yes, it’s the value proposition that makes Seiko’s divers attractive, but that does mean making some compromises. The Grand Seiko SBGH289 makes zero compromises.
With a 9S85 inside (that’s a hi-beat movement!), a finely finished case, Zaratsu-polished indices set against a gorgeous blurple dial, and a bezel with buttery smooth action, this watch addresses any gripe one could have with a diver from Seiko. And that’s what Grand Seiko is all about – taking the Seiko ethos to an entirely new level. This diver is truly next-level, and yes, it has a price to match. So thanks for the money, mystery donor. – Cole Pennington, Editor
Bulgari Serpenti Spiga Watch In Black Ceramic ($7,550)
Assuming that the $10,000 is not my own and I did nothing to earn it, I’d buy something so flashy it would make my mother sick. There isn’t a watch out there that says “someone else’s money” quite like the Bulgari Serpenti. And since my budget is JUST $10k [pouts] I’ll settle for this one that wraps around my wrist only once, but is in my favorite combo of black and rose gold. Subtle! Ish! I legit love this watch for its extravagance and think anyone of any gender expression can and should rock one to look as pampered as possible. Thank you sky deity for my surprise cash and this beautiful ceramic watch of my dreams. – Nora Taylor, Deputy Editor
Rolex Datejust, 36mm Olive-Green Palm Motif Dial ($8,750)
Just like Danny, I’m going with a 36mm Rolex Datejust – but mine’s the one with the palm leaves. I can’t cash out on white gold since my budget is only $10k, so Oystersteel will have to do. I’d put it on a Jubilee bracelet, which I know because I actually sat on Rolex.com and configured this watch while wishing I could afford one. Some people say Rolex is overrated, and it may be, but wouldn’t you make your $10k count? And what’s a collection without a baller staple Rolex? – Tiffany Wade, Photographer
Oris Big Crown ProPilot X Caliber 115 On Bracelet ($7,600)
To quote Paul Newman’s pool hustling character “Fast Eddie” Felson, “Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.” So, for the sake of this fantasy, I’m going to imagine that I just walked up to the roulette table and put $10k on red and it hit. I just doubled my money! Now, I could let it ride … but instead, I decide to buy the Oris Big Crown ProPilot X Caliber 115 with my winnings.
Why, you might ask? Three big reasons. First, the material. It’s all titanium so it is super light on the wrist but also highly durable. Second, the movement. The caliber 115 is Oris’ first skeletonized in-house movement and it’s beautiful. You can see through to the enlarged barrel inside, which allows for a power reserve of 10 days, that’s pretty nuts. And finally the design. The 44mm open-worked case really shows off Oris’ skills, while the addition of the knurled bezel blends well with the overall jet-engine feel. Priced at $7,600, that means I’ll still have some room left to enjoy my new watch at the poker table. – Joe Wyatt, Video Editor