So you’re shopping for a wristwatch to give as a gift. Great idea! Many people appreciate both the utility and aesthetics that a watch offers. And even those who already own a watch are usually happy to have another as an alternative.
But here’s where it can get tricky. The world of watches is large and diverse. You can spend anywhere from $5 on a small digital watch from a big box store to $1 million or more on luxury watches encrusted in jewels.
For context, we’re going to focus on the real world here. Most people in North America wear watches in the $50-1,000 range regularly, with the core of the luxury watch market focused between $1,000 and $10,000.
As this is GearJunkie, our watch selections will skew outdoor and athletic, although we love a good dive watch or automatic field watch, too.
Here are some recommendations of great watches to give, organized by style and price.
Sports Watch Gifts
This water- and mud-resistant watch can help you keep an eye on the weather, your bearings, as well as the time. The update to the MUDMAN series ushers in an improved LCD and a sleeker case.
The brand’s Triple Sensor informs the watch’s altimeter/barometer, thermometer, and compass functions. The dual-layer LDC overlays the navigation data while still reading other information beneath it. Additionally, the watch keeps tabs on sunrise and sunset and adapts to time zones all over the globe.
Designed to meet the needs of professionals in the field, and stand up to their abuse, the GW9500’s Carbon Core Guard Structure protects from drops, impacts, and the elements.Check Price at Casio
$150: Fitbit Charge 5
The Fitbit Charge 5 offers a whole lot of bang for the buck when it comes to health and fitness tracking. The Charge 5 earned a slot among our top fitness watches. That’s due to its ability to track GPS without the use of a phone, advanced health tracking metrics, and music control capability. For those looking for a basic, reliable fitness tracker with GPS, this is a very solid choice at a reasonable price.
It’s worth noting that it has a pretty small screen. It also only offers pretty basic sport tracking, so for those who need more navigational aids or deeper features, check the next entry.Check Price at Amazon
$400: Coros Apex 2
For most adventurous athletes, the Coros Apex 2 is the best watch on the market, period. Sure, you can spend a lot more. But for an incredibly reasonable price, the Apex 2 packs in almost all the features available in a GPS watch. That means GPS, maps, an all-encompassing activity profile suite, a pressure-based altimeter, and a whole lot more. And it has one of the best battery lives on the market.Check Price at REI Check Price at Amazon
$800: Garmin Fenix 7 Solar
Arguably the best high-end GPS fitness watch on the market right now, the Garmin Fenix 7 Solar is outstanding. It packs in all the usual capabilities of a backcountry-focused watch like modes for hiking, skiing, trail running, and a ton more.
It has effective navigational tools like a compass, waypoints, and mapping. It even carries music files internally, has a good battery life, and charges in the sun. It has, in short, all the bells and whistles.
Yes, it does cost a lot more than the Coros. But for those who spend a lot of time powering through long hikes or mountaineering challenges, the additional capability may be worth the investment. Potential buyers should note it’s a rather large and heavy watch, so not ideal for smaller wrists.Check Price at REI Check Price at Scheels
Best Budget Watches as Gifts
If your goal is to find a good, reliable, accurate watch that looks good and is durable for the outdoors, there is no reason you have to spend a lot of money. Sure, these watches don’t have the moxie of their higher-priced brethren, but they’ll get the job done on a good budget. And some of these budget watches will perform just as well as competitors 10 times or more than their price.
$50: Casio Duro
The Casio Duro is a ridiculously good watch for $50. Not only will it tell perfectly accurate time, but it’s water resistant to 200 m (twice that of your Rolex Submariner) and has good luminous application to the hands and markers for easy reading in low light.
It also looks sharp thanks to a simple, iconic design. It has a relatively large 44mm case, so this one is best suited for those with larger wrists and hands.Check Price at Amazon
$60: Timex Expedition
The Timex Expedition has been around for decades. I rocked one while tromping around Costa Rica during college in the 1990s. It was a great, reliable, good-looking timepiece back then. And it still is today.
It has a reliable quartz movement, is water resistant to 50 m (which is realistically beyond the limits of recreational divers), and has a very effective Indiglo lighting feature that makes it very easy to read at night. For the burgeoning adventurer (or anyone who wants an affordable, reliable, rugged watch), the Timex Expedition is a fantastic choice. Best yet, it’s available in many colors and designs, often for $40 or less.Check Price at Amazon
Fans know G-Shock for its super-tough, easy-to-use watches. They have a distinctly burly aesthetic and tend to run large, which should help you decide if this brand is right for your loved one.
The DW6900-1V is G-Shock through and through. While there are much more expensive watches from the brand, this model brings 200 m of water resistance and an easy-to-read face, along with the iconic G-Shock appearance, at a very reasonable price.Check Price at Amazon
Best Field Watches to Give
$250: Bertucci A-2T
The Bertucci A-2T is an incredible watch for those who get after it in the outdoors. Light, accurate, durable, and easy to read, this simple watch is the field watch ideal. I have tested this watch for about 8 years and used it in incredibly tough conditions. It’s still running perfectly. And it’s very comfortable.
For $250, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better, more reliable field watch. And it even looks pretty snazzy with nicer clothing. Check out our full review here.Check Price at Amazon
$595+: Hamilton Khaki Field
When it comes to reasonably affordable field watches, no brand is more iconic than Hamilton. Today, it sets the bar in the sub-$1,500 field watch category with reliable mechanical and automatic movements.
The brand is solidly field-tested, but at this price, fashion also comes into play. These watches look as good as they function. For the watch aficionado and beginning collector, the Khaki Field is a great step into the world of automatic watches.
Prices start around $600 for mechanical watches. Most of the brand’s automatics land around the $1,000 mark.Check Price at Hamilton
$1,700: Alpina Alpiner Extreme Automatic
Alpina builds beautiful, reliable automatic watches out of Geneve, Switzerland. So it’s no surprise that the brand is up to the task of tough travel in some of the steepest mountains.
The Alpiner Extreme Automatic carries an AL-525 CALIBER automatic movement with a 38-hour power reserve in its 26-jewel movement. The 41mm case has a see-through back and convex sapphire crystal that prevents scratching.
Water resistant to 200 m, this beautiful timepiece combines style and function at a price that remains approachable for many watch enthusiasts.Check Price at Alpina
$4,000: NORQAIN Neverest Glacier
The NORQAIN Neverest Glacier is a big step up from Hamilton in terms of price. But the brand builds to genuine luxury watch standards at a relatively affordable price for the Swiss automatic watch world. It also packs exacting build standards, chronometer-level accuracy, and a 70-hour power reserve inside a 40mm or 41mm case that’s water-resistant to 200 m.
I put the NORQAIN Neverest Glacier to the test and enjoyed the fit and feel of this rugged watch. It carries a unique and interesting backstory along with a cadre of talented outdoor ambassadors. So for the step up in the field watch world, this one is a fine wristwatch for the discerning collector.Check Price at Norqain
Best Dive Watches to Give
For dive watches with automatic movements, Seiko is the watch to buy under $1,000. Even watch snobs respect the fine craftsmanship and performance of Seiko. And the Prospex line is as rugged and outdoor-capable as they come.
Note here, the 200m water resistance, super-comfortable silicone strap, 45mm face (which could be a little too large for smaller wrists), and 23-jewel automatic movement with a 41-hour power reserve.
This is one fabulous watch for a very reasonable price. And if you can squeeze out another $100, the limited-edition SRPJ93 model, pictured above, is incredibly handsome on the wrist, too.Check Price at Amazon
$1,500: Zodiac Super Sea Wolf
If you want to give a watch that gets noticed, look no further than the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf. While less known by the general public than the ubiquitous Rolex, Zodiac also launched the Sea Wolf in 1953, the same year the Submariner hit the market.
It has a deep and storied history. And while the brand did fall off the radar for a while, it is back in full force after its acquisition by Fossil.
Today, you can get a huge variety of colors and models of the Super Sea Wolf. But all of them pack serious moxie, with 200m water resistance, SuperLumiNova hands and markers, and an STP 1-11 Swiss-made automatic movement. I’ve tested, and fallen for, these flashy and elegant watches that are a fit for both the office and the field.Check Price at Zodiac
$4,550: Tudor Black Bay
Let’s be real. Most dive watches are worn more for style than for diving — they make dive computers for the real undersea work. So at a certain price point, you need to consider fashion more than function. And with the Tudor Black Bay, we’ve reached that point.
The Tudor Black Bay is one hot watch for 2023. If you pay attention, you’ll see it on billboards and banner ads. But I’m guessing you’ll see a few on wrists for years to come. Timeless style but bold colors make this one an intriguing gift.
A Calibre MT5602-U movement, 41mm steel case, red bezel, and black face make this 200m water-resistant dive watch a fashionable, yet functional, piece of arm candy.Check Price at Tudor
Giving Watches as Gifts: Tips From an Expert
I spoke with Ryan White, the Senior Creative Director of Fossil, one of the world’s largest watch brands, for some advice on buying a watch as a gift. Here’s what he had to say.
1. What do you need to know about the recipient when you buy a watch as a gift?
Consider the recipient’s style when it comes to fashion and accessories. Are they more classic, modern, sporty? Is it for an occasion? This will help you determine if it is a dress watch for a formal outing, a sports watch for outdoor activities, or an everyday casual watch. Regardless of the style, my go-to gift is an automatic watch — a timeless piece that is crafted to last and is seamless in long-term use with the winding functionality. Check out the Fossil Heritage Automatic collection.
2. Are there any pitfalls in giving a watch as a gift?
Again, my biggest recommendation to keep in mind is to really consider their personal style and what watch will be the best selection for them. At Fossil, we take pride in our craftsmanship, attention to detail, and premium design options for all watch-wearers and enthusiasts — there is truly a watch for everyone!
3. When are the best times to give a watch as a gift?
Ultimately, the best time to give a watch as a gift depends on the significance of the event and your intention, but generally it’s best for something celebratory, marking an exciting milestone or achievement. A well-chosen watch can be a timeless and cherished keepsake, making it a meaningful gift that commemorates that moment — anniversaries, retirement, and graduations, for example.
4. Is there any meaning in giving a watch as a gift?
Absolutely! More so than any other product in my opinion — it carries meaning for the occasion but also as a thoughtful gesture. Fossil offers complimentary engraving on many of our watches, so you can engrave initials, a date, a personalized phrase, and more to make it even more meaningful as a keepsake.