Can $1 million bring you happiness? No, it can't, but it can definitely buy you an eye-catching limited-edition watch.
You can even justify the purchase -- a high-end watch is an accessory that is both practical and extravagant.
The first portable timepiece, a pocket watch, was created by German locksmith Peter Henlein in the early 16th century. Hundreds of years later, this classic invention is still used not only to tell time in any location, but also as an understated yet powerful fashion statement.
While there's plenty of wrist-candy out there, there definitely are ones more worth your while.
The Diamond Age
Jacob & Co., a luxury watchmaker based in New York City, has produced only 12 of its men's Royal model -- so you don't need to worry about anyone else showing up to a party with the same watch.
The Royal is studded with 71 carats of flawless diamonds, and can be programmed for five different time zones, which is ideal for those jetsetters among us. This alluring timepiece is also perfect for fancy occasions, or even just those days when you need a little pick-me-up -- all you need is $1 million and it's yours.
An even more glittering option is the men's or women's
Diamond Tourbillon, which can stand up to any tennis bracelet. This watch is offered in both platinum and 18-carat rose gold (
see photo, above right
), and features 15.80 carats of diamonds all over the case and dial. It also retails for $1 million, and there are only 36 of these watches available.
Or strap on the
Crystal Tourbillon, which is also suitable for both sexes and truly looks like a piece of art. It has 1.6 carats of diamonds and was debuted for the
Art Basel 2007 fair; it lists for $900,000.
If your tastes run more to the classic style, then look to
Vacheron Constantin. This storied Geneva company was founded by Jean-Marc Vacheron in 1755, and it has created the $1.5 million Tour de l'Ile, a men's timepiece, after more than 10,000 hours of research and development.
The result of all that time and effort? A comprehensive little machine with 16 complications, or extra features: a calendar sensitive to the date, month and leap years; settings for two time zones; phases of the moon, time of sunrise and sunset, and a sky chart.
The dials are a gleaming 18-carat silvered gold, the hands, 18-carat pink gold -- all inspired by a 1926 vintage model. Each one is individually numbered and has a motif on the back dial that ensures its authenticity.
You will be wearing a unique masterpiece, as there are only seven of the Tour de l'Ile watches available. You're not buying a watch, but rather a piece of portable art.
How exactly does Vacheron command such a price?
"The master hand-craftsmanship and attention to detail of its watchmakers ensure that Vacheron Constantin only delivers the best and most beautiful timepieces possible. People that own Vacheron Constantin watches usually want the best, and these timepieces deliver the 'wow' factor," says Julien Tornare, president of Vacheron Constantin, North America.
For a more minimalist look, try
This Swiss company began in 1881 and cemented its place in the design world in 1947, when its Bauhaus-influenced artist Nathan George Horwitt crafted a timepiece with a simple single dot at the top of the dial. Horwitt wanted a watch free of any decoration, and the resulting Museum Watch is now considered one of the icons of modernism.
Today's version, the Museum 60 mm watch is a unisex limited edition, numbered timepiece featuring 60 diamonds -- 18 carats total -- and a smooth black alligator strap ($50,000).
Do You Have the Time?
Scott Udell, vice president at
London Jewelers, offers some additional players to look out for in the luxury-watch market.
Patek Philippe set the standard for the industry. They require hours of working labor and they are all handmade," Udell explains.
Watch connoisseurs are very drawn to this line. "There is a high demand for Patek. About 100 customers a week come in looking for them. The demand is higher than what they produce
which keeps it very exclusive. That's what people love about the brand. A lot of the pieces are so rare and hard to get," says Udell.
What models stand out in the sea of Pateks? Udell says that they are all special but, "
one of the hardest models to get is
5960P, which retails for $63,500."
This watch (
see photo, at right
) is made only in a men's style, says a salesman at watch retailer
The men's 5960P watch features self-winding mechanical movement and the Philippe annual calendar, which automatically recognizes months of varying lengths. You can even read the numbers in the dark, as the dial display changes from white during the day to a luminescent blue at night.
Another luxury brand to watch out for is
Audemars Piguet, "which is right under Patek," says Udell, and its "hottest line:
Royal Oak." This model goes for approximately $15,000 and is available in both women's and men's styles.
Go ahead, check the time -- you'll be sure to draw stares when you're wearing any of these luxury watches.
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