Graduation season is fast approaching and nothing says “Welcome to the real world!” quite like a fine timepiece. A watch is a thoughtful gift that can be enjoyed every day and will last a lifetime. Plus, luxury watches are the perfect family heirloom and graduation is an ideal time to start the tradition. When giving a luxury timepiece as a gift, it’s always best to stick to well-known names — think Rolex, Tudor, Cartier, Omega, TAG Heuer, and the like. That way you’ll be sure that the recipient recognizes the name of his or her new watch without the need to explain just how special your graduation gift is!
So whether the soon-to-be graduate in your life is finishing up high school, university, grad school, or professional schools such as law or medicine, here are some of our top picks for the best luxury watch graduation gifts at various prices, ranging from sensible to stratospheric.
Best High School Graduation Gift Watches
Graduating from high school is one of the most momentous occasions in a young adult’s life and celebrating it with a top-tier timepiece is especially meaningful; the graduate will be reminded of how proud you are of them every time they look at their wrist. Here are some of our recommendations for the best watch gifts for high school graduates, ranging from less than $4,000 to less than $10,000.
TAG Heuer is a great brand for a young man’s first foray into premium watches. The TAG Heuer Carrera Automatic 39 is a solid starter watch featuring a stainless steel 39mm case, a matching steel bracelet, and an easy-to-read dial. The dial is home to well-lumed hands and hour markers, as well as a date window at 6 o’clock. Plus, you can pick from various dial colors such as silver, black, and blue. The back of the watch is fitted with an exhibition caseback for a view of the Caliber 5 automatic movement and the watch is water resistant to 100 meters or 330 feet.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Automatic 39 References
For young ladies, it’s hard to beat the appeal of a Cartier watch and the Cartier Tank is one of the most famous of all. For under $4,000, we’d recommend either the Tank Must or the Tank Française, which are both full stainless steel quartz models that are easy to wear all day long. While both are chic rectangular watches, the Tank Must is slightly more masculine and longer in design compared to the feminine and squarer Tank Française. Regardless of which you choose, these Tank watches are unmistakably Cartier, complete with the brand’s signature Roman numerals, blue sword-shaped hands, and blue cabochon stone set into the winding crown.
Cartier Tank References:
- Tank Must Small WSTA0051
- Tank Must Large WSTA0052
- Tank Française WSTA0065
Price Guide: How Much Does A Cartier Tank Cost?
If sporty diver watches are more in line with the graduate’s style, then Tudor has a slew of fantastic options that would make great graduation gifts. For instance, Tudor makes the Black Bay diver in various styles and sizes, all fitted with rotating bezels, automatic movements, and water resistance to 200 meters.
Back to Basics: What is a Dive Watch?
The 41mm Black Bay offers the most bezel color options including red, blue, and black. There are also 41mm Black Bay watches in two-tone steel and gold variants, which come with the added benefit of date windows. Other size options include the 39mm Black Bay 58 and the 37mm Black Bay 54.
Tudor Black Bay References
- 41mm Black Bay 7941A1A0RU
- 41mm Black Bay 79230
- 41mm Black Bay S&G 79733
- 39mm Black Bay 58 79030
- 34mm Black Bay 54 79000
The Seamaster Aqua Terra by Omega is one of the best ‘Go-Anywhere-Do-Anything’ aka GADA watches in the luxury market, which is probably what your high school graduates would appreciate the most at this life stage.
Available in a multitude of sizes, materials, dials, and straps, what ties all Aqua Terra Master Chronometer watches together are their round cases that are water-resistant to 150 meters, highly legible time and date dials, and automatic chronometer movements. For a graduation gift, we’d recommend these full stainless steel models, offered in plenty of colorways.
Omega Aqua Terra References:
- Aqua Terra 41 ref. 220.10.41
- Aqua Terra 38 ref. 220.10.38
- Aqua Terra 34 ref. 220.10.34
If you want a high school graduation gift that will really impress, then a Rolex is in order. Specifically, an Oyster Perpetual, the classic entry-level Rolex. Modern Oyster Perpetual watches are exclusively available with steel cases and steel bracelets but are offered in various sizes and dial colors.
While retail prices for Oyster Perpetual watches range from $5,550 to $6,400 depending on size, secondary market prices also vary depending on the dial colors — some dial colors are much more expensive than others due to demand.
Note, buying any new Rolex at retail from an authorized dealer is not an easy feat these days, but an Oyster Perpetual is among the more obtainable models. If you have some time (at least a few months), you might try to get on a Rolex waiting list. If you’re tight for time, a local grey market dealer should be able to help you out quickly.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual References
- Oyster Perpetual 41 ref. 124300
- Oyster Perpetual 36 ref. 126000
- Oyster Perpetual 34 ref. 124200
- Oyster Perpetual 31 ref. 124300
- Oyster Perpetual 28 ref. 276200
Bonus Entry: Breitling Endurance Pro University Editions
If your high-school graduate is going off to Princeton University, The United States Naval Academy, The University of Alabama, or the University of Michigan in the fall, then Breitling’s Endurance Pro University Editions collection may be just what you’re looking for.
These Breitling watches feature ultra-lightweight 44-millimeter Breitlight® cases and thermo-compensated SuperQuartz movement, and depending on the edition, are decorated with the educational institutions’ official colors and insignias.
Best College Graduation Gift Watches
The completion of college or university typically signals the start of true independence and a luxury watch is a terrific way to mark the milestone and say “hats off.” Here are some of our recommendations for the best graduation gifts to give to a college graduate.
The time-only Tudor Black Bay 31/36/39/41 watches are a sensible choice for the office; understated and not too flashy (don’t want to outshine the boss, after all) while also offering the type of high quality you’d expect from Rolex’s sibling brand.
As their name suggests, these Black Bay variants are available in 31mm, 36m, 39mm, and 41mm case sizes, all housing straightforward three-hander dials. Plus, Tudor updated the collection in 2023 with in-house automatic movements, dressier Jubilee-style bracelets, and a batch of new sophisticated dial colors.
Tudor Black Bay 31/36/39/41 References
- Black Bay 31 ref. 79600
- Black Bay 36 ref. 79640
- Black Bay 39 ref. 79660
- Black Bay 41 ref. 79680
More about Tudor: Rolex and Tudor Watches Only Meant for North America
What better way to say “reach for the stars” to the new grad than with a watch nicknamed the Moonwatch, a.k.a. the Omega Speedmaster? One of the most famous chronographs ever made, the Speedmaster picked up the Moonwatch name after it became the first watch worn on the Moon when Buzz Aldrin took his lunar steps in 1969.
Learn More: How Much Does an Omega Speedmaster Cost?
Today, Omega continues to make models to make Speedmaster Professional Moonwatches, faithfully based on those NASA-issued chronographs that accompanied the Apollo 11 mission. These historically important watches feature 42mm steel cases, black bezels, black dials with three sub-dials, and manual-winding movements. If you want to stay true to the original, then opt for the variant with an old-school Hesalite crystal rather than a modern sapphire crystal.
While not strictly Moonwatches, there are other plenty of other Speedmasters in Omega’s catalog too, including the smaller and automatic Speedmaster 38 models that would make a great graduation gift for her. The Omega Speedmaster 38 is a varied collection with plenty of dial colors and band styles to choose from, and aside from stainless steel, there are also some two-tone variants available for less than $7,500.
Omega Speedmaster References
- Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch ref. 310.30.42.50.01.001
- Speedmaster 38 ref. 324.30.38
Cartier is known for its beautifully designed collection of luxury watches, which offer plenty of non-round pieces that would appeal to those looking for something a little different. For university graduation gifts under $10,000, look no further than a Cartier Panthere watch for her and a Cartier Santos watch for him.
The Cartier Santos watch has been around for more than a century, cementing its mark in horology history as not only the first purposely designed men’s wristwatch but also the world’s first pilot watch. Today’s Santos de Cartier watches are modern executions of those original designs, complete with in-house automatic movements and QuickSwitch interchangeable systems to make switching out bracelets a breeze. Full stainless steel options are available, in addition to variants with black ADLC (amorphous diamond-like carbon) or blue PVD (physical vapor deposition) coated bezels and bracelets.
Santos de Cartier References:
- Steel Medium Model ref. WSSA0029
- Steel Large Model ref. WSSA0018, WSSA0030
- Steel Black ADLC Large Model ref. WSSA0037
- Steel Blue PVD Large Model ref. WSSA0047, WSSA0048
Like the Santos, Cartier Panthere watches have square cases with bezels punctuated with screws, but unlike the men’s Santos the women’s Pantheres include stunning brick-lay style bracelets that wear like fine jewelry. For less than $10,000, you can gift a steel, a two-tone, and even a diamond Cartier Panthere watch to a lucky young graduate this season.
Panthere de Cartier References:
- Steel Small Model ref. WSPN0006, WSPN0010
- Steel Diamond Small Model ref. W4PN0007, W4PN0013
- Steel/Gold Small Model ref. W2PN0006
- Steel Medium Model ref. WSPN0007
- Steel Diamond Medium Model ref. W4PN0008
- Steel/Gold Medium Model ref. W2PN0007
An absolute classic in luxury watches, the Rolex Datejust is not only the most recognizable timepiece ever made but also the brand’s most versatile collection. Rolex not only makes the Datejust in 31mm, 36mm, and 41mm sizes (as well as the 28mm Lady-Datejust) but also offers a bevy of materials, bracelets, and bracelet styles. That means you can find the perfect Datejust variant to suit the graduate’s taste.
Rolex Datejust References:
- Steel Datejust 41 ref. 126300
- Steel/White Gold Bezel Datejust 41 ref. 126334
- Steel/Yellow or Everose Gold Datejust 41 ref. 126303, 126333, 126301, 126331
- Steel Datejust 36 ref. 126200
- Steel/White Gold Bezel Datejust 36 ref. 126234
- Steel/Yellow or Everose Gold Datejust 36 ref. 126203, 126233, 126201, 126231
- Steel Datejust 31 ref. 278240
- Steel/White Gold Bezel Datejust 31 ref. 278274
- Steel/Yellow or Everose Gold Datejust 31 ref. 278243, 278273, 278241, 278271
Price Guide: What is the Price of a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust?
Best Grad School and Professional School Graduates
Armed with a master’s, law degree, or medical degree, the proud graduate is now ready for the next career chapter. An achievement of this nature calls for an impressive watch to give as a gift. Here are some of our recommendations for top luxury watches to give as graduation gifts for a postgraduate. We include some very wild picks here, with prices that are more aspirational than attainable for most — but if you have the budget, there are some incredible options.
Rolex Submariner – $12,000+
The Rolex Submariner is often joked about as being the official Watch of Wall Street given how many finance folks seem to love this famous diving watch. It may have been born as a tool watch for divers to wear with their wetsuits but today, you’ll more likely see the Submariner paired with business wear and dwelling at desks.
Price Guide: How Much Can I Get for My Used Rolex Submariner?
An excellent graduation gift to give, modern steel no-date Submariners can start at $12,000 in the secondary market and go up from there for date models and material and colorway variations.
Rolex Submariner References
- Submariner ref. 124060
- Submariner Date ref. 126610, 126613, 126618, 126619
Bvlgari Watches – $15,000+
Bvlgari has been making incredible strides in its watchmaking department over the last decade or so, particularly with the ultra-thin Octo Finissimo watch collection. With a budget of around $15,000, the titanium or ceramic Bvlgari Octo Finissimo models are striking gifts to give him to celebrate graduation. These sleek pieces feature octagonal cases that are super slim (yet manage to house automatic movements) and bracelets that are often called some of the best in contemporary watchmaking.
Bvlgari Octo Finissimo References
- Titanium Octo Finissimo ref. 102713
- Ceramic Octo Finissimo ref. 103077
For her, Bvlgari makes the iconic Serpenti Tubogas watch, characterized by snake silhouettes that coil beautifully around the wrist. Part timepiece and part statement jewelry, Bvlgari makes a wide assortment of Serpenti Tubogas watches in various materials and colors, each more alluring than the next.
Bvlgari Serpenti Tubogas References
- Steel and Diamonds ref. 103433
- Steel, Rose Gold, and Diamonds ref. 102098
- Black Ceramic, Rose Gold, and Diamonds ref. 102885
Vacheron Constantin Overseas – $25,000+
While not as hyped as the Royal Oak or Nautilus, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas is nonetheless a top-tier sports watch not to miss. Details such as a Maltese Cross-inspired notched bezel and integrated bracelet give this watch a sporty edge while the quick-release bracelet system and additional straps offer various ways to wear it.
The steel Overseas Self-Winding, which starts at $25,000 for 41mm versions on the secondary market, is the simplest model with time and date indications on the dial. There are smaller ones too clocking in at 34.5mm and 37mm, which makes the Overseas collection a great one to shop for a graduation gift watch.
Rolex Daytona – $30,000+
Hands down the most popular high-end chronograph on the market, the Rolex Daytona has become an icon of luxury watches and the must-have model of the moment. Although all the watches have 40mm cases, three subdials on the dial, and a pair of chronograph pushers flanking the crown, the collection is highly diverse in terms of materials and colors.
Latest Daytona Models: New and Discontinued Rolex Watches for 2023
Expect to pay a minimum of $30,000 for steel and ceramic Daytona references, a little less for two-tone steel and gold versions, and much more for full gold or platinum versions. This is a graduation gift the recipient will never forget.
Patek Philippe Annual Calendar – $40,000+
Keeping track of the time and date will now be even more important for the postgraduate alumnus as they embark on their chosen career. So help them along with an annual calendar watch, which will only need one hands-on adjustment per year. And if you want to opt for the best, then go with the company that invented this particular complication.
Back to Basics: What is an Annual Calendar Watch?
We recommend the supremely elegant Patek Philippe Annual Calendar 5396, which features a 38.5mm case available in white, rose, and yellow gold, paired with coordinating alligator straps. If diamonds are in order, then the slightly smaller ladies’ Patek Philippe Annual Calendar 4947 features a 38mm case with a diamond-set bezel, and is available in white or rose gold.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak $45,000+
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak hardly needs an introduction as it has become one of the most sought-after luxury watches in today’s market. Created by Gerald Genta in the 1970s, the Royal Oak’s distinct design — comprising of an octagonal bezel, textured dial, and integrated bracelet — can be spotted from a mile away.
The stainless steel Royal Oak Selfwinding is the simplest edition, currently available in 34mm, 37mm, and 41mm sizes and with multiple dial colors. Prices for the newest version Royal Oak 41mm in steel start at $45,000 on the secondary market.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding References:
- Royal Oak Selfwinding 41 ref. 15500
- Royal Oak Selfwinding 37 ref. 15550
- Royal Oak Selfwinding 34 ref. 77450, 77451
Price Guide: How Much Does An Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Cost?
That wraps up our recommendations for the best high-end watches to give as graduation gifts. Congratulations to all those graduating this season!
Other Buying Guides from Gray Market Magazine:
The Most Popular Rolex Watches
What is the Best Entry-Level Rolex?
Which is the Best Rolex Daytona to Buy?