Luxury timepieces tell the time, and they do so with great accuracy—but telling the time is almost secondary in importance. Ultra-high-end watches tell a story. They may serve as a signifier of the stature and taste of the wearer. They often represent a heritage watchmaker, perhaps even one that invented now-common watch functions, with past clientele made up of royalty.
Which helps explain why the Apple Watch, so far, hasn’t had a big impact on the high-end watch market, according to consultancy Bain & Co. “Men especially have precious few things to indicate who they are. Traditional watches are one of the few and very powerful ways of designating your status,” says Ariel Adams, editor of aBlogtoWatch and author of The World’s Most Expensive Watches. Looking for a wrist-worn status symbol of your very own? Here are six current horological investments.
1. Patek Philippe Grand Complications 5271P-001
Timepieces by Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe & Co. have set numerous worldwide price records at auction. This Grand Complications model is made of platinum and has an alligator strap. The black lacquered clock face features a baguette diamond marking 12 o’clock and 58 baguette diamonds around the bezel. This manually wound watch, which is water-resistant to 30 meters and has a perpetual calendar with moon phases and a smaller dial showing the seconds, retails for $280,000. “It’s a super-nice traditional watch in a modern size,” Adams says. Take traditional refinement and add diamonds. What you get is not for everyone. The addition of those diamonds also raises the price $100,000 over similar versions like the 5270.
2. Glashütte Original Senator Cosmopolite
German watchmaker Glashütte Original manufactures classic-style watches with its own movements, and the company boasts 10 proprietary movement innovations. The Senator Cosmopolite is designed for the convenience of the world traveler. The main dial showcases the local time, and there’s a subdial for the time at home, as well as a time zone corrector, a time zone display, and the local date. “This is an amazing travel watch,” says Adams. But then again, your mobile phone probably has these same functions, so you should love how this watch looks. Hand-finished and featuring an alligator strap, this watch retails for $43,500 in rose gold or $43,300 in white gold.
3. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Grande Complication
The Swiss watchmaker Audemars Piguet has supplied the movements for timepieces by Tiffany & Co., Cartier, and Bulgari. With the brand’s Royal Oak Offshore Grande Complication, the complex interior machinery can be observed from both the front and the back of the timepiece, including a rotor that can be custom-engraved. The look is contemporary and sporty, in an 18-karat pink-gold case with a smoked-sapphire dial, pink-gold hour markings, and a white rubber strap with an 18-karat gold buckle. It’s self-winding, and as a grand complication timepiece, it features chimes, a perpetual moon-phase calendar, and a stopwatch. “You have a very historic brand,” Adams adds. All this for $740,000.
4. Breguet Tradition 7047
The luxury-watch manufacturer Breguet was founded in Paris in 1775 and counts Marie Antoinette and Queen Victoria among its early patrons. Now based in Switzerland, the company’s House of Breguet’s Tradition 7047 (about $245,000) features an off-center, engraved dial. This grand complication “combines some very interesting technology: fusee tourbillon, which Breguet himself invented,” Adams says. This platinum timepiece has a constant-force mechanism (a centuries-old invention) to ensure accuracy. The Tradition 7047, Adams says, combines “two very cool complications, and does it in a way that’s reminiscent of the original Breguet pocket watches.”
5. Hublot Big Bang Perpetual Calendar
Swiss watchmaker Hublot (named for its products’ shape, using the French word for “porthole”) has issued timepieces with unusual themes, like lines inspired by Ferraris, the bold colors of Pop Art, and Depeche Mode album covers. The chronograph is part of Hublot’s ever-popular Big Bang collection, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Priced at around $67,000 in titanium and about $85,000 in “king gold,” it features a stopwatch, perpetual calendar, and moon-phase display.
Adams says the watch is “an interesting marriage” of the traditional with the contemporary, “a very modern design and the aesthetics of the Big Bang.”
6. Bovet Amadeo Fleurier Virtuoso VII Retrograde Perpetual Calendar
Swiss watchmaker Bovet Fleurier is known for its 19th-century manufacture of pocket watches for the Chinese aristocracy. This convertible number goes from a wristwatch to a pocket watch to a table clock. A Salon 2016 novelty preview, the watch comes in rose gold or white gold. It has an alligator strap with an 18-karat gold ardillon buckle, and a chain comes in gold or rhodium-plated silver. Both sides of this watch display the time, presenting a simple and a more detailed view on a skeletonized, hand–engraved dial that includes the perpetual calendar, which is said to be precise for 400 years before it will need an adjustment.
The white-gold version is $82,800, or $92,000 with a diamond-studded bezel. The brand’s history with China is still evident today in details like those diamonds. According to Adams, there’s still a really big focus on appealing to Asia: “So you have a type of watch that is focusing on Eastern tastes in case design and dial design but is functionally Swiss.”
A version of this article appears in the November 1, 2015 issue of Fortune with the headline “Haute Horlogerie.”
An earlier version of this story didn’t specify that Breguet is now based in Switzerland. The company was founded in France in 1775 but all watches are now made in Switzerland. The story was updated to make that clear.