21st birthday watches: gift ideas that will stand the test of time

She’s coming up for her 21st birthday and you want to mark the occasion with a significant present that will last. Our selection of watches for her are not only practical, but a permanent reminder of that special day and, if you pick wisely, one that will last a lifetime.

There are thousands of women’s watches on the market so my first piece of advice is to stick to reputable brands. Smartwatches might be the latest trend, but as with all technological gadgets, they will become outdated and replaced by the next “in” thing in the blink of an eye.

A classic model from Rolex, this 34mm Oyster Perpetual watch comes with a yellow dial and practical steel bracelet (£3,350).

Gauging her personality type is the next step to avoid investing in a watch that has nothing to do with her style. Rolex watches are synonymous with excellent quality and always a good place to start. The iconic Oyster Perpetual watch, going strong since 1926, is a perennial favourite. Water-resistant to 100 metres, the solid steel case and bracelet are extremely resilient to everyday wear and tear, and there are infinite colour choices for the dial, including this 34mm yellow model with blue accents on the indices.

The Omega Aqua Terra range of ladies’ watches offer the best of both worlds. The combination of diamonds and a mother-of-pearl dial – in this case a lovely lavender Tahitian pearl dial – with the robust waterproof and anti-magnetic 38.5mm steel case, makes this a perfect ally for girls with an active lifestyle who do not want to renounce their femininity.

Every woman should own something in a little red box from Cartier, and the Ballon Bleu collection is one of my favourites. Inspired by the shape of a balloon, this 33mm model comes with a pretty pink opaline dial and all the hallmarks of Cartier watches such as the blue cabochon crown and hands.

Blancpain Ladybird Ultraplate 21.50mm red gold watch with a mother-of-pearl dial set with a ruby, a diamond-set bezel, and a diamond and ruby ladybird charm (£13,730).

If she is more the romantic sort, Blancpain’s tiny weeny 21.50mm Ladybird watch in red gold with a ruby and diamond-set ladybird charm will do the trick, as will Montblanc’s dreamy 36mm rose gold Bohème Moongarden watch with Moon phases and the changing names of the full Moon. 

An icon in the history of watchmaking, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso got a makeover for its 85th anniversary in 2016 with a series of watch straps designed by cult shoe designer Christian Louboutin. These straps bring a dash of glamour and sensuality to this timeless classic. 

Although Ralph Lauren is usually associated with clothes, his watch collections convey the same easy glamour of his unique universe, giving the classic design of this 32mm rose gold RL888 watch a playful twist. 

Inspired by a travel clock of the 1940s, Tiffany’s new East West collection includes this attractive watch with a Tiffany blue dial and double tour calfskin strap (£2,850).

Tiffany has recently released the East West Mini watch collection with its attractive rectangular cases inspired by a Tiffany travel clock of the 1940s. Holly Golightly would have certainly chosen the model with a Tiffany blue dial and its double tour, grey calfskin strap. And the purity and restrained lines of the Slim d’Hermès are exquisite, making this 39.5mm ultra-thin watch a pleasure to behold and wear. Classic, yet contemporary, the watch is attached to your wrist on a delectable sapphire blue Hermès alligator strap.

If properly looked after and regularly serviced, her 21st birthday watch might well become a family heirloom.  


  • Rolex Oyster Perpetual 34mm watch

    Oyster Perpetual 34mm watch


    £ 3,350

  • Omega Aqua Terra watch

    Aqua Terra Master Co-Axial watch


    £ 4,780

  • Cartier Ballon Bleu 33mm watch

    Ballon Bleu de Cartier watch


    £ 3,400

  • Blancpain Ladybird watch

    Ladybird watch


    £ 13,730

  • Montblanc Bohème Moongarden watch

    Bohème Moongarden watch in rose gold


    £ 8,600

  • Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso watch by Christian Louboutin

    Reverso Classic Duetto watch by Christian Louboutin


    £ 7,950

  • Ralph Lauren RL888 watch

    RL888 32mm watch in rose gold with leather strap

    Ralph Lauren

    £ 7,150

  • Tiffany East West watch

    East West watch

    Tiffany & Co.

    £ 3,125

  • Slim d'Hermes 39.5mm watch

    Slim d’Hermès Manufacture watch


    £ 4,750

  • Blancpain Ladybird watch with diamonds

    Ladybird watch


    £ 13,730