21st birthday gift ideas: the watches to invest in

His 21st birthday is just around the corner and you are still wondering what to buy him. It has to be something meaningful to mark this important milestone, something that will outlast any trending technological fads, something that reflects his personality and, hopefully, something he will enjoy for years to come. Wonder no longer, one potential solution lies in our selection of mechanical watches for him.

This Jaeger-LeCoultre Grande Reverso Utra-Thin 1948 watch would make an ideal present because its reversible case can be engraved (£6,300).

Let’s start with some perennial classics, watches that have stood the test of time and are still going strong. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual, an icon from the world’s most iconic watch brand, is an obvious candidate, as is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso – the famous, reversible, two-faced watch with its hallmark Art Deco styling and rectangular case and caseback. As you can see by the physiognomy of these men’s watches, these two models will appeal to very different personalities and your first task is to ascertain his personality type.

For sports fanatics and action men, you’re probably going to zone in on chronographs, dive  and pilot’s watches. Even if he isn’t Bear Grylls or doesn’t drive an F1 car, the functional, rugged and masculine appeal of a mechanical sports watch is the epitome of cool. 

Alpina’s Seastrong Diver 300 is a professional diving watch with a superior water-resistance of 300m and a price tag that will appeal to land lubbers (£1,080).

Alpina’s Seastrong Diver 300 is a 44m steel professional diving companion with a superior water-resistance of 300m and a price tag that will appeal to land lubbers. And from the abyss to outer space, Omega’s archi-famous Speedmaster Moonwatch – the chronograph that touched down on the Moon on Buzz Aldrin’s wrist in 1969 – has been revisited this year. The new blue 44.25mm Speedmaster Moonphase Master Chronograph features a Moonphase indicator, and faithfully replicates the surface of the Moon, including the footprint of an astronaut.

Bremont’s ALT1-ZT/51 pilot’s watch combines a chronograph with a 24-hour GMT hand – an ideal gift for men who travel a lot (£4,295).

Still flying high, pilot’s watches are always popular, and British watch brand Bremont has made a name for itself with its squadron of military and civilian watches. The 43mm ALT1-ZT/51 watch combines a chronograph with a 24-hour GMT hand – an ideal gift for men who travel a lot. IWC is another brand indelibly associated with pilot’s watches and the superior legibility and spartan dial of the 40mm Mark XVIII pay homage to the classic observer’s watch worn in the early days of aviation for navigation purposes.

Vintage pilot’s watches are very much on the radar these days, and although you might not immediately associate the name Breguet with aviation, an ancestor of this watchmaking dynasty was involved with the creation of the famous Breguet XIV airplane in 1916. The new 42mm Breguet Type XXI flyback chronograph combines vintage details on the dial and strap with a state-of-the-art movement.

The new Slim d’Hermès Grand Feu watch features a resplendent white enamel dial (£14,500).

If big sports watches aren’t really his scene, a classic dress watch will never go amiss. Frédérique Constant’s Slimline Automatic is a solid candidate and comes in a 40mm rose gold-plated case with large Roman numerals on the dial and an onion-shaped crown for a classic touch. Another option that won’t let him down is Jaeger-LeCoultre’s tried and tested 39mm Master Contol. For more contemporary design options, the new 39.5mm Hermès Slim d’Hermès watch with a resplendent white enamel and minimalist dial is the epitome of sophistication. Or, alternatively, the Nomos Metro Datum timepiece is another attractive watch from the hip German brand that everybody is talking about.

Baume & Mercier’s 43mm Clifton watch is a good introduction to complications and comes with a chronograph and a complete calendar (£3,500).

Moving up the scale into the terrain of complications usually means spending a lot of money. However, Baume & Mercier’s handsome 43mm Clifton watch comes with a chronograph and a complete calendar at a very attractive retail price.

So don’t despair, there is a watch out there for his 21st birthday to accompany him on his great adventures in life. 


  • Breguet Type XXI watch

    Type XXI sports chronograph watch


    £ 9,900

  • IWC Mark XVIII watch

    Mark VIII pilot’s watch


    £ 3,190

  • Alpina Seastrong Diver 300 watch

    Seastrong Diver 300 watch


    £ 1,080

  • Bremont ALT1-ZT watch

    ALT1-ZT/51 Aviator automatic chronometer watch


    £ 4,295

  • Baume & Mercier Clifton watch

    Clifton Chronograph Complete Calendar watch

    Baume & Mercier

    £ 3,500

  • Frederique Constant Slimline Automatic watch

    Slimline Automatic watch

    Frédérique Constant

    £ 1,590

  • Rolex Oyster Perpetual watch

    Oyster Perpetual 39mm


    £ 3,750

  • Jaeger-LeCoultre Grande Reverso Ultra-Thin 1948 watch

    Grande Reverso Ultra Thin 1948 watch


    £ 6,300

  • Hermes Slim d'Hermes watch

    Slim d’Hermès watch with a Grand Feu white enamel dial


    £ 14,500

  • Nomos Metro watch

    This new Metro watch was created by prestigious Berlin designer Mark Braun and embraces the Bauhaus design language of Nomos (£2,200).

  • Omega Speedmaster Moonphase watch

    Speedmaster Chronograph Master Moonphase watch


    £ 7,140