The perfect accessory can take an outfit to the next level. And outside of footwear and handbags, jewelry is one of the most important accessories one can buy. But besides earrings, necklaces, and rings, a jewelry accouterment that's often overlooked is a gold watch. What was first a wartime necessity eventually became a vital piece of wrist jewelry for both men and women. But how should one find the perfect gold watch?
Byrdie Researched & Approved
Our top pick is the Daniel Wellington Iconic Link Watch which we love for its classic design, versatility, and reasonable price point.
We at Byrdie enlisted the help of Brynn Wallner — writer, watch enthusiast, and founder of Dimepiece. Wallner’s Dimepiece is a go-to resource for new buyers and watch collectors alike. Readers find guides on watch buying and can also buy watches on the online platform. But what does Wallner suggest when shopping for gold watches? “My advice to everyone is to buy what you love,” she wrote over email correspondence. It’s okay to disregard watch community favorites and value appreciation so long as the piece speaks to you.
And not to worry, there are plenty of options no matter what you plan to spend. “If you're sticking to a lower budget, I always suggest vintage Seiko, Heuer, Timex [or] dig through eBay and find an older watch with a unique design,” she continued. “Also, there are "fashion watches," which tend to come at lower price points and provide more seasonal, trend-forward options, [and] out of the luxury brands, I love Cartier, Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Patek – the classics.”
Read on to shop Byrdie’s favorite gold watches!
Best Overall: Daniel Wellington Iconic Link
Daniel Wellington has a massive following on Instagram and has become a leader in the mid-price watch category over the last several years. We love this watch because it has a classic design that will never go out of style. The circular face in an eggshell color is simple and chic, and the neutral gold shade of the metal is flattering on a wide range of skin tones. The timeless design can be dressed up or dressed down, making it a fantastic option for special occasions as well as everyday wear.
Price at time of publish: $240.00
Material/Metal: Double-plated stainless steel | Band Width: 16 mm
Best Budget: Anne Klein Women's Gold-Tone Bangle Watch and Bracelet Set AK/1868GBST
One of the best ways to get the most out of your watch budget is to purchase a set. This set from Anne Klein includes a watch and two bracelets that can be mixed and matched according to the look you’re going for. Not only do you get more for your money when opting for a set, but it also takes the guesswork out of pairing other jewelry with your watch.
Price at time of publish: $100
Material/Metal: Stainless steel | Band Width: 12mm
Best Luxury: Michele Deco Mid Watch
This eighteen-karat-plated, stainless steel watch has a square face with rounded corners for a feminine twist on a classic design. The mother-of-pearl dial is decorated with diamonds, both on the face and surrounding it, and it’s secured by a gorgeous, woven band. The brand has been a fan-favorite in the luxury category for years, thanks to its iconic designs, excellent quality, and relatively affordable prices when compared to other luxury watches.
Price at time of publish: $2,895
Material/Metal: 18 karat-plated stainless steel | Band Width: 16mm
Best Band: Tory Burch Puzzle Watch
The cuffed band on this Puzzle Watch from Tory Burch adds a contemporary, jewelry-like component to the piece. The design is so decorative yet classy that you won’t need any other wrist jewelry while wearing it. What’s even better is that you’re getting two bold, gorgeous pieces in one with the ability to wear them together or individually as a watch and bracelet.
Price at time of publish: $350.00
Material/Metal: Stainless steel | Band Width: 19 mm
Best Customizable: Nordgreen Native Watch
Nordgreen allows you to customize your watch by choosing the color of the face, the metal, and the band you want when shopping. There are several combinations you can make, and we love that there are several bands to choose from—we’re talking leather, faux leather, mesh, links, nylon and rubber. While your selections will alter the price slightly, getting a quality, customized watch for less than $200 is a great value.
Price at time of publish: $189+
Material/Metal: Stainless steel | Band Width: 14-20 mm
Best Vintage: Piaget Polo
If you’re like us, then an item being vintage might make you more willing to splurge on it—it’s almost like buying a piece of history in addition to the material goods. If you’re willing and able to splurge, then this Piaget Polo is a rare and beautiful watch from the 1970s that you can give new life. It’s made from solid eighteen-karat gold, has a sleek, straight design that can be paired with other jewelry or worn alone, and has a semi-hidden face that gives it a really unique look.
Price at time of publish: $9,700.00
Material/Metal: Solid 18 karat yellow gold | Band Length: 18-25 mm
Best Starter Watch: Anne Klein Women's Bracelet Watch
If you’re new to wearing watches and aren’t sure that they’ll become a staple accessory for you, we recommend starting with one that you can purchase at a low price point. This Women’s Bracelet Watch from Amazon is a great option because it's affordable, has a sleek, pretty, classic design, and can be easily dressed up or dressed down.
Price at time of publish: $30
Material/Metal: Stainless steel | Band Width: 14 mm
Most Versatile: Vanna Claire Pearl
With its gold plating and modern design, the Vanna Claire Pearl watch is this list’s most versatile item because it goes with so many personal aesthetics. It’s incredibly simple while also being unique thanks to its non-parallel straps. It’s toned down enough to pair with everyday outfits but can be easily elevated if worn with a more dressy outfit. And if you’re someone who doesn’t like the feeling of a wide or heavy watch on your wrist, you’ll really appreciate the thin, comfortable bands.
Price at time of publish: $305.00
Material/Metal: Stainless steel | Band Width: 5 mm
Best For Work: Breda Jane
The Breda Jane Watch speaks for itself. The beauty of this watch's no-fuss, simple design stands out with its sky-blue mother-of-pearl dial and simple gold link band. This piece is perfect for elevating an office look and gives off an instant air of sophistication and style.
Price at time of publish: $185.00
Material/Metal: Stainless steel | Band Width: 23 mm
Best Digital: Nixon Siren Milanese
There’s no doubt about it—digital watches are extremely convenient to use, especially if you’re in a rush. This one has a sleek gold design with a black plate and gold digital letters—it also shows the date, which is incredibly convenient. We love that it maintains the look of a piece of jewelry while being slightly more user-friendly than a traditional watch.
Price at time of publish: $150
Material/Metal: Stainless steel | Band Width: 18 mm
Best Leather: Bulova Commodore
If you prefer more minimal, understated accessories, opting for a gold watch with a leather band is a great option for you as they tend to be more subtle than watches with gold bands. This one is great because the face is a classic shape with subtle gold accents, and the leather has croc detailing, which gives it a little something extra. It’s definitely an investment piece, but it makes for an excellent everyday watch that can be paired with a wide range of clothing and accessories.
Price at time of publish: $1,350
Material/Metal: Stainless steel | Band Width: 16 mm
Best Mixed Metal: Timex Waterbury Traditional Stainless Steel Bracelet Watch
Gone are the days of mixing metals being frowned upon. With this option from Timex, your watch will match any jewelry you’re wearing, whether it’s silver or gold. It makes pairing it with other accessories completely fool-proof, and it also ensures that it’s really flattering on a wide range of skin tones.
Price at time of publish: $129.00
Material/Metal: Stainless steel | Band Width: 16 mm
Our top pick is the Daniel Wellington Iconic Link Watch. It's a classic design that'll compliment pretty much any look, whether you're aiming to dress it up or down. Plus, it's an investment that'll hold up quality-wise but won't break the bank. If your budget is top of mind, you can't go wrong with the ultra-chic Anne Klein Bracelet Watch. And if you're ready to splurge, we recommend the Michelle Deco Mid Watch.
What to Look For When Buying a Gold Watch
When buying a gold watch, you’ll want to find one that complements your personal style and existing wardrobe—especially if you’ll be splurging on it. “I'm always drawn to aesthetics first and technicalities second, which is just by virtue of the type of enthusiast I am, “ Wallner says. “If I'm looking to buy a new watch, it has to be something that goes well with my wardrobe, lifestyle, and visual sensibility.”
You’ll also want to take the watch material into account when making your purchase decision. Materials like plated metal and coated silver will be more cost-effective, but beware that they likely won't maintain their pristine condition for the long haul. Stainless steel and real gold will certainly be more expensive, but they will last you many years and maintain their condition well.
How do you clean a gold watch?
Of course, it’s necessary to know how to maintain your gold watch, and doing so is a bit unexpected. “As tempting as it may be, you shouldn't polish your gold watch,” Wallner recommends. “Maybe a polish or two throughout its existence wouldn't hurt... but avoid over-polishing it every time you see a scratch or get your watch serviced. This can be a tough rule of thumb to adhere to with gold, as it's one of the softest metals and is prone to scratching. But every time a watch is polished, a layer of the metal is stripped away. This leads to a softening of edges and dulling of hallmarks that may tamper with the watch’s design and lessen its value.”
How do you style a gold watch?
Gold watches might be intimidating, but they’re actually easy to style. “Yellow gold has been coveted by humans dating back to ancient civilization and has therefore been worn and styled in countless ways,” Wallner stated “It is very versatile, so the world is your oyster. I love the combination of wearing black with gold, of which there is a spectrum – you could go from minimalist (think Olsen Twin-style pairing the Row with a gold Rolex Day-Date) to flashy (Tony Montana Miami drug lord) and still, in my opinion, look good.”
What do karats mean in gold watches?
The karat of a watch pertains directly to its value and its percentage of gold. “The higher the karat, the purer the gold,” Wallner added. “18K will be more expensive than 14K because of this. Luxury watch manufacturers tend to stick with 18K.”
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Mallori Albright has six years of experience writing fashion and beauty content. Mallori is also on the hunt for the perfect vintage watch for her jewelry collection. You can check out more of Mallori’s work at Marie Claire and NYLON Magazine.