Kristen Shirley’s 7 Favorite Luxury Watches of 2022

Diamonds are definitely a girl’s best friend, but a watch may be her best investment. Kristen Shirley recognizes that the world of watches is one shrouded in mystery and filled with machismo that makes buying a watch daunting if you’re new to the game. Shirley, an ELLE alum and industry veteran, set out to lift the curtain on watches and their storied past with the Watch Encyclopedia on her new digital platform, La Patiala.

For the uninitiated, La Patiala is a go-to resource and encyclopedia of all things luxury, from how to shuck an oyster, which bottle of champagne to give as a gift, where to travel in Napa Valley, and, yes, how to buy a watch. The Watch Encyclopedia is a collection of 50 articles debunking every watch brand myth out there, with instructions for where to spend your money, what mistakes to avoid when making your first big purchase, and everything in between.

With over 15 years of experience in the industry, Shirley is indeed a trusted source of knowledge for the complicated world of watches, which are not only a utilitarian purchase—they’re investment pieces that stand the test of trends and time (no pun intended). Ahead of the holiday season, we spoke with Shirley about the Watch Encyclopedia, her dream timepiece, and the styles she thinks you should gift (or ask for) this year.

 

preview for Elle US Section: Fashion

Why do watches make the best gift?

Watches have been a traditional gift for special occasions and memorable moments for decades—and for good reason. Watch design hasn’t changed significantly—a classic dress watch from the 1950s has a similar look to a contemporary dress watch. So even though watches can be expensive, you know you’re giving them a gift that will last a long time and will remain stylish, no matter what the fashion trends are. People also wear their watches a lot and look at them frequently throughout the day, so they will be reminded of you every time they check the time.

What’s your favorite watch that you own? You must own a lot of them.

My favorite is my Bulgari Serpenti Tubogas watch. As a former fashion editor, I am drawn to its distinctive design. It really does look like a snake wrapping around your wrist, and it’s so fabulous. It stops people in their tracks when they see it, and you don’t see a lot of people wearing one, so you stand out from the crowd. I have the double wrap, which makes a really strong statement.

What’s the number one watch on your wish list?

Honestly, there are too many to count! I’ve always loved Dior’s Grand Bal watches. Automatic watches usually have a rotor (a semi-circular weight) on the back of the watch movement that winds the watch as you wear it. Dior took the unusual approach of putting the rotor on the front of the watch and decorating it using different métiers d’art, including feathers, diamonds, and engraved gold. I love how it twirls above the dial as you move. My favorite is the Dior Grand Bal Plume with brilliantly covered feathers. It’s the perfect combination of style and high horology.

What prompted you to launch La Patiala and the Watch Encyclopedia?

I started my career as a fashion assistant at ELLE, and by the time I left, I had an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion designers. In my next job, I started to cover more categories, and I was astounded by how difficult it was to earn about watches. They were so technical, and there wasn’t a resource that could teach me everything I needed to know. Most of the websites focused on watch news and were geared towards enthusiasts and collectors who already knew a lot about watches. I had to learn the hard way—asking a million questions and doing copious amounts of research.

After close to a decade covering watches, I wanted to share the knowledge I had accumulated and make watches accessible to those who appreciate craftsmanship and design. After all, watches can be extremely stylish. The Watch Encyclopedia includes everything from a glossary of watch terms to movement basics and a breakdown of the main types of watches and complications.

I know women who collect jewelry and handbags, but are scared of timepieces. I wanted to strip away all the fear and intimidation surrounding learning about watches and make it approachable to everyone. And even if you’re not interested in watches but spend a lot of time with someone who is, you can quickly learn the basics and know what they’re talking about.


Panthère de Cartier
Cartier Panthère de Cartier

“The Panthère de Cartier is the perfect introduction to watches. The mini steel model has a 25mm diameter, so it feels more like you’re wearing a bracelet than a big watch. (It stacks perfectly with bracelets, too.) Additionally, it boasts a quartz movement and retails for $3,200, which is one of the more reasonable options you can find from this luxury brand, believe it or not.”

Cape Cod Watch, Small model, 31mm
Hermès Cape Cod Watch, Small model, 31mm

“I love the Cape Cod watch from Hermès. It has an elegant double wrap leather strap that makes it feel more special than a watch with a traditional strap. The strap is also interchangeable and comes in a wide range of colors, so it can easily be swapped out to match any outfit.”

Reverso Duetto
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Duetto

“If they’re ready for a mechanical watch, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso Duetto is the perfect one. It’s actually the first mechanical watch I bought for myself. The Reverso Duetto has two dials—you can flip it around to reveal a diamond-set dial that’s perfect for evening events. I love that you get more use out of it with the second dial; it feels like you’re getting two watches for the price of one! The watch has an interchangeable strap, so it can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.”

Boy.friend

“The Boy.friend watch is one of my favorite watches from a fashion house. Chanel incorporated its design codes, including a discreet octagonal case, into this beautiful dress watch, and it shows. The collection has both quartz and manual movements, so you can pick which one suits their lifestyle best. If they will want to wind the watch every day and appreciate the mechanics, get the manual movement. If they want to set the time and have it run for years, go for quartz. My favorite model is the beige gold with manual movement.”

Orion 33 Duo
Nomos Glashüette Orion 33 Duo

“Nomos makes modern minimalist watches that go with just about everything. The Orion 33 Duo has an ultra-thin case and a clean white dial. It’s 33mm in diameter, so it’s on the smaller side, but still feels substantial on the wrist.”

Serpenti Seduttori
Bulgari Serpenti Seduttori

“Bulgari recently updated its Serpenti watches with the new Serpenti Seduttori collection. It has a traditional bracelet design instead of the single or double wrap, so it is more of an everyday watch that will get a lot of use. It still has the iconic case shaped like a snake’s head, and the bracelet has a scale motif.”

Limelight Gala

“The Limelight Gala is a modern icon. The design dates back to the 1970s, and was named after Salvador Dalí’s wife. It features chic asymmetrical lugs and an integrated Milanese bracelet crafted from interwoven golden threads. It also has 60 diamonds on the case. It’s a perfect gift for a wedding or milestone birthday.”

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