While the internet may seem like a vast shopping centre where almost anything can be bought and shipped directly to your home, for years many retailers have balked at the idea of selling high-end goods, including fine jewellery and timepieces, online. However, as both consumers and brands become more comfortable with the idea it has become increasingly common and, while you’ll probably never be able to find a $1 million watch to buy online, there are many watchmakers now offering a variety of models for sale. Here is our edit of the best to add to your virtual shopping basket now…
The best fine watches available to buy online
Luxury fashion and accessories website Mr Porter is making a big push into the fine watch market for 2018 which, thanks to its international set-up and worldwide delivery, is great news for watch collectors on the go. And if it's something collectable you're after then your first port of call should be the Bell & Ross BR-X1. Available exclusively through Mr Porter, this unique piece has a case created entirely from anti-reflective sapphire crystal allowing the wearer (and envious onlookers) the chance to admire every intricate detail of its BR-CAL.288 movement.
BR-X1 sapphire crystal watch, £355,000, Bell & Ross at Mr Porter
Santos de Cartier
Not quite ready to drop the equivalent of a small London flat online? Perhaps one of Cartier's chicest new creations will fit the bill instead. The brand made its online retail debut in May 2017 when it relaunched its Panthere model via a month-long pop-up at Net-A-Porter. Now the brand has hopped across to Mr Porter where the offering includes various iterations of the timeless Santos design. Opt the for the 18 karat rose gold version which, along with the classic Roman numerals and square case, comes with interchangeable charcoal alligator and navy leather straps.
Santos automatic rose gold watch, £15,500, Cartier at Mr Porter
IWC Schaffhausen Portofino Automatic Moon Phase 37
While the emphasis for many fine watch e-stores thus far has been on men's models, Net-A-Porter is catering to female watch fans with an impressive selection of timepieces from IWC Schaffhausen, Piaget, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Chopard. Inevitably many of these fall into the cocktail watch category but, if its some true mechanical mastery you're after, then IWC's Portofino collection is worth serious consideration. Housing a calibre 35800 self-winding movement with 42 hour power reserve, this stainless steel model also features a mother-of-pearl dial with moon phase window and is finished with an elegant frosting of white diamonds.
Portofino Automatic Moon Phase, £10,950, IWC Schaffhausen at Net-A-Porter
Hublot Big Bang Unico Black Magic
Due to the time, skill and craftsmanship that goes in to a beautiful skeleton watch, few and far between are the options available to purchase at the click of a button. A notable exception, however, is Hublot's Big Bang Unico Black Magic watch which is available to purchase through the Harrods website and offers a 45mm black ceramic case with a 72-hour power reserve and chronograph movement.
Big Bang Unico Black Magic, £16,500, Hublot at Harrods
Tag Heuer Aquaracer Calibre 5
In need of a classic everyday diving watch but don’t have time to pick one up from a boutique? Tag Heuer offers a variety of models for both men and women from its iconic Aquaracer range for sale online with delivery in as little as four days. Our pick? The sleek Calibre 5 with its signature 41mm steel case, date window, black ceramic bezel and 300 metre water resistance.
Aquaracer Calibre 5, £2,050, Tag Heuer
Chopard L.U.C XPS
One high-end brand that has been notably quick when it comes to offering online sales direct to clients in Chopard. While many of its more bejewelled timepieces remain boutique-only, the house does offer an impressive array of high complication pieces for both men and women to buy online. The range includes mechanical pieces from its Imperiale and La Strada collections for women and Classic collection for men, but for true connoisseurs it is the flagship L.U.C. watches to get excited about. This 35mm XPS model boasts an 18 carat rose gold and diamond case housing COSC-certified calibre 96.12-L self-winding chronometer movement.
L.U.C. XPS, £20,900, Chopard
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Skeleton
Combining an unusual eight-sided titanium case with an ultra-thin tourbillon skeleton movement, Bulgari's Octo Finissimo ranks as one of the highest expression of haute horology you're likely to find available online. Offering small second and power reserve subdials, the case stands at just 5.37mm thick, making it one of the slimmest in the world while the crystal sapphire caseback allows the BVL 128SK movement to be admired from all angles. Add to this a water resistance of 30 metres and a 65 hour power reserve and you've found the perfect timepiece for weekends on board.
Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Skeleton, £18,400, Bulgari