Four styles of watch under $4000 that make perfect 18th birthday presents Four styles of watch under $4000 that make perfect 18th birthday presents

Four styles of watch under $4000 that make perfect 18th birthday presents

Thor Svaboe

The 18th birthday is a milestone event. It symbolises becoming an adult and growing up, so why not mark it with a special gift? When I was young, what I wanted was A Good Watch, a concept that has changed drastically for the kids. Because, let’s face it, the COVID-stricken 17-year-old of 2021 is not focused on much more than wishing they could go clubbing, obsessing over TikTok and staying up until 4am playing Fortnite with mates. The watches they spot might be the latest G-Shock drop on Hypebeast to go with that Supreme hoodie, or they might not even wear a timepiece (shock, horror!) at all. So this is our chance to plant the seed of horology. But remember, the watch has to be “cool”, even if that word might be totally obsolete for the kid.

Casio G-Shock GWFA1000BRT-1A

Bloody hell! If all talk hereafter of chronometry, Zaratsu and 300-metre depth ratings fall on the deaf ears of a hoodie-wearing teen, here is your choice … well, their choice. This absolutely mad and marvellous barrage of colours will match their ever-flashing gamer keyboard in the form of this G-Shock Frogman series GWFA1000BRT-1A, part of the hip-hop sounding MASTER of G series. There are too many details to even try describing in detail, but do you know what? I love it, every quirky Japanese Manga-inspired detail. From the bright red right-hand side pushers, the bronze details and the flowing rainbow of the bezel, this is maximalism for the wrist, anime style. The 18-year-old might not understand the complexity of dual time, tide markings on the register at 3 o’clock or what all four functional pushers do. But this is a G-Shock, a functional 200m depth-rated watch that’s parcelled up here in zany psychedelia. Price: $1799 AUD

Grand Seiko SBGV243 

grand seiko sbgv243

This is a sporty introduction to one of the best brands around when it comes to case design and finishing, Grand Seiko. But in the mindset of an 18-year-old, the classic references that we love might seem stuffy and old fashioned. A Grand Seiko, however, is good enough to be both the First Watch and the Only Watch, the 20-year keeper. But let’s face it: their preference may be not a delicate 37mm case with a delicious cream dial. No, it has to be tough with a proper wrist presence and not a whiff of granddad style (boy, I hate it when they say that). The SBGV243 is a bold angular design with Grand Seiko’s signature looks and the Sports aspect dialled up a notch. Broad-shouldered angular lugs give it tough street-fighter looks, while the intricate details of your traditional Grand Seiko are clearly present in the sharp Zaratsu-polished bevels, marking this out as pure Japanese haute horlogerie. Bright yellow accents pop on the minute track and seconds hand, matched by stitching on the fabric strap. Think of this as insurance, knowing that your teenager will come home in time for dinner or house arrest, as the accuracy of the 9F82 calibre sticks to within 10 secs a year. This uses Seiko’s own in-house grown crystals with the integrated circuit being programmed specifically for them. In short, this is a very superior quartz watch and well worth nudging the budget for. Price: $4200 AUD

Rado Captain Cook Automatic

Rado Captain Cook interchangeable straps

Come on, this might be a pure vintage-inspired design, but there’s no stuffiness about this bold apple green vibrancy. The Rado Captain Cook comes with a mechanical prowess that, while the kid might not realise it yet, is good enough to be their first good mechanical watch with its consummate elegance and a powerful wrist presence. This particular limited-edition kit we covered in our video here, has the vintage skin diver paired with both a hand-sewn leather strap, and a tough bracelet for a more sporty look. A boldly concave diver’s bezel frames the 42mm green dial, with its blend of pure functional legibility and style. Large applied, lumed indices are balanced perfectly by the classic skin diver arrow hour and sword seconds hand, a sharp needle seconds hand with an arrowhead tip painting a picture of ’60s cool. The typical Rado touches are the small but delightful touches of purple and red, with the moving anchor at 12, and red digits in the date window. This is a sports watch, but sleek in its period-perfect 12mm thick case. The ETA-based in-house movement’s 80 hours of power reserve is a good thing when the youth in question is not used to a mechanical watch needing wrist power to function. Price: $3675 AUD

DOXA SUB 300  


OK, depending on the 18-year-old’s mindset, we might have to ramp up the emphasis on bold colours and avant-garde design. And how better to do it than with the new DOXA SUB 300 in this fruity aquamarine on a sublimely comfortable rubber strap. They will have a flashy and strong buddy on his wrist that’ll stand up to any adventure (or TikTok dare) he might throw at it. The bright aquamarine is fresh enough to brighten up any moody teenage day, and while they might not notice it, the lineage – spanning right back to Jacques Cousteau and the infancy of scuba diving – is as present as it is perennially cool. With a rock-solid cushion case wearing much smaller than its diameter may suggest, the DOXA SUB 300 is as cheerful as it is a classic example of Swiss proficient timekeeping. The ETA Calibre 2824-2 sits within the smooth diver’s tool case, a solid and accurate choice for what is a perfect tool watch. While this summer dreamy aquamarine gets me every time, there is a packed candy jar of colours to chose from, in our full review here. Price: $3950 AUD

Breitling Endurance Pro 

Should the budding young horologist actually know what the 1960s looked like on the wrist and again pull the dreaded granddad card on you (ouch!), let’s go somewhere bold, brash and entirely free of vintage cues. We turn briskly to the cutting-edge of composites and reliable SuperQuartz with the flashy black and red battle-ready version of the new Breitling Endurance Pro. A large, featherlight matte black case in Breitlight composite is not for the shy of wrist with its 44mm diameter, but might tick the awesome box for a young athlete or budding adventurer. In essence, it’s a tough tool watch, resolutely modern in its appearance. I’ll have to admit it is a bold move from Breitling, and feels fresh amid what is a very monochrome scene for big brand chronographs. Large rubber-shrouded crown and tactile pushers make this a great sports watch, while the combination of composite and rubber (yes, we do like that red logo strap), makes it shrink on the wrist. What 18-year-old wears a slim dress shirt anyway, come on … This is a bit over the budget but might well be worth it.  Price: $4490