By Rebecca Doulton in Madrid
It's the same dilemma year after year: which of those Christmas gift ideas for women will surprise her, yet double up as an attractive and useful companion for time to come? One great solution is a watch, and with our pre-Christmas line-up of watches under £5,000, we hope to make life that little bit easier for you this holiday season.
Cartier is a great place to start and has consistently produced inimitable watch designs since the early 20th century.The Ballon Bleu de Cartier watch, released in 2007, is another classic in the making, with beautiful curves and rounded edges that give the watch a unique sensation of buoyancy.
The 36mm Ballon Bleu de Cartier watch in stainless steel features a lovely guilloché dial with large Roman numerals. The way the numeral at three o'clock has been shrunk and squeezed to accommodate the large blue crown is a stroke of Cartier design genius. What's even more attractive is that, at £3,850, the watch comes equipped with a mechanical, self-winding Cartier movement.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso watches have been going strong since they were first deployed in 1931 to British polo players in India with their unique reversible cases. The Reverso has been re-edited in countless ways over the last 80 years, including this Jaeger-LeCoultre Grande Reverso Lady Ultra Thin watch (£3,350). Sleek, slender and stylish, the curved stainless steel case is a mere 7.2mm thick and features a silvered guilloché and sunray brushed dial that reflects the light in all directions. The classic gadroons at either end of the case reaffirm the tenets of Art Deco styling, while the swivelling case opens up an empty canvas that can be engraved for the occasion.
The Chaumet Liens watch, the French jeweller's latest timepiece for women, is the epitome of Parisian chic. Confident and stylish, the round case is embraced by an elliptical frame creating a singular architectural feel. The 27mm stainless steel version (£4,650) is enhanced with 56 brilliant-cut diamonds on the bezel, and the white dial, like a beautifully starched white shirt, features vertical pleats in the centre. Offset on a charcoal grey strap, this watch is a stylish companion that makes the transition from day to nighttime outings effortlessly.
America's arbiter of casual elegance, Ralph Lauren's incursion into watchmaking has been met with great success. Taking design cues from the refined world of polo, the Ralph Lauren Stirrup watch has been resized in a Petite Link model for women in a stirrup-shaped case measuring just 23.3 by 27mm. The gorgeous chain link bracelet and snow-set diamond bezel give the watch a strong jewellery appeal, very in keeping with the timeless sophistication of Ralph Lauren's universe (£4,250).
Chanel made watchmaking history with the release of its J12 high-tech ceramic watch in 2000, and, like Coco Chanel's No.5 perfume, it earned an instant cult following. Originally designed as a unisex 38mm watch, the J12 also appealed to women with its lustrous ceramic case. The new Chanel J12-365 watches have been reduced in size to a more feminine 36.5mm diameter and come in white or glossy high-tech black ceramic. Our Christmas choice is the Chanel J-12 with a white ceramic case, which provides a resilient scratch-proof surface, while the mechanical, self-winding movement keeps the hours, minutes and date indication in perfect sync (£3,750).
How would a glamorous cocktail watch for that little black dress strike her? Dior's wonderful collection La Mini D de Dior watch is full of tempting candidates, including this petite 19mm jewellery watch (£2,900). The inky black mother-of-pearl dial is set alight with diamonds on the bezel and crown and the sumptuous metallic leather strap adds the finishing touch to a watch that is accustomed to late-night escapades.
Another classic is the Hermès Cape Cod Tonneau GM Silver watch made in Hermès' new silver alloy. The patented silver alloy has been designed to preserve the glow of the precious metal for years to come. Hermès fans will recognise how the lugs and curved case of the Hermès Cape Cod Tonneau GM Silver watch are inspired by the characteristic anchor chain bracelet. The interchangeable double leather strap comes in a vibrant variety of colours, although we are particularly fond of this lovely brunt orange model (£2,400).
The mini version of Chopard's Happy Sport watch is sporty, practical and sexy (£4,620). The 30mm stainless steel case and strap are robust enough to practice sports and the quartz movement ensures carefree maintenance and optimal precision. The classically inspired dial with Roman numerals features the hallmark five floating diamonds that dance in time to the wearer's motions.
Montblanc has just unveiled some of the new members of its Bohème family, which will be featured prominently in 2015 but make perfect Christmas ideas for women who like to be ahead of the game when it comes to their choice of accessories. The Montblanc Bohème Date Automatic watch complies with the company philosophy of offering outstanding mechanical watches at very attractive prices (£3,390). This classicaly styled watch, with an elliptical date window at 6 o'clock, delicate floral Arabic numerals and a sunburst guilloché pattern in the centre, is enhanced with a diamond-set bezel.
Finally, earlier this year, Baume & Mercier launched a new watch collection called Promesse. The two-tone Baume & Mercier Promesse watch, with its 34mm steel and red gold case and bracelet, highlight the round shape of the case, which has been underscored with an oval bezel to great effect (£3,400). Inside, a silver drapé guilloché dial, large Roman numerals and diamond indices mark the passing hours, which are calibrated by a self-winding movement visible through the transparent caseback.
For more inspiring gift ideas for her, view our video of our favourite watches under £5,000 and visit our dedicated Christmas section.