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I’m currently designing a circuit. It is required to be powered by a 12v dc input (when connected) else a 3.7v battery (the battery should be charged when 12v is active).

The circuit requires 5v which should be achieved using a dc to dc converter in either buck or boost mode.

What would you recommend as the best and most efficient way of automatically switching the power source and charging the battery without interrupting the supply to the device for any more than a few ms?

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The best way is to use a battery charger IC with "power path management". Without more information on your battery chemistry, desired charge rate, system current requirement, etc. it's impossible to recommend a specific device, but here's an example: TI Charger with power path

You will need a boost converter to boost the battery or system voltage output up to 5V.

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