Three-Watch Collection Under $5,000: Brad’s Picks

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It’s been a while since the last installment of our popular Three-Watch Collection Under $5,000 series. We’ve already seen picks from Ilya, Mark, Hung, Sean, Christoph, ZQ and Zach. Today, Brad—worn&wound’s newest contributor—breaks down his three choices.

A quick refresher on the parameters before we get started. We chose $5,000 as the cap for the simple reason that $5,000 is generally regarded as a point of entry into luxury. So rather than drop all that coin on a single watch, we thought it’d be interesting to see how our team plays around with that number. Furthermore, the choices aren’t limited to specific categories of watches. Our contributors can choose watches they’d like based on their needs and personal preferences. Finally, for the sake of consistency, all watches currently being produced have to be valued at their MSRP. Vintage or recently retired models should be based on the average market rate.

Without further ado, let’s get to it.


Phew. I didn’t anticipate that spending fictitious money would be quite so difficult. Three watches doesn’t seem like enough to cover all eventualities, but at the same time I struggled to come up with three distinct categories that I would need those watches to fill. Should I have a chronograph in there? Or a GMT? I thought I had it settled with one dress watch, one diver and one everyday wearer, but soon scrapped that—having a third of my potential collection taken up by a true dress watch that would only get worn a few times a year doesn’t sit well, as beautiful as it could have been. Similarly, being the strict desk diver that I am, it doesn’t really make sense to target the best practical and competent dive watch that I can think of buying under budget if it would be out of place in this small collection of three, or indeed under my shirt cuff. Instead of nailing the requirements for three slots and then finding the perfect watches to fit, I decided to take a step back and think about what would work as a combined trio for me. I ended up with a collection of three watches that are all fairly versatile, but without too much overlap.

Oris Aquis Date 43mm – ~$1,000

To start with, I’m picking the Oris Aquis. Despite not being a diver myself I still wanted a piece that can handle “gymming and swimming,” wouldn’t look out of place under a button down shirt in the average office environment, and that also gives that solid feel I like from a dive watch. The Oris Aquis sits perfectly between tool diver and dress diver—being a bit of a chunky beast, but with a partly polished case, stunning gradient blue dial and a ceramic bezel insert. For quite a while I assumed the 40mm version of the Aquis would be the best choice for me, but the 43mm diameter is perfect for my seven-inch wrist due to the fairly short lug-to-lug length.For this slot in my three watch collection I’m also opting for the pre-revamp version. The beefier, squarer lugs and slightly larger crown guards are part of what makes the watch as desirable as it is, and while the new handset is probably a slight improvement on the old one, the departing version is the more appealing overall package in my eyes.

The non-standard lugs on the Aquis do limit the scope for aftermarket straps, but the quality and overall look of the bracelet is sufficiently good that I don’t think I would care about switching it out anyway. The thought of being a one-watch-guy sends shivers down my spine, but if I had to go down that route I could do a whole lot worse than this one. As this particular version has now been superseded, I would have to look to the used market and should be able to find one in good condition for a little over $1,000.

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Nomos Club Campus – $1,950

My next choice would be something towards the other end of the spectrum. Something sub-40mm, slim and slightly dressy while still casual enough so as not to be consigned to suits only. Step forward the Nomos Club Campus. I’ve been a fan of the Club’s dial design for quite a while. When Nomos unveiled the Campus edition earlier this year it took me a while to get my head around. Firstly, the unusual interpretation of a California dial is a strange choice; normally the top half is Roman numerals and the lower half is Arabic. As with many Nomos watches, the marker or numeral at six o’clock is often sacrificed to make way for the seconds sub-dial. This, coupled with the alternating stick markers and numerals of the Club, means that there are only two hour markers left on the dial to be represented by a Roman numeral—yet despite this it still clearly appears to be a California dial. Furthermore, the general convention on watch dials is to use IIII to represent the number “4,” but Nomos have eschewed this in favor of IV creating an imbalance between the left and right side of the dial.The bold red and black of the hands and indices of the regular Club are replaced here by silver framed hands and a pastel blue on all of the hour markers with a very fine outline in red. The only strong color comes from the red second hand, and that’s pretty small.

Somehow, instead of an accumulation of reasons to dislike it, all of these small quirks add up and create a really interesting watch for the wearer. I find that I really like watches that fly under the radar if someone catches a glimpse of my wrist, but I can really appreciate all of the design aspects when I look at it closely. Nomos launched the Campus series suggesting it would make a great gift for graduates with a large expanse on the solid case back to engrave a personalized message. As I would be giving this to myself I would opt for the display case back to get a good look at the gorgeous hand-wind Alpha movement. This one comes in at $1,950.

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Rado Captain Cook Limited Edition – $1,900

My final choice is a tough one. One of the standout watches unveiled at Baselworld earlier this year, the Rado Captain Cook Limited Edition is a faithful reissue of the original model from 1962. I always knew I wanted to include this watch here, but I was trying not to duplicate styles too much within just three watches. I’ve convinced myself that the low water resistance (only 100 meters), push-pull crown and leather strap make this a dive watch predominantly in name and aesthetics rather than specs and likely usage.

Rado have kept the 37mm diameter here which is pretty small for a diver by today’s standards. A much larger modernized version accompanies it in the newly released series, but the rich brown dial and over-pronounced arrow hour hand of the smaller LE version have me charmed.Other defining characteristics of the original watch such as the box-shaped crystal, inwards sloped bezel and the red date wheel are also really nice touches, along with Rado’s trademark rotating anchor logo signifying the automatic movement inside—an ETA automatic with an 80-hour power reserve. The small diameter and 11mm thickness, coupled with vintage inspired looks should make this a great everyday counterpart to the other two watches I have selected. The Rado Captain Cook LE will cost $1,900 upon general release.


There are several other watches that came close to making the list, but none of them are quite good enough to dislodge one of the three above. In these three watches I believe I’ve got all likely occasions suitably covered without making any one watch redundant 90% of the time. Each of them are versatile, interesting and distinct enough to keep me happy.

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Brad stumbled into the watch world in 2011 and has been falling down the rabbit hole ever since. Based in London, Brad's interests lie in anything that ticks, sweeps or hums and is slightly off the beaten track.
bradwatch
  • arsenal55

    Bravo, another stupendous list! I love the Oris dive watch line, and the Aquis was the first really nice Swiss watch I purchased. Nomos is a huge favorite amongst watch lovers – I was not familiar with the Campus line, but I like the bits of color. The only watch I wondered about was the Rado, which is a great looking piece, but looks to be a mm or two too small for your wrist. It’s odd that the non-LE version is 45mm, which is quite a jump.

    • egznyc

      It’s a little like Goldilocks with only a mama bear and papa bear: where’s the baby bear, the version that’s “just right” (41mm)?

  • Shaun S

    Woah! Good choice with the Rado! I was not expecting that one. Such a cool watch – may even be polarizing in today’s watch environment. I think it’s too small for me, but I’m 6’3″ with a 7.5″ wrist. If I saw someone wearing one, I would definitely comment! Very cool, great article.

  • Mikita

    Oh, this Rado.. The first Rado I really like in a long long time

  • Matthew Rowe

    The Rado is the controversial one, so my take is that I’d probably have to see it in the flesh to really appreciate it. Just looking at pictures I’m not feeling it.

  • Andrew Njoo

    Not bad!

  • guitardude

    Quite an interesting choice and a bit different from the other choices. Being more of a chronograph guy, I might have chosen differently, but this is a solid collection.

  • Mike V

    No chronograph? No thanks!

  • Jon McGonigle

    Love the Aquis, and, like you I prefer V1 rather than the new one.

    The Rado is a real surprise, very nice.

    Nomos still do nothing for me.

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