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

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A few weeks back, we kicked off a series with the following prompt: if you had $5,000 to build a well-rounded, three-watch collection, what watches would you choose?

First, let us explain the parameters. 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.

Our Managing Editor Ilya offered his three first. Today, we’re tapping our contributor from across the pond, Mark McArthur-Christie, for his picks.


On my side of the pond, thanks to the recent unpleasantness, the days of $2 to the £1 are long gone. That means the notional $5,000 I’ve been handed is worth a decent £4,000 today. So, as worn&wound’s UK correspondent, here’s what I’d snaffle with my virtual watch buying funds.

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Grand Seiko 4520-8000 – ~£700

Given my general belief that the best watches are vintage and my favorite country of origin being Japan, I need to start with a Grand Seiko. And I’m choosing the typically understated stainless 4520-8000. Understated but very special indeed, the cal. 4520’s ancestors came from nowhere to whup the Swiss on their own turf in the Neuchatel and Geneva accuracy trials in the ‘60s.  seiko-4520_8000

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To celebrate, Seiko took a number of 4520s and cased them in solid gold in proper swinging sixties, full-on bling fashion.  They called the model the Seiko Astronomical Observatory watch and asked nearly $2,000 for it–that’s about $13,000 today.

If you see an Astronomical Observatory watch for pretty much any price, buy it. Seiko only made 73 of them with the 4520 inside. But back when a love for watches dared not speak its name, most people couldn’t see past the scrap gold value of the case, so they melted them down and threw the movements away. I hope there’s a special, extra-warm place in watch hell for them, ideally with eternal Casio Melody 30 M-301 alarms.seiko-4520_8000backI’ve never managed to handle–let alone snag–an Observatory, but the standard stainless-cased 4520-8000s will go for anything from £270 to £1,000 and up. Split the difference and I’d hope to pay around £700 for a good example from Japan.

That leaves me with £3,300 to play with. Next!

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Nomos Club – £1,080

I’d have to have a Nomos.  They’re a fascinating watchmaker with a clear self-confidence and they’re determined to go their own way both in design and movement manufacture.

They make some absolute beauties, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the standard, entry-level Club. It’s 36mm of Glashütte gorgeousness with the little Nomos Alpha movement ticking away inside. You get a proper, high-quality Horween shell cordovan strap, too.

NOMOS_CLUB_WHOLE1Playing by the rules, a Club is yours for £1,080. I’d choose the plain-and-simple version without the display back.

Read our reviews for the Nomos Club and the Timeless Club.

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Damasko DC56 SI – £2,210

On to the third of my triplet. I’m tempted by a Sinn, but with just over £2k left to blow, it’s got to be a Damasko–a worn&wound-favorite maker. Still a family firm, Damasko are quietly engineering (rather than just assembling) some very interesting watches indeed. I’d snaffle the Damasko DC56 SI, a classical-looking three-register, self-winding chronograph. It looks innocent enough, but like most Damaskos, it’s full of little details and packed with cleverness.

Take something as simple as the pusher gaskets. Rather than just one gasket that slowly gets abraded by the pusher and loses water resistance, the DC’s pushers run with two gaskets. The area between them is filled with lubricant to stop the pusher stem abrading the gaskets. The lubricant is viscous, so it stays trapped between the gaskets in its little cell. It also gives it better dust and water-resistance, too. It’s a tiny thing, but a typical Damasko detail. Damasko-DC56-SIAt the other end of the scale, Damasko make their cases tough enough to double up as plugs for holes in nuclear submarine hulls, and the DC’s case is no exception. It’s ice-hardened and about as scratch-resistant as a watch gets at 710 vickers. If it was a vehicle, it’d be a Krauss-Maffei Leopard 2.

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Vickers testing is pretty brutal. You measure a material’s hardness (HV) by chucking a pyramid-tipped diamond into your test sample and measuring the dent. Standard 316L stainless–the stuff most watch cases are made from–measures 140HV. That’s the sort of stuff a Damasko would use as a doily for its cucumber sandwiches.

Inside this tough steel case, there’s what looks like a workmanlike Valjoux 7750 ticking away.  But by the time Damasko have finished with it, even its mother wouldn’t recognize it. There’s a silicon hairspring and a free-sprung balance. Even the date wheel is non-standard. And all that for £2,210.

Read our reviews for the DA36 Black, DC66 and the Timeless Luxury DB 1-4.


So, a tank-tough watch with a clever movement for £2,210, an in-house powered 36mm classic-to-be for £1,080 and a vintage Japanese historical milestone for £700–£3,990 all-in. What to do with the spare £10? Nip over to eBay to find a Casio Melody 30 M-301, of course.

Mark developed a passion for watches at a young age. At 9, he was gifted an Omega Time Computer manual from a local watch maker and he finagled Rolex brochures from a local dealer. Today, residing in the Oxfordshire village of Bampton, Mark brings his technical expertise and robust watch knowledge to worn&wound.
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