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

Share this story:

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.

Advertisement

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

Save

Save

Save

Save

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!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Advertisement

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.

Save

Save

Save

Save

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.

Save

Save

Advertisement

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.
markchristie mark_mcarthur_christie
Categories:
  • Kevin Lam

    A great trio! Enjoyed this write-up.

    • Mark McArthur-Christie

      Delighted you did! Thanks!

  • R Khalifa

    It’s interesting to see that in many ways this trio parallels Ilya’s very closely in structure. An indie flieger chrono, a vintage dressy piece, and a Bauhaus-inspired casual/dress piece. Winning formula or just coincidence of tastes? Very interested to see if other writers wind up with a similar strategy or if there are some funkier combinations that will shake out. Great series!

    • Mark McArthur-Christie

      Clearly, both Ilya and I have impeccable taste 😉 We actually all chose separately and only compared notes once we’d fixed on our three. That saved too much duplication. Interesting that we went for similar styles. Funny though, I never see GS as dressy (even though it is) – I see them as solid, superbly made watches that you can wear everyday without worrying about.

  • Romeo

    Barely finished reading this list before I was looking forward to the next! As 5k is my outer limit for watch purchases, I find these lists interesting in the extreme, more as to why a particular piece was chosen than the actual piece. Perhaps a list of watches considered and then discarded? Well done, keep them coming!

    • Mark McArthur-Christie

      A list of watches considered then discarded?! Now that would be a very, very long article! Glad you’re enjoying the series though.

      • Romeo

        Lol, I guess that would be a fairly substantial article. I guess I was really just very interested in the process you went through to come up with your list. I’m assuming the authors do not currently own the watches they pick, and if not, why not?

        • Speaking only for myself (Ilya), I own two (Sinn 356, Stowa Antea KS) of the three. I have yet to find a Polerouter for sale with the ideal configuration and price. Otherwise, I’d likely have all three.

  • Mike

    I wanted so badly to love the Club when I tried it on, but it just fell flat for me. I do quite like these articles though.

  • Mark Goodson

    I’ve got a Nomos Club. I’m wearing it now. Great watch. As you get older you realise less is more…

  • Michiel

    Great choice with the Club and that specific configuration. For a long time the Tangente was the quintessential Nomos for me. I own them both and must say that the club totally changed that for me. It’s such a great little watch. The 36mm one with solid case back is the perfect little beater. And with the 10atm I wouldn’t get scared to get it wet. For me for sure a classic (in the making?).

    • egznyc

      Interesting. Wondering why you and the author both seem to prefer a solid case back on this piece. I’ve seen some Nomos watches with beautifully decorated movements; is their entry level watch’s movements simply nothing special to look at, or is it a different concern?

      • Michiel

        The Nomos movements are beautiful and I did buy a Tangente with a see-through case back. When I look at the Nomos collection, the club stands out a bit. It’s sportier than the other models they offer.

        I see the club as an all-round type of watch. With the beautiful shell cordovan strap it comes on it’s a great piece to wear to work. But throw it on a sportier strap, nato or perlon and it’s great for more outdoors adventures.

        I like to think about the club that it is a watch for a (young) guy that buys this and wears it everyday in any type of situation. I feel that the solid case back is a better fit for that kind of a watch.

        • egznyc

          I really appreciate your thoughts, Michael. Thanks!

          As for me, though, not being such a young guy any more, and just appreciating a view of a good-looking movement, I’d probably get the exhibition case back – even with the premium. Nobody else would have to know 😉

          • Michiel

            Nothing wrong with that, still a great watch 😉

  • Michael

    This is a great series. W&W should start an open thread for readers to submit theirs as well! I know I am having fun thinking about it.

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

By
A few years back, we ran a popular series titled, …