Recently, I got an email from one of our readers that had a really good and challenging question in it. Basically, the question was, if you had to choose a handful of watches to create a well-rounded collection, what would they be?.. Well, actually it was more, why don’t more guides of that nature exist? The person asking was doing so from the perspective of a new watch enthusiast trying to plan his purchases. My response was pretty honest; making a guide like that is hard and very subjective. Taste plays a huge roll in one’s choices, and being restricted to only a few pieces makes selection very difficult.
But, it’s also fun. So, to make it a bit more formal and constrained, we’ve structured it as such: you have a budget of $2,000 and you need to select 5 watches to cover all of your bases. The 5 watches are broken down into dress, chronograph, sport/diver, quartz/digital and tool/beater. They can be new, used or vintage (assuming prices are pretty fixed), with pricing based on what you really pay (so not necessarily MSRP). These constraints force one to make some tough decisions, sacrificing one watch to get another, perhaps spending a disproportionate amount in one category. In the end, the selection should really speak to the person who made it, so we’re going to make this a series, with each writer taking a stab at it… and hopefully help those who are looking to make a collection within a budget make some good decisions.
So, first up is me, Zach. Enjoy
There are different ways to approach a dress watch. One could find something very precious and only wear it when the situation arises. Or, one could choose something more casual, that can be worn more often. Either way, I think the aesthetic should be reserved and the watch should be relatively small and thin. As someone who doesn’t go to too many formal events, I like to wear my dress watches with some frequency on normal days. As such, the Intra-Matic 38mm in steel is a great choice. It’s a bit of a chameleon, looking refined with a blazer, or stylish with jeans. The vintage design and nice details, like the domed dial, give it a surprising amount of personality for something so simple. It’s also well made and packs a good movement. These currently are going for $505 at Jomashop, which is a great deal.
So, I might be cheating with this one a bit since it’s a quartz, well meca-quartz to be exact, but it’s my choice for a chronograph. Chronographs are tricky, as new mechanical models tend to always be more expensive, rarely starting under $1k. So, that doesn’t fit in well with the budget. At the same time, I love chronographs, and feel like they are at the center of my collection, so worth spending more on… especially vintage models. What’s great about the Autodromo is that it nails the vintage style with its beautifully finished barrel case, has a panda dial (which might also be a necessary requirement for a collection) and still has the feel and action of a mechanical chronograph, it just happens to be quartz. $625
Check out our review of the Autodromo Prototipo here
Diver: Helson Skindiver Acrylic Used $500 – $600
This one was tough for me. While I like dive watches a lot, I actually don’t wear them very often. I also don’t dive, and living in NYC, I don’t frequent pools or the ocean. So, for me, it’s a largely aesthetic choice. The Helson Skindiver is a gorgeous watch, because it’s an homage to a gorgeous watch. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, which \ is one of the coolest looking military dive watches ever, and most important too. Helson got all of the little details right, from the edge of the bezel to the domed crystal. And, it’s still functional for casual water use with 200m WR and great lume. It’s probably as close as I’ll come to this holy grail of a watch. Of course, the whole homage thing might be a non-starter for many, which I understand, but if it isn’t, this is a great watch to wear. Used, these are often in the $500 – $600 range, and if you’re lucky you can find one of the early ones with the original acrylic crystal and bezel, as well as an ETA 2824-2 inside.
Check out our review of the Helson Skin Diver here
For me, the best thing that quartz watches provide is functionality at a lower cost. Getting complications that would usually make a mechanical go for several hundred for a couple hundred is hard to argue with. That, and having something dead accurate that is ready to go right out of the watch-box is very convenient. The Citizen Nighthawk packs a lot of features and has an awesome modern pilots aesthetic. It has got dual time, a slide rule bezel and a 200m water resistance. Citizen’s Eco-Drive movement also means no battery changes as its solar, and has an incredible power reserve of half a year on a charge. These features combine for a great traveling watch, as it can stand up to a lot and you don’t have to worry about it dying. For about $200 used, it’s a solid value.
Check out our review of the Citizen Nighthawk here
This last one should come as no surprise. If the value of watches was proportional to the amount of enjoyment you got from them, these would be some of the most valuable pieces in my collection. They might be cheap, like crazy cheap, but they are great to wear and great looking everyday watches. And because of the price, you can wear them fearlessly… Obviously, they are mechanical so don’t intentionally smack the into things, but the risk isn’t too high either. They look good on a variety of straps too thanks to the colorful dials, so they are fun to style to your clothes. About $60
Check out our review of the Seiko 5 SNKs here
Well, that’s actually $55 short of $2,000, but I imagine that would go to shipping or extra straps.