It’s my turn to take a crack at the 5 For $2000 challenge, and I’ll admit I had a little trouble deciding what direction to go with this one. I could have played watch speculator, and given you a list of five vintage sleepers that I expect to gain in value over the next few years. Or I could have made a solid list of five new watches available today at retail that would start you off on the road to watch collecting. But instead of those, I’m going to give you five watches I actually own and love, all of which I consider classics – both old and modern. Similar to Ilya and Sean before me, I’m listing these at the prices I actually paid, primarily to stay under the $2000 limit, but also to demonstrate what you can find with a good plan and a little patience. All five of these watches were purchased second-hand, either through online auctions or watch forum sales pages.
Dress – Tissot Visodate $315
This first one is my most recent pick-up, and I couldn’t be happier with the buy. Like Zach’s Intra-Matic and Ilya’s Max Bill, the Visodate does a lot with a little. The dial is simple, matte silver with single and double baton markers on the hours and printed dashes on the minutes. The applied logo is the old Tissot style script, and it looks fantastic. The sides of the case are slanted inward, giving the watch a sturdy stance on the wrist. At 40mm, it’s a little big for a dressy dress watch, but that slant helps give the face a little smaller size. With the day/date display, the watch is a versatile daily wearer, good for any day of the week, not just Sunday.
Like the Curmudgeon and Ilya, I’d spend roughly half of my $2K on a single watch. In my case, it’s the Sinn 356. I already wrote about this watch in our roundtable discussion of what single watch we would keep if could only have one, so my love for it is apparent. It checks all the blocks for me as a chronograph and as an any-occasion watch. If you can find one near this price, grab it; it’s worth every penny.
At any affordable price point and at any age, a Seiko diver is always the right answer. Ilya included the modern SXK007 on his list, otherwise you’d see it here too. For my pick, I’ll go back a couple generations to the 6309. Like all Seiko divers, it has a sturdy case, highly legible dial, and only gets better with age. Prices are climbing on these, and you can already expect to spend twice this price on a really good example. Luckily, there are still plenty out there in this condition near this price, so pick one up before they too disappear.
The U.S. military no longer issues watches in massive numbers, leaving most soldiers to fend for themselves if they want to wear a watch. For many of them, that choice lands them with this watch. Tough as can be, massive functionality (a true altitude/barometer/compass watch), and killer looks make this Suunto a great choice for an adventurer or anyone planning on being dropped from a helicopter in the middle of nowhere.
Tool/Beater – Benrus Navigator’s Watch $125
Speaking of military issued watches, this Benrus navigator’s watch from 1973 comes from the golden age of military issued watches. Little field and navigator’s watches like this one and others from Benrus and Hamilton are about as perfect as you can get for a little go-anywhere [dry] watches. There aren’t many days when I can’t strap on one of these and feel great about my choice. The market for these is wide and complex, with a lot of options in all manner of condition from a couple decades of manufacture, so do your research [we here at W&W plan to help you out with that soon…]. Nice examples can still be found at auction for this price, but it takes some hunting. With the number of fakes out there and the wide range of vintage condition, it’s never a bad idea to buy one of these from a dealer you trust. Expect to pay a bit more from a dealer, but the confidence in knowing you have a good, real one is worth it.