When I was first told about the concept for our “5 Watches for $2000” series, I was, like everyone else at Worn and Wound, excited to answer the question of how I would build an interesting and expressive collection on the cheap. About five minutes later, however, I walked over to my watch box, and it hit me. Over the last few years of collecting mostly vintage watches, I’ve already done that. So rather than giving you another list of suggestions, I’ll show you what I did, how I went about it, and what I’d do differently, given the chance.
1. Sports/Diver- Mid-60s Squale Super 10 Atmos
What I Paid: $545.00
What It’s Worth: $475-$650
The first piece on the list is my newest addition, the most expensive piece in my collection, and while it wasn’t the best deal on this list by any stretch of the imagination, it might be the one I’m most fond of. Squale is a brand with incredible history and innovation in the diving world, and ever since I got bitten by the watch bug, it’s a brand I’ve wanted to buy into. After months of searching forums and eBay, I finally found the right one. Due to the way Squale did business at the time (producing cases and dials for many manufacturers), it can be difficult to track down and date exact models, but all the signs I can see point to this being a very early example. It’s a 10 Atmos of 100 meter rated piece, rather than the usual 20 Atmos, it’s got the early-type polished steel bezel, and the dial and handset lack some of the ornamentation and flash of later 70’s examples. It’s a great choice for a vintage diver style, but another solid option with different but fascinating history and a slightly kinder price tag is the Sicura Submarine 400.
2. Dress- 1972 King Seiko 5621 Hi-Beat Automatic
What I Paid: $225.00
What It’s Worth: $200-$450
Dress watches are a finicky segment. Everything in the design of a dress watch comes down to balance and harmony, and minute differences in the design of a piece can be the difference between something clean, beautiful, and equally at home in a T-shirt and a 3-piece suit; or a piece that just feels wrong on the wrist. In my opinion, nobody has ever understood this better than Taro Tanaka, founder of Seiko’s “Grammar of Design”, and his work at King Seiko reflects that. Nothing else in the horological world combines aesthetic refinement, technical innovation, and affordability like a vintage King Seiko, especially a later automatic example like this. Earlier Cal. 45 manual wind examples do beat at an even higher rate, 36000 bph versus the automatic’s 28800, but are also quite a bit more expensive. You really can’t go wrong with either.
3. Chronograph 1- 1976 Seiko 6139-6005
What I Paid: $80
What It’s Worth: $200-$450
I’m going to preface this by saying I bought this watch by sheer dumb luck. There was no extensive research, no months of waiting, I simply found one on eBay that nobody else noticed, and I pulled the trigger. Normally, that story would end with “and the watch worked for a week and then broke down completely”, but it didn’t. It’s been the cleanest, most reliable, and nearly the most accurate watch in the collection, and it’s always been a big part of my rotation. There’s been a lot of hype over 6139s in the past few years, and in my experience it lives up to all of it. It’s a rock-solid movement in a well made package that packs both horological and space history as one of the first automatic chronographs and the watch that astronaut Colonel William Pogue wore on Skylab 4. That said, there are a lot of frankenwatches for sale out there, so it does pay to do your homework on these.
4. Chronograph 2- 1976 Seiko 6138-8039
What I Paid: $200
What It’s Worth: $250-500
I’ve talked about my 6138 “John Player Special” here before, and I stand by what I’ve said before. It’s a funky, surprisingly balanced design with some very cool motorsports roots harking back to Formula 1’s Team Lotus, and well worth a place in any collection especially if you have any interest in racing. Every time I strap it to my wrist, I feel a little bit like Emerson Fittipaldi or Mario Andretti, and that goes a long way when most of the chronograph timing you do is for steeping tea. However, mine at least has had quite a few reliability issues, gaining time even after a full servicing, but as far as I can tell that seems to be a rare occurrence.
5. Tool/Beater- Vostok Komandirskie
What I Paid: $40
What It’s Worth: $40
I feel like in addition to the categories we were given to write about, there are a few watches that belong in every enthusiast’s collection at some point. Everyone needs to own a military watch, and everyone needs to try at least one watch from Russia. The Komandirskie covers all those bases in a nearly endless variety of cases and dials, with something for everyone’s taste. They’re incredibly rugged for a mechanical watch, and some of the quirks of Vostok ownership like the bidirectional friction bezel and the wobbly crown (not a defect, but a speed-winding solution for wearers with heavy gloves), have to be experienced firsthand. Best of all, at $40 they’re cheap enough to wear almost anywhere without fear of damaging it.