The 4th Watch & The Importance of the Non-Essential

It’s easy to get caught up in finding the perfect trio of watches for your ‘core collection’; the watches that cover all your bases, from mowing the lawn, to your best friend’s wedding. We have a series here called The Three Watch Collection for $5,000 in which readers attempt to do just this within a given budget. It generally goes something like this: three watches that are largely inoffensive and fit within the broadest possible range of your wardrobe, and cover you for the broadest possible range of events. They are practical, conventionally attractive, and blend in without drawing too much attention to themselves. That’s all fine and well, and I’m sure that if you’re reading this, a few of your own watches immediately come to mind as your core daily companions. But what comes next? With a good foundation in place, surely it’s only natural to explore the periphery a bit, and it is here that we discover the realm of the 4th watch. 

The idea of a great 4th (or 5th, 6th, and beyond?) watch is less bound by the practical constraints we place around our core watches that get the most wrist time. Whether it fits under a cuff, or clashes with your outfits, or is even all that easy to read is besides the point. The 4th watch may rarely find itself being worn (initially, at least), but it might speak to the true nature of our taste or passion in watches. These are the watches we wear purely for the joy or fun of it. That doesn’t always mean they are impractical, but they certainly aren’t held to the same standard as that core trio (or duo, or single watch, even).


I typically separate watches into two camps: practical watches that work best on the go without getting in the way; and watches that I don’t need to be all that practical, but rather, offer an experience on the wrist that I find compelling. In reality, most of my watches fall somewhere in between, as I happen to enjoy the aesthetic as well as the practicality of straightforward tool watches such as the Pelagos FXD, the Seiko SPB149, and the Sinn U50. However, each of those watches have their own quirks that push them slightly toward 4th watch territory, particularly in comparison to stablemates from the same brands (and sometimes, collection). A Black Bay 58, for instance, is more flexible and wearable than the FXD, and arguably makes for the better ‘single tool watch that can also be kinda dressed up’. But of course, the FXD, the SPB149, and U50 are really just scratching the surface. 

Taking a step further you’ll find a watch like the Omega Seamaster PloProf, the legendary dive watch with an unmistakable case. In many ways, this is a horribly impractical watch for anything other than deep water diving. It’s bulky, oddly shaped, isn’t fitting under any cuff, and about as graceful as a jackhammer. It’s also a watch that I find endlessly fascinating, and one that I deeply enjoy the experience of wearing. It’s a perfect 4th watch.

On the other end are more conceptual watches, such as this Louis Erard x Konstantin Chaykin limited edition, or this Argon Space One Jump Hour. These are watches that offer an experience unlike what we typically judge these things by, and therein lies the appeal: a unique experience. Wandering too far down this path can alter your perception of a ‘core watch’ altogether, and a rethinking of the arbitrary rules we put around a collection in the first place. Does every collection really need a Speedmaster? 

At the end of the day, any watch we land on is a redundancy in terms of the practical benefits it might provide. We are drawn to these things for additional (and sometimes entirely other) reasons. Even a single watch is something of an indulgence, and indulgences are meant to be experienced and enjoyed. It might be easier to justify the classic choices, and indeed they might fit into our daily lives a bit more seamlessly, but if you don’t find yourself enjoying your watches beyond their limited practical benefits, you might consider doing yourself a favor and think about a 4th watch kind of watch.

I touched on this theme in an editorial called Cutting Through the Noise, and Finding Your Lane, advocating for watches that push you outside of your usual comfort zone, and how doing so can expand your lane and further define your sense of taste. This is the realm of the 4th watch, and you know it when you see it. Finding that healthy balance doesn’t have to mean adding more watches to your collection, so not a literal 4th watch, but rather, about landing even on core watches that provide an experience beyond the purely pragmatic, whether it’s a collection that consists of a single PloProf for day to day use, or a 20th watch that features a lovely shade of purple, which might not match a single piece of clothing in your wardrobe. 

Keep an eye out for an upcoming video in which we reveal some of the strange watches in our own collection, and in the meantime, let us know your strange 4th watch indulgences in the comments below, or in our Worn & Wound+ Slack channel.

Related Posts
Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent his professional life covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seiko to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.