The Three Watch Collection for $5,000: Reader Edition – Griffin Bartsch

Editor’s note: In this week’s 3 Watch Collection for $5,000, Griffin Bartsch (@cgriffinbartsch on Instagram), a seasoned collector and watch enthusiast, makes his case for value with a trio of watches that punch well above their weight class. In a watch environment where prices keep climbing, it can be tough to find quality and originality that’s budget friendly, and it can be even tougher if you can easily recall a time when these things just weren’t so expensive. But as Griffin points out, there are still great watches to discover at any price point. 

You can make your submission to the Three Watch Collection – Reader Edition by filling out the form right here.

Talk to anyone who has been a watch enthusiast or collector long enough and a constant through-line will be that watches cost more than they used to. It’s hard to deny. In the near decade and a half that I have nominally been what could be called a watch collector, the market has experienced a dramatic surge.

It’s gotten to the point where it is unavoidable that rising prices have become a pretty standard stop in the flow of conversation at meetups and on forums. Even I am not immune to the temptations of the topic — I have probably mentioned a few too many times that when I was 18 I could have bought a polar dial Rolex Explorer II Ref. 16570 for the same money as my Martin D-35 (around 3500 bucks). That Martin still floats right around that price today, the Rolex decidedly does not.

A result of all this is that it can sometimes feel like it’s hard to find great watches at reasonable prices. And while I have started hearing the phrase “$10,000 is the new $5,000,” I would posit that there are probably more interesting, affordable watches on the market than ever before.

Obviously this is not to say that $5,000 isn’t a meaningful sum — it obviously is — but it is also a dollar figure that can still buy you a hell of a lot of watch. So without further ado, here are my picks for a three watch collection under $5,000.

Vertex M60 Aqualion ND ~$3,005

If I’m going to have a collection made up of only three watches, it only makes sense to start with the watch I already basically wear every single day — the Vertex M60 Aqualion ND. On its surface, this may not be the most exciting choice. And I admit that picking a black dial dive watch right off the bat is maybe a little obvious, but since I got my Aqualion I have seen little reason to wear anything else.


For those who may not know, Vertex is both a very old and pretty young brand. Originally founded over a century ago by Claude Lyons, Vertex produced some great watches over the course of about five and a half decades, including as one of the manufacturers of the “Dirty Dozen” watches used by the British military in WWII.

Unfortunately, like so many brands, Vertex folded in the early ‘70s. Thankfully, Don Cochrane, Claude Lyons’s great-grandson, revived the brand in 2016 and has been producing some incredible watches since. The M60 is the most recent addition to this lineup, and my favorite so far.

This watch checks all the boxes for a modern dive watch (at least in my book) and really proves that you don’t need to go for one of the big boys to find something awesome. It doesn’t hurt that the Vertex M60 also has one of the best bezels in the business and lume that seems to last for days (it was even still glowing at the end of Killers of the Flower Moon).


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Since I will likely wear the Vertex most days, I have no problem sinking most of my budget into one watch, and the COSC-certified Sellita movement means I won’t have to take it off to set it all too often. Wearing this most days is about as close as I am likely to get to being a one-watch-guy, so thankfully I have two more slots (and just shy of two grand) to play around with.

Lorier Hydra Zulu ~$599

I will fully admit that despite my choosing what are essentially two dive watches for this list, I was late to the dive watch game. In fact, for most of the first decade of my collecting, I didn’t own or wear dive watches. Sure, some Seikos came and went, but the first dive watch that really stuck was a Lorier Neptune II.

I wore that watch as my primary daily driver for about two years, until I moved on to a different blue dive watch. I have since let that original Neptune go (a move I sort of regret), but owning that watch for as long as I did was more than enough to convince me that Lorier knows how to make a great watch. 

Since I knew that I wanted a GMT watch somewhere in this trio, and given that Lorier has recently released one of the best GMTs under $1,000 anywhere on the market, the Hydra seems to me a bit like a no-brainer. But as good as the standard Hydra III is, I’m going with the wickedly cool blacked-out Hydra Zulu.

I saw this watch a few weeks back at WindUp in NYC, and immediately knew this was the watch to bring me back into Lorier. And if I hadn’t forgotten to set myself a reminder the day the Zulu launched, this would have been the second watch on my list that I actually owned (and hopefully Lorenzo and Lauren will see fit to do a second run of these in the not-too-distant future).

As for the watch itself, it is essentially a blacked out version of the Hydra III released this summer, meaning it has the same asymmetrical case with a sunk-in crown and Miyota 9075 flyer — but the Zulu more than sets itself apart thanks to its colorway and fantastic Bonetto Cinturini rubber strap straight out of an ‘80s action flick.

NOMOS Glashütte Club 701 ~$1,396

Going into my last pick, I am left with $1,396 to play with, and a collection already skewed towards dive watches. So with my final pick in this very real and high-stakes draft, I will be proud to select the NOMOS Club.

Specifically, I am going to go for the Club 701. This 36mm, hand wound watch is basically the platonic ideal of what I picture when I think of the word “watch”. The Club is everything you need, without anything extraneous or unnecessary. Put another way, this is a watch I would be thrilled to put on anytime I need a break from over-spec’d dive watches.

And no, 36mm is not too small. Even with my 7.5 inch wrists, I love small watches, and a 47.5mm lug-to-lug puts this guy in about the same range as watches with case diameters 4-5mm larger, so the Club manages to offer a decent amount of wrist presence, despite its small diameter and impressively thin case.

As for the price, there seem to be plenty of options floating around on the secondary market for well under my left-over budget, and the $1,500 price tag of the recently updated 701.1 might be a compelling option if I were to manage to find either the Vertex or the Lorier in the Worn & Wound+ Slack Channel Marketplace (say that five times fast…) and score a bit of deal.

So, there you have it. My three watch collection — or at least, my three watch collection as it would look today. Ask me again in a week what I would choose and you may get a totally different answer, but I have a feeling that were I actually commit to this trio I would be pretty satisfied, at least for a while.

I mean, I probably would also want something quartz or digital — ooh, like the new Timex Ironman from The James Brand, or a titanium Scurfa, or a chronograph, or a… well, you get the idea.

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