The Three Watch Collection for $5,000: Reader Edition – Michael Chong

Editor’s Note: For this edition of The Three Watch Collection for $5,000, we have a collection from collector Michael Chong. Michael has chosen a trio of watches that track his varied horological interests, from a quirky Seiko to perhaps the most classic watch design of them all, the Cartier Tank. There’s also a familiar Nomos Club Campus, but this one has a twist. 

Since high school graduation, I have spent 5 years navigating the vast world of watches, collecting and refining my collection to reflect my lifestyle and identity. However, I underestimated this task, and I now realize that this is a dynamic lifelong journey, subject to the natural or unexpected changes that humans go through in their life, whether it is relocation, career shifts, evolving needs or wants, or amending personal tastes/niches. Below I present my ideal three-watch collection under 5k, shaped by 5 years of this process.

Seiko A829-6019 – $650

In 2020, while searching for an LCD Speedmaster 186.0004, I stumbled upon the Seiko A829-6019, which also boasted a NASA connection and was more affordable. I discovered this 1982 Seiko A829 on eBay up for auction with its original bracelet and endlinks. After doing deep research ensuring it was all 100% original, I purchased it and the watch was delivered the following week. Despite some wear and tear, including a scratched bezel and faded red accents, all functions, including the alarms (extremely loud), worked flawlessly. The standout feature was the bezel, allowing for easy function changes. With dual time zones, stopwatch, daily alarm, adjustable timer, and a backlight, it became my go-to everyday watch. Although it comes in at 37mm, it has a lot of wrist presence due to its octagonal shape and bracelet. Plus, it wears flat on the wrist at just 9mm thick. A fun fact, these have a cylindrical adjustment knob inside the movement, so a watchmaker can tune these to run at +/- 0 seconds a day. 

The Seiko A829 was worn to space on many astronauts’ wrists in the 1980s, underscoring its NASA connection. Below is a photo of Sally Ride aboard the Challenger wearing the A829-6019 on their left wrist.


Alongside the red and blue bezel A829-6019, there was also a red and black bezel variant with a slightly different reference number, the A829-6029. The A829-6029 red and black bezel model appears to be rarer than the A829-6019 as they come up less often online. However, this is just my observation over the years. Prices on both of these models have been steadily rising along with their original replacement parts, so now may be your time window to scout for a nice example as well.

Cartier Tank Black (Small) – $2950

I think this particular Cartier Tank in the black dial and small variant (WSTA0071) stands out as one of the best watch releases in recent years. For my 3 for 5k collection, it adds a much needed dressier minimalist watch to cover for special occasions and formal events. The simple black dial with the classic Cartier Tank case is a refreshing take for collectors wanting a roman numeral-free dial.

While some people criticize its 22mm size, I find the small model Cartier Tank’s proportions are ideal, staying true to its original design and ethos. Its rectangular shape, flanked by prominent steel pillars, gives it a strong presence unmatched by circular 22mm watches of the same size. However, I’m undecided about the departure from a rounded cabochon-shaped spinel sapphire, seen in the original 1970s models, to a new pointed cone on the crown. 

Despite its classification as a dress watch, swapping the alligator strap for something colorful or reserved like a suede or calf leather strap can transform its character, though the default strap suits formal occasions perfectly. The Cartier Tank’s popularity and success in recent years reflects a shift in the watch market towards smaller, dressier, unisex watches over sports models. The Cartier Tank Black Small WSTA0071 is priced at around $2950, pre-owned.

Nomos Club 36 ‘Brigitte’ – $1400


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To complete my trio of watches under $5k, I opted to tie the collection together with a unique-font dial to add a playful touch to the collection. The Nomos Club limited release Brigette reference 701.S2 fits this bill perfectly with its distinctive California dial used on the Club models and casual bauhaus design, accented by pastel ‘tiffany’ blue colors. I stumbled upon this gem at a small watch store in Kyoto, Japan, where its ‘tiffany’ color scheme instantly caught my eye. Although I am not sure if it is intentional, this watch cleverly utilizes color and design to minimize negative space on the dial; gray numbers and indices divert attention from blank areas, while vibrant hands and markers draw focus to the center, creating the illusion of a smaller white space. Nomos’s use of the gray/tiffany palette in this limited production model puts an exclamation mark on the already well proportioned Club model. Although rare online, pre-owned pieces can be found for around $1400.

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