The Three Watch Collection for $5,000: Reader Edition – Pranav I.

Editor’s note: This refreshingly honest 3 watch collection for $5,000 is brought to us by reader Pranav I. We love it for its panache and willingness to go against the grain a bit. There’s no practical considerations other than, is this a cool watch to me? Yes, yes it is. A hat tip to you, Pranav.

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

For some reason, I’ve always been a chronograph guy. And yes, my grail is of course a Speedmaster 145.022-68ST (sorry for the long reference number, I guess this just goes to show that I geek out over this stuff!). But in the chronograph world, there are hidden gems that I feel could be the “next big thing” in the vintage world, if Speedmasters and Daytonas weren’t all the rage. Don’t get me wrong, I love those watches, but given the budget that we have to work with, why not explore some hidden gems?


Zenith El Primero “Prime” – $2,500

credit Vintage-Portfolio

To a certain sect of collectors out there, the combination of the words “chronograph”, “manual wind”, and “hi-beat” make up for one hell of a thrilling combination, and you know what? I just happen to be one of those collectors. 

On that note, my first pick is something rather controversial – the Zenith El Primero “Prime”. For those of you who were probably unaware, the “Prime” was the manual wind version of the fabled El Primero chronograph, and the reason why I’d call it a controversial piece is because of the fact that there are two ways a purist can look at it. First off, there’s what I call a “chronograph” purist in general, who believes that for a chronograph to even have a spot in the “creme-de-la-creme” of chronographs, it should be on the other hand. And then there are the El Primero purists, who obviously wouldn’t like it, because the El Primero is supposed to be “the world’s first automatic chronograph” and that “making this a manual wind *bastardizes* the legacy of the El Primero”.

I know, I know. That was a bit too strong to look at the Prime. But honestly, I don’t really care. It’s a thrilling watch with a thrilling movement, what’s not to love?

Tissot Heritage 1948 – $1,400

I have no idea why, but for some strange reason, this watch brings to mind characters like Harvey Specter, Jay Gatsby, or Don Draper, and for the sake of realism, a little bit of Andy Warhol and Steve McQueen. Sure, all of them have objectively better watches than the Tissot, and yet, I can totally see all these guys wearing a Tissot 1948. And why shouldn’t they? It’s one hell of a watch.

But more than anything, I’ve found this to be one of the most historically charming and romantic chronographs on a budget, and I find it to be an excellent alternative to watches like the “Cornes de Vache” from Vacheron Constantin. Oh, and the lugs! I could go on and on and on about this watch if I want to, but I’ll leave you with this – it’s a chronograph that somehow reminds its wearer about their classy, elegant, inner self. 

And to me, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Seiko 6138 “Panda” – $1,100

Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room here, which is the price. And to that I say this – YES, you can get a Seiko 6138 under $1,000 provided you know where to look. Of course, the ones in the best condition are between $900 and $1100, but assuming you get one in good condition under that price, you’ve struck gold. With that said, moving on.

So, we’ve got ourselves a stunning neo-vintage daily driver in the form of the Zenith, an extremely dressy chronograph in the form of the Tissot, and now, for our casual, sporty vintage pick – the Seiko 6138. It’s got a great size, and to me, this watch manages to bring out the essence of a racing chronograph better than a lot of modern watches in my opinion. With its size and proportions, it also balances out the formality aspect of this collection, as this is a relatively sporty watch. 

Needless to say, this is an incredibly versatile “three-piece” collection, with each piece giving you some of the best of its own world. And while this is a far cry from my “ideal” 3-watch collection (that’s a Speedmaster 321 re-issue, a white-gold, blue dial Daytona, and a rose gold VC 1921, if you’re wondering), I guess it’s safe to say that I’m in love.

And that’s just fine.

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