The Three Watch Collection for $5,000: Reader Edition – Stephen Nichols

Editor’s Note: In this edition of the 3 Watch Collection for $5,000, reader Stephen Nichols shares not three, but four watches, and somehow still manages to stay under budget. This collection is a testament to micro-brands bringing something a little different to the table, and highlights just how far you can stretch your budget on some truly awesome watches. Stephen was even kind enough to provide his own photography of the watches, so all credit to @talkingabouttime for the imagery within.

If you’d like to submit your own 3 watch collection for $5,000 can you do so at the form right here

The old adage, “anything worth doing is worth overdoing,” is as true to watch collecting as it is to anything else. Thankfully, you don’t have to skimp on quality and design for a three-watch collection even when you’re on a budget. Micro-brands are offering up more than just great value, they’re giving us a personalized experience on top of it. Go to a watch fair or slide into a brand’s DMs, and chances are good you’ll be greeted by a dreamer who’s just itching to show you what they’ve made and why they made it. You can score an incredible watch that matches your style and also tells a personal story about the designer. Here’s a list of three, ok maybe four watches that deliver huge value for under $5,000. Watches that I’d be proud to add to my personal collection.


Typsim – 200M – $1,199

How do you capture the charm of a vintage diver in a modern package without spending black bay 58 cash? Matt at Typsim has answered that question with his 200m. This watch represents his journey from watch enthusiast to watch maker. Plus every aspect of the watch was crafted with the specific intent to age with the owner. 

I could rattle off all the specs but the best example is the lume. Matt worked with the makers of superluminova to develop a new lume compound that ages with wear. Pair a chronometer grade movement, with a negative relief dial, acrylic crystal and bezel, and a riveted bracelet and you have vintage vibes for days. So, if you’re a fan of vintage watches, but want to build your own charm rather than borrow it from the past, the Typsim 200m is worth a closer look.

Formex Essence Thirty Nine – $1490

Have you met the Formex Essence Thirty Nine? This beauty is the latest refinement of the most popular Formex model, and let me tell you, it’s the true essence of style and wearability. The brand kept their angular and aggressive design DNA, but shrunk it down to the 39mm sweet spot size and adorned it with an improved logo. But wait there’s more, this watch is a COSC chronometer with a 100m water resistance making it a perfectly comfortable GADA watch.

What really sets Formex apart is their refusal to rest on their laurels. They’re always pushing the limit with great finishing and innovation that elevates the wearing experience. The bracelet has the tolerances of watches multiples of this price and even houses an on-the-fly extension. All in all, the Formex Essence Thirty Nine is a great everyday watch that’s sure to make a statement.

Trafford Crossroads Automatic – $499 (pre order price until April 14th)

I’ve had the pleasure of spending some time with the Trafford Watch Co. Crossroads not once, but twice now. And I have photographed a lot of cool watches, yet this Austin-based microbrand has lingered in my mind, which is a tough space to occupy. Obviously, Nathan Trafford is doing something truly special in Austin. They’re like a breath of fresh air in a world of cookie-cutter timepieces.

Their design pays tribute to traditional watchmaking with a square case, but they put their own spin on it. And man, does it work. The curved sapphire crystal and stepped sunburst dial on the Crossroads are something to behold. Plus, they’re one of the few watches I’ve had around that made my wife do a double take. So if you’re looking for a watch that’s as unique as it is well-made, give the Trafford Watch Co. a look. I need to get my order in soon.

Traska Venturer GMT – $695

Three watches? That’s child’s play. In fact, it’s proven impossible for me to choose just three. But you know what’s not impossible? Adding a fourth to the mix and staying a grand under budget. Especially after I got the Traska Venturer GMT in front of my lens and on my wrist. This Florida-based micro brand watch has managed to steal more wrist time from my collection than any other timepiece I’ve ever owned. See, I’m not one to stick to just one watch a day. But this baby? Four straight days. That’s like winning an Oscar in my book.

Let me rattle off some specs for you: travelers jump hour gmt complication, just the right size, impossibly thin for a GMT, scratch resistant steel, beautiful dial, sapphire domed crystal, drilled lugs, the list goes on. The folks over at Traska really nailed it with this one. With a few small tweaks I might just have to use the word “perfect”. Especially for under $700. How in the world did you do it, Jon? Hats off to you.

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