The Three Watch Collection for $5,000: Reader Edition – Tanner T.

Editor’s Note: In this edition of the 3 Watch Collection for $5,000, reader Tanner T. shares a tidy three watch collection that spans from some all-time classics, to some newcomers on the scene. There’s plenty of style here to enjoy, and even a reminder not to take ourselves too seriously. Best of all, this collection could come in under budget at the right spec.

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

I must admit this was a challenge, not because I am spoiled for choice (which we all are these days as watch enthusiasts), but because I actually aspire to not be a collector. Wearing and enjoying a single piece day in, day out is something I pursue and practice. There’s something rewarding about a watch so satisfying and inherently capable that it requires no stablemates.

Now for the rest of us who live in reality and want to experience more, here are three watches that comprise a solid trio and share unique aspects about what keeps collecting interesting. Oh, and they all fit well under five thousand of your hard-earned buckaroos.


Cartier Tank Must Solarbeat ($2610 in small, $2740 in large)

Cartier’s reputation as the “Jeweler of Kings and King of Jewelers” is another way of suggesting they’re your favorite watch company’s favorite watch company (the folks at Jaeger LeCoultre are gonna love that). The storied maison has been on an incredible run over the last few years with reimagined hits like the Crash, Tank Normale, and Pebble. However, for mere mortals – or anybody, really – the Solarbeat warrants a closer look.

This watch admittedly remains somewhat elusive at retailers, but the persistent at heart are well rewarded. Some may bemoan a lack of mechanical movement, but don’t let quartz snobbery blind you from seeing the light (sorry I had to). This Tank features a charmingly simple approach to solar power by incorporating its photovoltaic cells into the Roman numerals on the dial. To me, no other watch looks as universally good on any man or woman (or child?), and I’d consider this piece standard issue whether it’s date night or trivia night. Andy Warhol may have famously worn his Tank purely as a design object, never bothering to wind it, but now you can have your cake and eat it too.

Swatch Sistem51 ($155-230, depending on style)

The Swatch Sistem51 is just pure fun. I own it. I love it. It’s hard to believe a decade has passed since Swatch introduced Sistem51, a platform that redefined movement manufacturing efficiency to only 51 components assembled entirely by machines. In true Swatch fashion, yours may be ordered virtually a la carte; from case material to color to dial layouts, there’s truly something for everyone. Under the hood, the Sistem51 boasts a 90-hour power reserve and is regulated by laser at the factory. It should be noted, however, that the escapement lacks a regulator and therefore cannot be adjusted after the fact.

Frequent design updates and limited editions keep the Sistem51 interesting. In fact, even if you bought or replaced one every two years, it would take over half a century to blow through your five grand (and somewhere out there, the greatest Sistem51 collector is born). Its 42mm size is not small, but in rubber (as most are), it sits lightly on the wrist and wears easily. Pick up one or two that match your personality and taste and throw them on any day of the week.

Oak & Oscar Humboldt GMT ($1975 with strap, $2175 with bracelet)

In a world, and on this site, where smaller brands have proven their worth, Oak & Oscar and their Humboldt GMT are noteworthy. I’m continually impressed by this watch’s thoughtful execution with details like the sandwich dial and how the seconds hand perfectly reaches the minute track. Consumer-friendly design choices like pierced lugs and bracelet micro-adjustments are also nice to have. Evidently, Oak & Oscar had folks like us in mind when they made this. At 40mm wide, 12.5mm thick, and just under 47mm long, this is my pick for a grab-and-go adventure watch.

When I stopped by Oak & Oscar’s table during WindUp Watch Fair last year, I could sense their pride for the product and the community they’ve organically grown around the watches. Owning one feels like you’re part of a club, and they are keen to engage with enthusiasts in a way larger brands often can’t or won’t.

As we know all too well, there are myriad ways to build your “Three Under $5,000”. And whether your budget is $5,000 or $50,000, the lasting value of a watch is the meaning we give to it through our experiences and memories. These watches bring style, fun, and storytelling, all while connecting us to a wider community of like minded people. That, for me, makes collecting watches worthwhile.

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