Three Watch Collection Under $5,000: Blake Malin’s Picks

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Choosing a three-watch collection for $5,000 or under was a curious process. On the one hand, the prospect of having $5,000 to blow on watches in one fell swoop is pretty appealing for obvious reasons. But then, once I really started thinking about assembling the perfect three watch collection that checks all the boxes, I realized just how hard, and frankly impossible that would be. There are so many questions to answer – what are your priorities? Where do you spend the majority of your money, or do you just split the cash equally? Is it lame to pick watches from the same brand (hello Seiko)?

The conclusion that I’ve come to is that no three-watch collection can be perfect (for me at least). For example, my collection doesn’t include a chronograph. How the hell is that possible? All of my watches are German. Did I do that on purpose? Nope. Do I wish I had a great Japanese, Swiss, or American-made watch in there? Sure do. Also, there’s no diver. What?! Who am I?

For me, it comes down to finding three great watches that apply to the most common situations in my life and that fit my style. That’s going to be unique for everyone, and I guess that’s what makes this exercise so great. As a quick reminder, the rules of our Three for $5,000 series are pretty simple – pick any three watches based on MSRP or average market rate (for out of production or vintage watches). Don’t forget to check our previous installments as well to see what the likes of Zach Weiss, Zach Kazan, and our other contributors have put together. Now, on to my picks.


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Stowa Flieger Verus Grau LE – $780

For me, the first big use case I needed to address is my daily life. I need a watch I can wear in most scenarios, whether I’m in a meeting or putting up shelves at home. It needs to be fairly rugged and durable, while also versatile enough so as to pair nicely with OCBD and jeans, t-shirt and shorts, and (mostly) everything in between. 

I also wanted to make sure my daily is easy to read at a glance, has a date window, and has good lume. I’m the kind of person who frequently checks their watch for the time throughout the day – not just to admire my watch, but to actually check the time. I’m also constantly checking for the date. For whatever reason, I’ve grown accustomed to checking for the date on my watch, rather than my computer or phone. A date is a must. 

So, given these criteria, I settled on the Stowa Flieger Verus Grau LE as my daily driver. Ever since I first seriously got into watches, I’ve been a huge fan of classic pilot’s watches over pretty much every other genre. I’ve owned several over the years, including a Steinhart Nav B-Uhr, Archimede Pilot 42 Bronze (still miss that one), and Stowa Flieger Classic Chrono. I just love the no-frills aesthetic of a classic pilot design, and I find that they’re pretty versatile for daily wear. They look good on a leather strap or a nylon mil-strap. You can dress them up a bit, and they certainly look great dressed down. I also think a classic pilot’s watch takes to wear and tear really well, looking just as good with a few case scratches as it does fresh out of the box. 

The Stowa Flieger Verus Grau LE is an obvious choice for me as well. It’s currently the only classic pilots watch I have in my collection and I find that it’s the perfect blend of a familiar aesthetic with something unique via the grey (or Grau) dial. Needless to say, while this is the pilot’s watch I chose for this exercise, there are a lot of other well-made options out there, including models from Stowa, Archimede, Laco, IWC, and more. 

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Nomos Orion Midnight Blue 38mm – $2,260 

The second scenario I wanted to plan for in my collection is when I need to dress up a bit, but not too much. Despite working in a “luxury” industry, it’s not often that I need to look too fancy. It’s more often a matter of just looking a bit smarter or more formal than usual. So, a proper dress watch is not an absolute necessity. For those times when I do need to step things up a bit, I want something that has both a refined, elegant design, but also a unique style that helps the watch stand out a bit. So, with all that said, my choice for a dress(ier) watch is the Nomos Orion Midnight Blue 38mm

The color Nomos has added to their Orion line in the past couple of years is just amazing. I previously owned an Orion 38 Date, but seeing their newer colorful models in blue, green, pink, and champagne, has me itching to get one again. The Midnight Blue version I’ve picked features a fully polished stainless steel case with gold applied batons that pop on the deep blue of the dial. I think you can say this about a lot of Nomos’, but the Orion Midnight Blue 38mm is a watch with just the right amount of personality. 

Within the genre of smart, dressy watches, the Orion Midnight Blue is also pretty versatile. Paired with the black shell cordovan strap it comes with, the Orion takes on a subdued, mature look. But there are a lot of other less formal strap pairings to go for. The Orion Midnight Blue would also look great on a nice medium brown shell cordovan, or even a suede strap, both of which would make the watch feel a bit less formal. I think the Orion Midnight Blue would also look absolutely killer on a tapered Milanaise bracelet. 

I could go on about the Orion. It’s got a great in-house movement, it has shades of the Bauhaus design language (a personal favorite), and it’s super-wearable at just 7.9mm thick. I think it’s a great pick for a versatile dress(ish) watch.  

Sinn 856 UTC – $1,940

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The last piece in my three-watch collection addresses my need for a trusty travel watch. In the last few years I’ve traveled quite a bit for both work and recreation. I sometimes spend a week or more away from home for work, so setting some regular schedule of checking in with my significant other is important. Meanwhile, much of my recreational travel incorporates some combination of hiking and camping, so having something durable is important. I also always like to make sure my travel watches, regardless of the destination, can withstand the trials of being thrown in and out of airport security bins along with my keys, headphones, and other EDC. So, with that all said, the Sinn 856 UTC is a perfect travel companion. 

First and foremost, the 856 UTC has a very legible, easy-to-set second time zone. I actually once owned this watch about 2-3 years ago, and it’s one of the few watches I’ve sold that I regret letting go. I’m a big fan of the aggressive styling of Sinn’s modern pilot’s watches, and I think the UTC is a fine example of one of my favorite brands. 

But the UTC performs above and beyond it’s second timezone. It’s packed with Sinn’s proprietary technology. First, the case uses TEGIMENT Technology, which produces a significantly harder metal surface than you will find with untreated metal. And this is not a coating that can come off over time. As a result, the 856 is highly scratch-resistant and is likely to look as good after a few years of wear as it did the day you purchased it. 

Second, the 856 UTC features Sinn’s Magnetic Field Protection, which protects the movement from up to 80,000 A/m of exposure. While I’m not in the habit of traveling through robust magnetic fields, it’s nice to know I’m covered. Most importantly, all Sinn watches with this technology feature a special badge on the dial (gloss black in the case of the 856 UTC) which is pretty sweet. 

Lastly, the 856 UTC features one of Sinn’s coolest proprietary technologies, Ar-Dehumidifying. Ar-Dehumidifying Technology is actually a combination of three components, all of which come together  to protect the 856’s movement from deterioration over time as a result of exposure to moisture. Sinn does a great job of explaining on their website. Here’s an excerpt:

Ar-Dehumidifying Technology solves a basic problem of mechanical watches: the aging of oils due to moisture in the air contained inside, or diffusing into, the watch. The movement is mounted in a nearly anhydrous atmosphere thanks to the three Ar-Dehumidifying Technology elements of drying capsule, EDR seals and protective gas filling. Aging processes and fogging of the crystal from sudden cold are prevented, and reliable functioning and accuracy are ensured.

One of the things I like so much about the 856 UTC is that, despite how overkill all of its technology is, it doesn’t look overkill. Don’t get me wrong, it looks like a modern tool watch, but it doesn’t sacrifice aesthetics or wearability to pack so much technology. 

So that’s it for my three watch collection for under $5,000. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I’m a bit surprised by what’s not included. I’ll certainly miss having a chronograph, and I’m still a bit shocked that a diver didn’t make the list. But I think this collection should have me covered for most of what I encounter on a day to day basis. What do you think? How badly did I screw this up? I look forward to reading your takedowns in the comments. 

Blake is a co-founder of Worn & Wound. He spends most of his time focused on day-to-day operations and producing the Windup Watch Fair. You'll most often find him wearing one of Worn & Wound's Limited Edition watches.
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