Three-Watch Collection Under $5,000: Caleb Liam’s Picks

After a bit of a hiatus, a few weeks ago we re-kicked off our Three-Watch Collection Under $5,000 series with Zach Kazan’s take on the challenge. This week we turn to Worn & Wound’s newest contributor, Caleb Liam, for his three options.

To remind you of the challenge, our writers must choose three watches at or below a combined $5,000 price point they would hypothetically keep as their permanent collection. $5,000 dollars is often seen as the entry-point into the luxury market, so the cap allows our team to get creative in bringing together three value-driven models to develop a well-rounded collection to suit their needs. All the watches chosen are listed at their MSRP or, for vintage and discontinued models, at their typical range in the market.

A bit about me: I’m a simple man with simple tastes.

Being young and living outside of New York City, I work as a writer— which you may have guessed by reading this article— and publicist, often on tight deadlines and paying particular attention to hours spent and words written. In my free time, I’m active, often running, hiking, playing sports, lifting weights, etc. I like to bake bread, I travel a few times a year, I’m an avid reader, and a pretty mediocre guitar player.

Approaching this prompt, I started reflecting a bit on my historic approach to watch collecting, trying to figure out what kind of three-piece collection I would be satisfied with. In my keen observations of my daily habits, it turns out I typically only wear about three watches to begin with even when my collection is much larger, with the models roughly split between three categories: a daily wearer, a legitimate sports watch (e.g. a beater I can actually play sports in), and a more formal piece.  

Going a bit deeper, I realized the sports watch should have a chronograph and would preferably be digital (I’m sure you already know which brand I’m gearing towards), the daily wearer should be able to be bumped into door frames without me needing to worry too much about its well-being, and the more formal piece should be distinct enough to tastefully stand out while wearing a suit as well as subtle enough to upgrade a more casual outfit. Less important, but still relevant, each should have a date display to keep me from looking at my phone every few hours when I forget which day it is.

With this, I present to you my choices.

G-SHOCK GWM5610-1 – $140

For all the time I spend in situations where I’m generally looking to make a positive impression, about five times more time I spend alone at my desk or in a gym working against a clock. For this reason, I need a sturdy multi-function sports watch able to seamlessly transition between the two, providing me with an all-purpose beater to take on each day. The watch should importantly have a chronograph, a quartz movement with long battery life, a digital display, a hardy case construction with significant water resistance, and should be comfortable to wear. With these requirements, a G-SHOCK GWM5610-1 is an obvious choice, showcasing each of these features and more within a familiar square case.

Outside of functionality, the GWM5610-1 uses an iconic G-SHOCK design recalling the original DW-5000C first released in 1983, which strikes at the core of my design preferences in vintage-influenced modern watches. Further, the watch is a supremely value-driven model, being only $140 for what is, in my opinion, one of the greatest sports watches ever invented.

Seiko Prospex SPB079 – $850

My next choice is my daily wearer, for which the Seiko Prospex SPB079 would easily fill this role. For those unfamiliar, the SPB079 was one of the hotter dive releases of 2018, which alongside the SPB077 (which opts for a metal bracelet and black bezel), is a modern take on the historical ref. 6159 professional diver Seiko released in 1968.

Since its release, the relatively new watch has been incredibly popular, most notably for its well-sized 44-mm case (which actually wears slightly smaller on the wrist), incredibly appealing blue bezel and matte black dial combination, and reliable caliber 6R15 movement with a 50-hour power reserve. For me, the SPB079 is a great choice for all these reasons, in addition to its 60-minute bezel which both serves a dual purpose of protecting the watch from inevitable bumps and as another method of tracking hours while I’m busy at work desk diving.

Rolex Datejust 1601 — $3,000 – $4,000

Seeing as my first two watches are collectively less than $1,000, you might be wondering what I would choose with the remaining $4,000 to round out my collection. I knew the watch had to be something vintage and more formal, and with most other watches on my mind somewhat above my remaining budget, I opted for the Rolex Datejust 1601 (images via Analog/Shift).

1601s are available in many different materials and colorways, each with various features depending on the specific model and the year it was produced. Personally, I love the styling of full steel 1601s, and how easily the watch can pivot from a dressier contribution to a more casual sports model depending on the band it’s strapped on and the outfit it’s a part of. And for color, I really love the blue wide boy and linen sigma dial models, but I would also be more than happy with a simpler silver dial option and a variety of straps to place it on.

Prices for 1601s can fluctuate widely depending on condition, demand, and rarity, but you can reasonably expect to pay somewhere between $3,000 – $4,000 for a solid model from a reputable dealer. As with all watch buying, though particularly vintage Rolex collecting, make sure you’re working with a reputable source to best guarantee authenticity.

Am I 100% confident in these choices? No. But I think that between the three models I’ve selected I would have a versatile and interesting collection more than capable of keeping me happy for an extended period of time. And more importantly than this, after having used the better part of the past week and half to consider my choices, I’m confident enough to say I no longer want to think about this topic lest I change my mind again.

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Caleb is a freelance writer based out of New Jersey. Since entering the world of watches, he has spent much of his time exploring the neo-vintage trend covering historically inspired, modern timepieces. Today, Caleb finds his greatest interests in utilitarian designs with outsized value propositions and in the personal stories behind up-and-coming brands.