Three Watch Collection Under $5,000: Chris Wright

To me, a three-watch collection is about versatility. If I’m spending five thousand bucks on timepieces, I need to have all my bases covered: they’ve each got to be watches that look and feel good with a tux and with a tee, in the woods or at the bar. Of course, I’m not going to buy three watches that do exactly the same thing, either. I wear a watch as an adventuring tool, and to look and feel good every day, and to dress up nice when I have to. Covering these bases also helps me pick three watches that are distinct enough from each other to not want to head over to /r/watchexchange every few months. 

The other fun test I like to run in my head for a watch I’m thinking of buying goes something like this: Fifty years from now, if my kid or grandkid were to find one of these watches in my desk drawer, would they make me look cool? I think each of these three will make them think Grandpa was a real cool cat, regardless of the truth.

Seiko SNJ025 “Solar Arnie”

This is my ideal watch for roughing it. For fly fishing and camping, it’s great to have a watch you can roll out of a sleeping bag with and never think twice about breaking it. An analog-digital diver that’s a direct homage to the Seiko H558-5009 Arnold Schwarzenneger wore in Predator (Roger Moore wore one as Bond, too, btw) does just the trick. It’s got more water resistance than I’ll ever need, its solar quartz movement will keep on ticking indefinitely if it gets sun, the tiny digital screen at the top of the dial has a backlight, and it’s got a few useful functions like a chronograph, second time zone, and alarm.

Plus, I hardly ever wear anything over 40mm, so going whole hog on the 47.8mm hulk of a case, replete with a tktk shroud, is enough outside of my comfort zone to be fun. I’ve been assured it wears nicely, and let’s be honest, it’s just ridiculous enough to make anyone who sees it on my wrist do a double-take. Fun and extremely useful — what’s not to love?

Halios Fairwind

I’ve long felt that Jason Lim over at Halios has figured out the indie model for the perfect dive watch. He’s been at it for over a decade, and deserves the respect he gets as an OG of the independent watch scene. The Fairwind is gorgeous, especially with a blue dial, orange-tipped seconds hand, and sapphire 12-hour blue bezel variant. Less than $800 gets you an Sellita SW200-1 movement inside a 39mm case that’s 12.5mm thick (but 2.5mm of that are the double-domed crystal). To me, that’s the perfect skin diver homage, not too big and not too small, with all the little touches that pop when you stare at it for a long time. Which I would do if I could get my hands on one.

NOMOS Metro Date Power Reserve

When I got my first job as a lowly editorial assistant working long hours in NYC, this quickly became my grail watch. NOMOS is a great watchmaker, with in-house designs and movements but without the massive price points of the stuffy old Swiss houses. Plus, the mint-green and red power reserve indicator was unlike anything I’d ever seen, the Mark Braun design felt utterly crisp, and the syringe hands looked so sharp they’d prick your finger. Today, it still strikes me as the watch a successful artist might wear: formal enough to be worn under a tux, but oddball enough to signal a wearer that probably is off in the bathroom smoking pot before the reception. That’s just where I wanna be.

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Chris Wright is a freelance writer, reporter, and editor based in Los Angeles. He writes about watches, science, the environment, fly fishing, culture, and anything else that interests him. He currently wears Seikos and a vintage Zodiac Sea Wolf with a baby-blue bakelite bezel.