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

It’s been a while since the last installment of our popular Three-Watch Collection Under $5,000 series. We’ve already seen picks from Ilya, Mark, Hung, Sean, Christoph, Brad, ZQ and Zach. Today, Jon Gaffney—Worn & Wound’s resident adventurer—breaks down his three choices.

A quick refresher on the parameters before we get started. We chose $5,000 as the cap for the simple reason that $5,000 is generally regarded as a point of entry into luxury. So rather than drop all that coin on a single watch, we thought it’d be interesting to see how our team plays around with that number. Furthermore, the choices aren’t limited to specific categories of watches. Our contributors can choose watches they’d like based on their needs and personal preferences. Finally, for the sake of consistency, all watches currently being produced have to be valued at their MSRP. Vintage or recently retired models should be based on the average market rate.

Without further ado, let’s get to it.

I thought about this exercise every time I read one of my colleague’s take on the prompt. What would make the cut for me? Not such an easy question to answer. Over and over again I ran into the same two problems: one, that I’d end up with a very diver-heavy trio, which seemed at odds with the spirit of the prompt (my preference for the durability and functionality of a good dive watch is well-documented), and two, one of the watches I wanted to include would blow the majority of the budgeted $5,000 and leave me with one great watch and two middling picks. Not optimal.

After talking at length about my current collection on a recent episode of The Worn & Wound Podcast and deciding to trim a few pieces from my stable, I was finally able to zero in on watch trifecta. Here they are.


Seiko Marine Master 300 ref. SBDX001 – ~$1,700

This is a watch I have considered picking up for years now. With the recent announcement that the Marine Master 300 is being discontinued, I have decided that I want to add one of these to my collection—and it’s a sure pick for my trifecta—before they become unobtanium (or at the very least before the prices start to climb).

The SBDX001 is a modern classic for Seiko, both because it looks damn good and because it is a highly capable diver in its own right. The SBDX001 is the original version of the Marine Master 300—the newer version being the SBDX017. Sadly, the newer version fell victim to Seiko’s “X” Prospex logo, so that one isn’t a viable option in my mind. The SBDX001, however, is a purist’s dream. It’s also a beautiful homage to Seiko’s 60s-era, Hi-Beat 6159 dive watch; the markers, hands, and case styling carry on the tradition of that gilded original.

The SBDX001 would fill the tool dive watch role in my collection.

I would want one that came with full box and papers, the rubber dive strap, and the steel bracelet. These watches were never offered for sale directly in the US, and they go quick when they pop up. That said, they can typically be had for $1,300 – $1,700.

Casio G-Shock GW-5600 – ~$38

As close to the original G-Shock as you can get, the GW-5600 is ugly-beautiful utilitarianism. This is the watch for when a mechanical timepiece just doesn’t make sense—for when you’re wrenching on a car, hitting the gym, doing yard work, etc. It’s also great for travel when anything but a cheap watch has the potential to draw too much attention and be a liability. I’m not much of a digital fan, but this classic G-Shock just can’t be beat at $38 via Amazon. There’s not much else left to be said.

“Trying to narrow down a collection to only three pieces, particularly ones that are easily accessible, is a tall order, for sure. I could write this article ten different ways without blinking an eye.”

Tudor Black Bay (ETA version) – ~$2,600

I debated long and hard between a Pelagos or a Black Bay for this last pick. To me, the Pelagos is the modern diver, whether it is in its original two-line, ETA form or in its more recent four-line, in-house version. It’s an impressive timepiece. That said, it’s a bit larger than I’d like at a true 42 millimeters wide and not as versatile as its Black Bay brother in terms of styling, so I’m going with the Black Bay.

With the in-house, chronometer-grade movement, the Black Bay is a stunning value, particularly when bought used. But the ETA version has its own advantages, too. Ease of service is one; any watchmaker can tackle the 2824 caliber ticking away inside. The other is the height; the ETA version is thinner than the one with the in-house movement, which is worthy of note if you don’t like an overly thick watch.I’d seek out a blue bezel version as a nod to the Marine Nationale Snowflake Subs issued to French military divers, and I would probably match it to an Erika’s Originals MN strap for good effect. In this theoretical three watch collection, the Black Bay would serve as my daily watch and general adventure watch.

If you look at these on the secondhand market, prices seem to be all over the map, but I regularly see these go for around $2,300 on a strap and 2,600 on a bracelet.

Trying to narrow down a collection to only three pieces, particularly ones that are easily accessible, is a tall order, for sure. I could write this article ten different ways without blinking an eye. Vintage pieces would have made it easier to create a well rounded triumvirate, in my opinion, but they’re hard to find, can be hard to service, and not for everyone. I did debate for a long time about including a dress watch, which I think most people would see as an integral part of a collection. Over time, I’ve come to realize that they don’t make sense for me or my lifestyle. I can appreciate a dress watch, but to me a well-worn sport watch on a steel bracelet is an equally valid approach, and with my history slamming against door jambs it’s just a smarter one long term.

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Jon is a native New Englander who enjoys traveling as much as returning home. He has a passion for watches that his significant other kindly tolerates whilst shaking her head in consternation. A tendency to plow through life with little finesse has led him to appreciate and pursue the utility of a good tool watch.