Three-watch Collection Under $5,000: Zach Kazan’s Picks

Share this story:

When I first started to become interested in watches, $5,000 seemed like a certifiably insane amount of money to spend on a timepiece. Honestly, it still seems like a lot of money to burn on something that we literally do not need (at least most of the time), but, as is the case with so many of us, as we learn more about the history and craftsmanship that goes into a great watch, previously ludicrous dollar amounts become more comfortable, and we start to rationalize and defend that which a previous version of ourselves would have dismissed immediately. 

I absolutely believe that $5,000 is more than enough to build a satisfying collection of watches. You could have a good watch for every day of the week and then some, and likely never tire of rotating through a varied collection for $5,000, or even less. Picking just three watches, though, is much harder, and begs one to really identify what it is that they value in a watch. Chronometric precision, hand-craft, great design, historical significance – all of these things cost money, and the list of watches that check these boxes is vanishingly small at the price points we’re looking at for this particular thought experiment. 

So, the rules, as established in previous iterations of this column: there’s no limiting to watch categories here – if I want to choose three divers with the same specs, that’s totally kosher; all watches selected are valued at their MSRP (no benefitting from that solid relationship with the local AD); and finally, any out of production or vintage watch should be valued based on an average market rate. 

Advertisement

Grand Seiko SBGN003 – $3,200

Grand Seiko’s quartz GMT can be had with a black or blue dial.

Anyone who has heard me on the Worn & Wound podcast or seen my Instagram knows all about my love for this watch. The Grand Seiko SBGN003 is a sports watch with the refinement and flair you expect from Grand Seiko, but the real draw of the SBGN003 is the quartz movement. Yes, I’m blowing $3,200 of my $5,000 budget on a quartz watch. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have expected I’d make this choice either, but Grand Seiko’s 9F movements offer a level of quality that you just can’t get from comparably priced mechanical calibers. Think of it this way: for $3,200, you can have one of the best quartz calibers being made anywhere in the world right now, by any measure. How much would you have to spend to own what could reasonably be described as the “best” mechanical movement? The answer is “a whole lot more.”

Grand Seiko’s quartz offerings, to put it simply, offer chronometry that is almost impossible to beat. A standard 9F movement can keep time to within 10 seconds per year, and some limited and special editions are regulated to even tighter tolerances. This level of accuracy is achieved through some serious watchmaking and manufacturing prowess. Grand Seiko takes the almost unheard of step of growing their own quartz crystals in-house, testing them for their response at a range of temperatures (the factor that can most easily throw off the accuracy of a quartz watch) and then pairing each crystal with an integrated circuit that’s tuned to the unique properties of that specific quartz crystal. These thermocompensated quartz movements are built to the same high standard as Grand Seiko’s mechanical movements, and are designed to last a lifetime with minimal service beyond a regular battery change. 

All of this would be irrelevant, of course, if the SBGN003 wasn’t simply a great watch to wear. In my opinion, it absolutely is. At just under 40mm in diameter it’s a perfect size for a daily wearer, and while it’s not Grand Seiko’s most dynamic case, it still has plenty of gorgeous Zaratsu polishing to hold your visual interest. The GMT complication (with jumping local hours) is also incredibly useful, and offers a ton of functionality for travelers. 

Look, I love a good mechanical movement as much as anyone, but there’s a ton of value in Grand Seiko’s 9F powered watches, and there’s no way I’m leaving one out of my three watch collection.

Anordain Model 2 (White) – $1,170

One of the things that really excites me about watches is the tradition of old-world craftsmanship that runs through our hobby. At a time when so much watch production is done at a large scale by machine (often very well) it’s tough to find watches and brands that offer something with a handmade, bespoke feel, using centuries old techniques. Anordain, a small brand out of Scotland that a lot of our readers will be familiar with, is doing a great job of using old techniques in new ways, and creating some incredibly striking watches in the process. 

Anordain is known for their enamel dials, and they really have to be seen in person to be truly appreciated. The enameling process is long and takes an immense amount of skill – it involves firing each dial in a kiln multiple times to create just the right finish and sheen on the enamel. There’s little room for error, and imperfect dials get thrown out, starting the process over. There’s a depth to a good enamel dial that’s hard to describe, but it leaves a very different impression than a dial that’s simply painted.

In addition to their standard enamel dials, Anordain offers the Model 2 with a beautiful fumé effect.
Advertisement

The Model 2 is Anordain’s take on a field watch. With a 36mm case and a hand wound Swiss movement, there’s something elemental and simple about the Model 2 on paper, but once you start examining the details, you begin to see just how much thought and care went into the design. The typeface chosen for the numerals, for instance, is a custom job for Anordain. And the hands use a custom, lume painted tip, designed to rest perfectly within the skeletonized syringe style base. But it’s still the dial that steals the show, with a sheen and depth that resembles glass. The Model 2 is available in a variety of bold colors, but my choice would be the classic white, a true showcase for the craftsmanship involved in making each dial the old fashioned way. 

Seiko SRPE03 – $625

I have $630 left, and I need to do laundry. Luckily, that means I have enough left over Seiko’s latest iteration of the Turtle. I’m not a diver, but a rotating bezel is indispensable for a range of day to day tasks, from figuring out how long you’ve been on old with your ISP, to properly cooking a pizza, and, yes, timing load after load of laundry.

Seiko makes a dizzying variety of dive watches in the Prospex line, but I figure to round out this collection I’d go with the latest and greatest Turtle, their popular, comfortable, and functional cushion cased dive watch. At 45mm in diameter, the SRPE03 is a big watch, but it wears well thanks to the forgiving case shape and short lugs. The highly legible dial layout from the previous version of the Turtle remains, but the SRPE03 gets upgrades with a sapphire crystal and a ceramic bezel insert. This packs a ton of value into the SRPE03, which is exactly what you want in the “durable tool watch” slot in your collection. 

The SRPE05, image via Strapcode

And that’s three watches at just under $5,000 that I think would serve me well in almost any situation, and provide a great deal of enjoyment. Of course, looking back at these selections, it’s impossible not to wonder how I’ll live without a proper dress watch, and it occurs to me that an affordable and reliable vintage piece with real character will be something I’ll miss, but such is the nature of this type of experiment in hypothetical watch collecting. 

Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.
Categories:

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

By
It’s been a while since the last installment of our …

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

By
It’s been a while since the last installment of our …