This almost feels like getting a second chance because it was only a little over two years ago that I got my first serious mechanical watch. I started out with the Oris Art Blakey, a not-so-common dress watch as my first pick. At that time, I wasn’t actually thinking of starting a collection. I’m not sure if anyone starts off like that, to be honest. So today’s exercise is a purely hypothetical one, but it’s still a fun one to put together! And while my fellow editors have thus far given themselves a €10K budget, going forward, some of us will try to cut that in half. Can we come up with great starter collections for around €5,000? Let me be the first to give it a shot.
When I got my Oris Art Blakey, I wasn’t really aware of all the different types of watches out there. The Art Blakey’s design and the story behind it simply spoke to me. But of course, it’s not a very good all-around watch, especially when you look at its 30m water resistance. So that’s when I started reading about other types of watches. I think that was also the moment that I began thinking about how to build up a collection. And it was straight down the rabbit hole from then on!
An all-around trio
Ever since then — well, “ever” since two years ago — I’ve been trying to put together a good, all-around watch collection with different types of watches for different kinds of occasions. That’s also what I’ve tried to do with my three picks for around €5,000. I also decided that I didn’t want to pick anything from my current collection or any of the ones that I’ve previously owned. It’s more fun to think about new options out there. But the watches below have certainly been on my radar before. Heck, taking another good look at them has even made them move up on my wish list again! Oh, this hobby is the worst!
The Longines Silver Arrow
Just as I started out with a more dressy piece for my own collection, I’ll do the same thing here. My first pick for a ~€5,000 starter watch collection would be the Longines Silver Arrow for €2,080. The watch was first introduced in 1956 and its name originated from the nickname of the Mercedes-Benz Formula One racing cars of that era — Silver Arrows. And no, this doesn’t really explain why there is a supersonic plane on the back. I guess it too refers to the speed, technological advancement, and elegance the Silver Arrow name stood for. But we’re not here for the name. We’re here for that beautiful watch!
I’ve never actually tried it on but based on its measurements, this promises to be a very comfortable watch on the wrist. The all-polished case measures 38.5mm wide and is just under 10mm thick. For the most part, its design is based on the 1956 model. I’m so happy the beautiful hour markers are still there. They look like they have little teeth on them. I like them a lot and feel they give the watch a more rugged look. And even though this is definitely a dressier piece, I think on a NATO, the Silver Arrow would quickly turn into more of a field watch.
The dauphine hands with the thin strip of lume were also used on the original Silver Arrow. So was the metal ring between the hour and minute markers, which, in combination with the domed sapphire, adds great depth to the dial. Longines also launched a Silver Arrow in 2009, but that one had a date and didn’t have those beautiful hour markers. I really feel this 2021 version is so much better looking. And I didn’t even mention its L888 automatic movement with a 72-hour power reserve! Two slight drawbacks for me are the faux-patina markers and the 19mm lug width. But the one thing that really annoys me is the 30m water resistance. That’s why along with the Silver Arrow, you’ll really need another do-it-all piece.
The Seiko SPB151J1 (Willard re-edition)
That’s where the Seiko SPB151J1 (or SBDC109 in Japan) comes in. Many Willard re-editions have been launched in recent years, but I think this SPB151J1 hits the sweet spot. There’s a good movement inside (the 6R35 caliber) with 70 hours of power reserve. Its dimensions are still quite wearable at 42.5mm wide, 13.2mm thick, and 46.6mm lug-to-lug. And to top it all off, its price doesn’t really scare anyone away at €1,350. Sure it’s still a lot of money, but I wouldn’t feel too bad using this one as a beater watch.
There are a few other color options available, like a green one (SPB153) and a gray dial (SPB237), and there might even be more. But I think this matte black dial with white hour markers is the best-looking one of all. If you can, try to find one without the lumed marker at 3 o’clock. Without any lume there, it just looks off. As far as I know, it comes on the same bracelet the SPB143J1 came on. I don’t own that watch anymore, but I do still remember I didn’t like that bracelet. It was too heavy and too bulky for my taste. But the Willard will look great on almost any strap you throw at it, I’m very sure of that!
The SPB151J1 might not be a go anywhere, do anything (GADA) piece because it might not be dressy enough for some occasions. But when I think of where I usually go, I’m sure I can use this as my grab-and-go piece. It’s also a very original and kind of quirky Seiko design with its cushion case and those crown guards at 4 o’clock. To me, this makes it stand out from the rest of the dive watches out there. Oh, and this one has the same bezel-action as the SPB143J1 that I owned. It not only felt quite smooth and sturdy but also almost sounded like you were opening a bank vault, so good! So, what else do you need next to the Longines and the Seiko? Well, a little bit of color and maybe some kind of complication besides the time and date might be nice, right?
The (Green) Hamilton American Classic Intra-Matic Auto Chrono
Well, what about an olive-green inverted panda-dial Intra-Matic Auto Chrono from Hamilton for €2,195? Before I took the plunge on an Omega Speedmaster, this one was definitely very high on my list. It screams “racing” and almost looks like an actual stopwatch strapped to your wrist. That’s also why its measurements might be on the bigger side for my 17cm wrist. It comes in at 40mm wide, which is fine. But with a thickness of over 14mm and a lug-to-lug exceeding 49mm, it’ll probably wear a lot larger than that. It still looks so good, though!
And of course, the added thickness is there because this is an automatic chronograph. That could be seen as a nice bonus for the beginning watch collector. Just like the 60-hour power-reserve of the H-31 movement, and the 100m water resistance. I’m also a fan of that large date window at 6 o’clock. A date almost never works on a chronograph, but here, it blends in very nicely. And, just like the Seiko, this one will also be able to take on a lot of different straps. And if green is not your thing, there are many different iterations of the Intra-Matic, but just like Rob, this one is definitely my favorite.
So, what do you think of this starter collection? A dressy field watch from Longines, a classic diver from Seiko, and a beautiful olive-green panda chronograph from Hamilton. I know they’re all big brands, but when you’re starting out as a watch collector, I’ve noticed you might want to sell a piece at some point. You never know how your taste will evolve over time, and if you’d like to sell one of your watches, it’s definitely easier to do so with watches from the bigger brands.
Oh, and I know I went a little over budget, but I’m sure you’ll be able to get at least a little bit of discount on these models, right?
Let me know in the comments what you think of my selections and if you’d replace any one of them with another watch.