If You Could Only Have Three Watches, Which Ones Would You Pick?

What would you retain in your collection if you could only keep three timepieces?

3 watch collection
Hunter D. Kelley

From Issue Seven of Gear Patrol Magazine.

“What are three watches you’d like to add to your collection?” It’s an easy question, one that allows you to use your imagination, indulge in your obsession and explore various whims you may have. Most watch enthusiasts would jump at the opportunity to answer this question, even if the answer were entirely hypothetical. But what if things went the other way: “If you could only keep three of the watches you already own, what would they be?”

This particular question forces you to reconsider what you truly “need” as a watch enthusiast — it requires you to take stock, not just of the timepieces you have, but the stories behind them and what makes them truly important.

Ben Clymer – Founder and CEO, Hodinkee


“In thinking about it, it’s probably not the most well-rounded watch collection, but they’re three things that really speak to me, and I think that’s what watch collecting should be about. It doesn’t have to be like, ‘You need a GMT for traveling, a chronograph for the track, et cetera.’ So much about watches is just the sentiment.”

Omega Speedmaster Mark 40

“My grandfather was from a working-class Jewish family from Brooklyn — grew up with nothing. He was an entrepreneur and started his own company — living what I perceived to be the American Dream. He knew I was into some of the same things he was — cars, watches, cameras — and every time I came to visit him he’d let me wear his Omega. One day he said, ‘You know what, just keep it.’ There wasn’t any great fanfare or moment around it. It was just that he wanted me to have it, out of the blue. And that was the watch that really got me hooked and the watch that was really the inspiration for Hodinkee. It is without exaggeration that I say that Hodinkee and the career that I have would not exist were it not for that moment.”

Philippe DuFour Simplicity

“The Dufour was something that I had heard about for years but had never really seen, but as I got more familiar with high-end watchmaking I became friendly with Philippe Dufour — we shot a video at his Atelier in 2013 — and I kind of fell in love with him and his mantra. I said ‘Hey, if you ever find one of these coming up for sale, let me know — I’d love to have one.’ Then a mutual friend of ours who, at the time worked for Vacheron, was selling his. It was the perfect example that had the lacquer dial, the Breguet hands and it was 37 mm in rose gold. What’s funny is I was in Switzerland giving a presentation to the CEOs of all the Richemont brands, and I picked it up that day. They asked me what I was wearing, and maybe about half the group knew what it was, but most didn’t, and I think that’s the charm.”

Rolex Daytona (Reference 6239)

“The antithesis of the Philippe Dufour is the first-year Daytona, reference 6239, which is really a very simple watch, with a pre-Oyster case that’s not very thick. That watch, to me, if I were going to have one watch, my grandfather’s aside – it would be this one. Because the 6239 is very thin, you can put it on an alligator strap or a leather strap and it looks wonderful. You can put it on the Oyster bracelet, take it to a track and time laps with it. I’m a car guy, a chronograph guy, and the Daytona is the epitome of that. This one is the most charming, I think, because it’s the first generation, so it’s kind of the archetype of the Daytona. And mine is just a really nice example that I bought from a friend and it’s just a great watch all-around.”

James Lamdin – Founder, Analog/Shift


“If I’m going to only be picking three watches, I better love a) their functionality b) their story and c) wearing them. I have a love for all things horological, but when it comes to actually wearing the watches, you’re bringing your collection to a point of functionality and usability. So many of the complications and chronographs and moon phases and other sorts of fascinating horological tidbits are wonderful to collect and learn about, but ultimately, I have no use for them in my real life.”

Rolex GMT-Master (Reference 1675/8)

“I might be the only vintage watch dealer who doesn’t eat, live and breathe Rolex. As brilliant as Rolex is as a brand, it’s not the be-all end-all of vintage watch collecting. That said, I think that the 1675 GMT Master might be the finest wristwatch ever made. This solid gold GMT came to me when I purchased it for myself when I turned 30. I sort of joked that I would buy a solid gold one not really believing I was going to do it…and then I did it. I bought a bracelet to go with it, a president bracelet that’s a rare factory option that’s hard to find, and my God, if it isn’t the most comfortable watch to wear. It’s the watch I wear absolutely the most. After buying my gold one, I caved in and bought a couple steel ones and a two-tone one just because I love them so much. As for picking the gold one to keep, it’s simply because it was my first heavy-duty Rolex to commemorate the first few years of running Analog/Shift and celebrating my 30th year on this planet with something that’s sort of ridiculous but awesome.”

Doxa SUB 300T “Black Lung”

“Doxa was really my point of entry into this hobby. I inherited my fascination with vintage things from my grandfather, and wristwatches sort of became a talisman to me. In my exploration of history and of his generation through his possessions I quickly developed a fascination with mechanical wristwatches, and the first watch I wanted to buy for myself was a Doxa Sub, which I read about on the pages of Clive Cussler novels when I was a kid. The Black Lung was not my first Doxa, but it is sort of the ultimate representation in terms of rarity and story of what is probably the best of the first generation of SUB 300s. It came to me through the original owner of the watch, who happened to be an underwater cinematographer when they were working on Thunderball, amongst other things. He found me when he discovered it cleaning out his desk drawer and reached out to me. He wanted an appraisal and eventually sold me the watch. While I’ve owned a lot of Doxas, this one holds a very special place in my heart.”

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo (Reference 5402/A)

“I remember the first time I put on a Jumbo and just said to myself “Shit, I’m going to get a lot deeper into this than I thought I would.” Wearing a Jumbo for the first time was a revelation, in that I cannot believe that they can fit so much into such a tight, sharply-designed, thin piece with a bracelet that’s built like a suit of armor. So I wanted one for a very long time. This watch came to me through a trade, but it was a ridiculous trade that was really meant as a gift to me from a friend who bought it for me knowing that I desperately wanted one, and considered it a trade. And I cherish my relationship with that individual — he’s become a client and a dear friend, and it’s part of my upscale wardrobe that I will never part with. And I think it’s just representative of the friendships I’ve been able to cultivate in this silly hobby.”

Adam Craniotes – Founder and President, RedBar Group


“As someone who has children, this is like picking children to sell to medical science. There are a lot of people who buy a watch with a view towards ‘How will this get me my next watch.’ Me, I kind of play the game to lose. But I think between (these three) I have all my bases covered — they tell stories. To me it still boils down to that there are stories to tell, and when you look at the watch to tell the time, all those stories kind of factor into that glance, and that’s where that little secret smile comes in.”

Rolex Submariner (Reference 16800)

“This was my first good watch, and I got it in college in 1992. Everybody at any point in their life when they start collecting are like, ‘Rolex, Rolex, Rolex! They’re the best watches in the world! And if I buy one I will have made it.’ As you move on in your collecting you realize it isn’t the be-all, end-all. But at one point everyone is in that phase, and I knew at that point a Rolex Submariner would be my first watch. I finally had my money together, through working in college and, frankly, the death of my godfather who left me some money and said I should do something stupid with some of it. But back in 1992, you could not buy a Rolex Submariner in New York City to save your life. So everywhere I went no one had one, and where they did have one, it was a used one. This one was about $1,800, which to me was an obscene amount of cash. But I didn’t care — I had my Rolex Submariner. I remember walking home feeling like a million bucks. Or at least eighteen-hundred bucks.”

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo (Reference 15202)

“The Royal Oak is classic, you can’t deny it. It created an entirely new genre of watch, the luxury sports watch, which didn’t really exist before this. It was ten times more than an equivalent Submariner at the time it was released. I don’t think anyone knew what to do with it. It wasn’t a runaway success, but when it finally took, it was an Icon. The particular watch I have was purchased from a friend of mine, a fellow RedBar member. He’s one of these people that if he doesn’t own it, it’s because he doesn’t want it. He had the watch that I have now, called an “E Series” which dates to around 2005. He had just located a pristine “A-Series” (from the ’70s) and he realized once he had it, he wouldn’t wear this one. He asked if I knew anyone who was interested and I said, ‘Yes — me,’ but I didn’t have any money. The price that he quoted me was so low, it was the price of a madman. The price of somebody to whom money has long since lost any meaning, because he was like ‘Fuck it, I don’t need it, and I want someone to enjoy it and I can give it to you, but that’s weird, so how about this?'”

Jaeger-LeCoultre Tribute to Reverso 1931 (U.S. Edition)

“This was a watch that even before I knew about watches, I knew what it was. I knew what a Reverso was — I knew that it flipped over, and I had seen them. Throughout my entire life, even in grade school, I kind of had a thing for this watch even before I could put a true name to it. So over the years when I did get into the hobby more and started learning more, I really wanted to get a Reverso. But it was always this Goldilocks thing and I never really found one that I thought was mine. And then when they released the Tribute to Reverso in 2011, this was basically a modernized version of that first one. It had the right proportions, manual-wind, time-only and I like that it had lume. I thought, ‘Here we go.’ Then they threw a wrench: the brainchild of this project pushed through another project, the U.S. Edition. They were gonna make 100 pieces, use the same case, but they got the exact font from the original Reverso, and added syringe hands. So you have this watch with all these vintage dog whistles, yet it glows like a motherfucker, which I love, and that was it. I was able to contact them directly and I wound up getting the first one.”

Read More in Gear Patrol Magazine

A version of this story appears in Gear Patrol Magazine: Issue Seven. Subscribe Now: $39

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