When building anything, one must begin with strong foundation. A watch collection is no different. While anyone, given the choice, would undoubtedly begin and end with only finest examples of haute horological hardware, we can’t all justify blowing junior’s college and post-grad funds on something small and shiny. A conservative budget should not dissuade wide-eyed complication connoisseurs however: there are many excellent mechanical options available for the budding collector. We’ve selected a few rock solid options, both vintage and new, that would proudly produce any one-percenter’s tan line. So get started. Junior will thank you — it’s his heirloom, anyhow.
The Dress Watch
Up Your Black Tie Game
Omega Constellation Pie Pan
The Omega Constellation Pie Pan model is far too beautiful to hide under a French cuff. The convex crystal and beveled Pie Pan dial exude a captivating elegance and sophistication. Constellations crafted in the ‘50s through to the early ‘70s feature some of Omega’s finest (and most robust) in-house movements. Early models, especially those powered by the calibre 551, are of interest due to their meticulous over-engineering, a 50-hour power reserve, and COSC chronometer certification.
Expect to Pay: $800-$1,500
Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso
Known simply as “The Reverso”, Jaeger LeCoultre’s iconic square dress watch has changed very little since its debut in 1931. It hasn’t had to. The Art Deco inspiration behind its aesthetic is timeless, and its party piece, a razor-thin flippable face, is nothing short of ingenious. Some models can be optioned with a second dial on the underside, a clear caseback, or a protective rear (like the original). Explaining its raison d’etre to those who catch you playing with it at the bar should serve to keep conversations going well into your third Manhattan — and if that doesn’t work, tell ’em Don Draper wore one.
Expect to Pay: $4,750-$44,100
The Dive Watch
A Good Excuse for that Bahamas Trip
Seiko Prospex Diver
Considered a sub-brand of Seiko, Prospex offerings are part of a Japanese domestic market (JDM) line specifically designed with the professional in mind. The Prospex Diver, aptly dubbed the “Tuna Can” due to its shrouded case, carries a long tradition of weapons-grade build quality and impeccable accuracy with depth ratings up to 1,000 meters. The finest examples are now available with Seiko’s revolutionary Spring Drive movement.
Expect to Pay: $800-$4,000+
Oris ProDiver Pointer Moon
The Oris ProDiver Pointer Moon is the world’s first mechanical dive watch to include both lunar cycles and tidal ranges to its complication résumé. Crafted in titanium and encompassing a large 49mm case rated to 1,000 meters, the Pointer Moon is impossible to ignore. Because it’s available in both Northern and Southern hemisphere variations, the Oris ProDiver Pointer Moon can be used with confidence by professional divers on either side of the equator.
Expect to Pay: $2,000-$3,600
THE STARTER WATCH FOR A TIGHTER BUDGET
Okay, so you’re not done paying off the ole college loans. You can still have a mechanical watch — one with a day/date complication for counting down the days until you’re square with Uncle Sam. The Seiko 5 comes in a huge variety of builds and styles (divers, Sports, Military, etc.) and it’s immensely affordable. There’s even a modding scene, so you can have an iconic timepiece lookalike at a fraction of the cost. Did we mention how affordable they are? Ramen-eaters, meet your new wrist-based style centerpiece.
– Chris Wright
The Wakmann Watch Co. was established in New York in the early ‘40s as the American importer of Swiss timepieces. Their Wakmann Chronograph is the beautiful result of a special relationship with the Swiss marque, Breitling. In fact, some early examples of the Wakmann were co-branded as Breitling/Wakmann and feature many of the same parts as Breitling timepieces, including the Valjoux handwound movement. Build quality and attention to detail make subsequent Wakmann chronographs an excellent choice for collectors in the know.
Expect to Pay: $800-$3,000
Originally introduced in 1971, the Hamilton Pan-Europ is celebrated as being one of the first automatic chronographs of that era. Immediately eye-catching, the new Pan-Europ features a Panda-style textured two-register dial surrounded by an elevated tachymeter ring as well as a diver’s style bezel. The crown has since relocated to the right-hand side of the 45mm case to accommodate the beautifully displayed calibre H31 movement. Essentially a modified Valjoux 7750 chronograph, the Pan-Europ now offers a 60-hour power reserve. As a handsome homage to a classic timepiece, Hamilton’s piece is the perfect wristwear for the modernist who also appreciates heritage.
Expect to Pay: $1,945
The Pilot Watch’s
You Don’t Need a License to Look the Part
Gallet Flying Officer
The Gallet Flying Officer was the first pilot’s chronograph to allow changes to time zones on the fly. With a quick glance at the outer dial of his wristwear, a pilot in 1937 could reference one of 24 major cities and make the necessary horological adjustments with a spin of the bezel. While Gallet isn’t usually the first name to be bandied about by collectors, they have an extensive history dating back to 1685 and claim to have produced the world’s first wristwatch. If that’s not enough, former President Harry Truman was known to flaunt a Flying Officer from time to time, so you know they’re tough.
Expect to Pay: $1,500-$2,000
Alpina Worldtimer Manufacture
Just like on the Gallet, the names of 24 cities are inscribed on the rotating ring that surrounds the Alpina Worldtimer Manufacture, making any pre-landing time adjustment a simple affair. Powered by an all new 26-jewel in-house calibre AL-718 movement, Alpina’s flagship flyer tackles adjustments of all complications through a single crown. Only 8,888 examples of the Worldtimer will be sold, so kick the tires and light the fires already.
Expect to Pay: $3,450
The Motorsports Timepiece
Pair with Your Ride of Choice
If you’ve seen Rush, you might have noticed the sexy square dialed accessory flaunted by Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl). The Heuer Silverstone embodies the spirit that was Formula 1 throughout the ‘70s with its unique shape and playful colorways, each with a unique finish. Our personal pick would be “Fume”, but either the blue or the red are close seconds. The Silverstone chronograph featured Heuer’s workhorse Calibre 12 movement with its distinctive left-sided crown.
Expect to Pay: $4,800-$8,750+
Tissot PR 516 Heritage
Tissot has a long and storied history of involvement in Motorsports. World Superbike, MotoGP and even NASCAR have all had laps timed by the Jura-based watchmaker, making them an immediate choice for petrol heads looking for wristwear. The Tissot Heritage PR 516 pays tribute to this history in an updated — yet still understated — way. The caseback features a partial display of the automatic ETA 2836-2 movement, blocked slightly by the outline of a classic 3-spoke steering wheel. Driving gloves are a must with this one.
Expect to Pay: $460-$750