Feature: The Thinker’s PERFECT 5 Watch Collection
The easy path to a great, no-holds-barred collection is to fill it full of Rolex and Patek Philippe, which is fine—but I’ll wager you’re here because you’re looking for inspiration of a different sort. For the next ten minutes or so, we’ll be exclusively occupying the left field, the place people come to make choices in the alternative—to assemble the thinker’s perfect five watch collection.
Every collection needs a watch that can be worn without a care, that can take a few licks and come back keen for more. The term “beater” strikes me as perhaps a little outdated these days, so I’m calling it “The Adventurer”. Sure, you can be the guy who wears his Submariner every day to everything—but there’s no getting away from the fact that these days you’d be wearing a $10,000 watch to do the gardening in. Things have changed and the Submariner is unfortunately one of them.
Thinking about it, what do real adventurers wear? People in the armed forces, perhaps, or people who scale mountains? Why, Casio of course! They’ll survive the most extreme conditions, be they a warzone or the arctic tundra, and even—in the case of the NASA-approved DW-5600e—the vacuum of space. Yes, Casio is one of the few watchmakers out there to officially make a space watch.
How does that align with what our thinker wants from a watch? Well, they want credibility, provenance, usability and—perhaps most importantly—value, and I can think of precious few watches more capable of filling the role of adventurer whilst still ticking so many of those boxes—some of them several times over. There are many to choose from to match your style or particular antics, and being priced so keenly—this “Casioak” can be had for as little as $150—it leaves you free to pick with your heart and have a bit of fun. Remember when watches used to be fun?
The Luxury Professional
Traditionally, you could say a complete watch collection would entail a dive watch or a pilot’s watch, or some other kind of professional timepiece. These days, those watches aren’t so much professional watches as they are luxury. You’re not going to find to many GA pilots referring to their Breitling to calculate rate of descent anymore. That’s why I’d call this next category, instead, the luxury professional, an evolution away from the pure tool and into something built to do—well, I’m not really sure.
Take the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. It doesn’t really do anything except tell the time, yet it clearly sits on the shoulders of the great, steel professional watches of the 1960s. It’s a category that’s become hugely popular, and being one not to feel like I’m missing out, I think a slice of that action would be wholly welcome in this quintuplet. I also think said watch shouldn’t cost as much as a house, so with our thinker’s hat on, I’ve strayed so far left field I’m almost in the bleachers.
In the same vein as the Royal Oak, I couldn’t tell you why this H. Moser Pioneer Centre Seconds is a luxury professional watch or indeed what that even means—but I can feel it. Literally and figuratively, because holding and wearing one of these is an utterly premium experience. The sculpted lugs of the 42mm case, smoky dial and—of course—the luscious calibre HMC 200, sealed to 120m, give this Moser the effortless high-end vibe that a good luxury professional watch should have.
Of all the professional watches that exploded into the fifties and sixties, there are two that are still massively relevant today. The first is the traveller’s watch, be it world time or GMT—although if you don’t ever travel into a different time zone then that’s probably irrelevant to you. What’s relevant to everyone, however, is the chronograph. There isn’t a person on the planet who doesn’t have need to time something, be it the clichéd egg boil or waiting for hardener to cure—everyone can make use of a chronograph.
There’s two key advantages to the chronograph watch. One, obviously, is to time things. Great especially for parents who want to challenge their children to beat their previous best bedroom-tidying record. The other is that, for whatever deep-rooted psychological reason, the addition of those extra sub-dials just makes a watch really pop. Whether you use them every day or they never perform a single rotation, the sub-dial can perform its subsidiary task of looking brilliant without breaking a sweat.
Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in Jaeger-LeCoultre’s $14,500, 40mm Master Chronographer Calendar. I could tell you all about the calibre 759 that drives the column wheel chronograph, or that it also adds a calendar display, or even how Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of the greatest watchmakers on the planet—but I don’t have to. One look at this absolute beauty and you’re guaranteed to be thinking of things you need to time with it just so you can have one.
Bringing it back down to Earth again, there’s a need for this collection to contain a watch that can be worn daily without fear of having your arm forcibly removed or damaging a priceless relic—but not at the cost of pleasure. We don’t quite have to go to the extremes of the Casio for this, unless you happen to work on an oil rig. For the average office-dweller, there’s a choice we can make that won’t miss out on pure watchmaking goodness that also won’t make us look like a flash git in front of everyone else in the office.
Welcome to the D. Dornblüth & Sohn Calibre 99.1 Medium. Chances are you’ve never heard of it, and that’s a good thing, because the dodgy-looking guy on the scooter following you from the train station at 7:30 in the morning won’t have either. That’s because the father-son team that make them out of a small workshop in Saxony barely make any, and they spend the time they have making them and not talking about them.
It’s a simple-looking thing. There’s nothing fancy going on with it—that is, until you start looking at the details within the 40mm case. The dial is silver, with the numerals engraved and then filled as you’d see on a Vacheron Constantin pocket watch. The hands are heat-blued and capped on the end to keep them tidy. And the movement—it was once an ETA 6498, a cheap, off-the-shelf calibre, but here it’s been completely reimagined in a thoroughly traditional, handcrafted way. Priced at around $5,000, it’s a daily any thinker can wear with secret pride.
Every collection needs a watch brimmed with complication, but the question is which one? A perpetual calendar? Minute repeater? Tourbillon? All of the above? Those are all very lovely of course, but perhaps a bit obvious. The thinker wants a complication that took some thinking about. At least, some thinking more recently than the last century or so. The traditional complications are great and all, but they figured those out already. What about something they only figured out recently?
That’s where the limited edition, $150,000 A. Lange & Söhne Triple Split comes in. It’s a chronograph, which in itself is not that impressive—but wait until you see what A. Lange & Söhne has done with it. You might be familiar with the split seconds chronograph, an addition that allows the seconds hand to “split” into two, pausing the time to be read without preventing the recording from stopping. If you were boiling multiple eggs to different consistencies and wanted to measure those times individually, the split second is your friend.
But what if one egg takes a minute or so longer? The split second only splits the seconds, naturally. Enter the Double Split, a watch A. Lange & Söhne made to not only split the seconds, but the minutes as well. Bear in mind that for every split, another layer of subsidiary chronograph mechanism has to be added, so when the Triple Split was announced, further splitting not just the seconds and minutes, but hours as well—well, everyone’s heads fell off. Now that’s a complication.
That’s our five-piece selection of thinker’s watches, something a little different and perhaps a little smarter than the usual fare. Which watches would you pick in your thinker’s collection?
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