My watches – eight years later

Wednesday, August 24th 2022
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I buy watches in much the same way as I suggest other people buy tailoring. 

I have a small number, of high quality, which meet a range of needs - formalities, colours, and a little extra to keep things interesting. 

I went through a period of about five years of acquiring those watches, during which I felt a horological fever that I think tailoring fans would identify with - and spent at the absolute limits of affordability. 

But since then I’ve bought very little, satisfying myself with changing straps now and again, adding a functional holiday watch, and today, eight years later, considering swapping one dress watch for one sports watch, to reflect my changing needs. 

Versatility, quality, functionality. I think readers could put together a collection of bespoke jackets or bespoke shoes following similar principles. And I like to think I would too, if they weren’t my primary passion, and writing about them my job. 

I first wrote about my watches back in 2014, and you can see details and some old photos in that article

But to summarise, they comprise:

  • Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, Ref. 250.140.862 in yellow gold, 1997
  • Cartier Tank Francaise Chronograph, Ref. 1830 (known as the Chronoflex) in yellow gold, also 1997
  • Rolex GMT Master, Ref. 1675, in steel, 1966
  • IWC Portuguese Chronograph, Ref. IW371480 in rose gold, 2010 
  • Casio Ref. F-91WC in vibrant blue, 2022

I’ve found this collection to fit every need I have. The GMT is my weekend watch, while the Reverso and Tank have a black and brown strap respectively, and are selected according to which best goes with an outfit. 

The Portuguese (below) I have always loved the design of, and have never found a larger-faced watch like that I like. But it is the outlier, and it is the obvious one to sell in order to perhaps get another steel sports watch, to reflect the fact I’m more casually dressed more often. 

How I feel about the other watches has varied over time, and I find this is interesting as it reflects the power of information in watches as in clothes. 

The Reverso, for example (below), is obviously a ‘classic’ and I appreciate its Art Deco heritage and design. I’ve also liked the very small size (24mm) during years when large watches have been so dominant. It felt unusual and traditional. 

But there was a period when I went off it, and started swapping the strap on the Cartier instead with different outfits. I think the Tank has always had particular design appeal, particularly in little touches like the delicate buckle. 

But then I read an article, I believe on Hodinkee, about the story of the Reverso, reminding myself of all the little details I had known years ago when I bought it. Suddenly I appreciated it all the more, and it became my favourite in the collection. 

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this - we all love storytelling and none of the information was wrong or hyped. But it did demonstrate for me, I think, how we all have a limited amount of ‘value’ we can attach to things, and if we have too many, that value gets divided up. If I had only one watch I would never have forgotten those details; it makes me not want to acquire more. 

There are parallels again with fine clothes like bespoke suits and shoes. Unless it’s your profession, don’t just acquire more and more: buy well, care well, and if your tastes or needs change over time, find a good home for the thing that is being replaced. 

It’s a coincidence that I have five watches, and I have consistently written articles on PS over the years called things like ‘If you only had five suits’ or ‘If you only had five pairs of shoes’. 

These days I can imagine no one will need more than five great sports jackets, or five great pairs of dress shoes. I’ve always found it hard - even before PS was my full-time job - to stick to this kind of discipline about clothing. But I have managed it with watches. 

The parallel continues with how I would acquire a new watch - or rather swap one in and one out. 

I would ask the advice of friends who know about watches. That read Hodinkee and other watch resources with borderline obsession, much like some PS readers read Permanent Style and other clothing publications. 

I would go to them and outline what I wanted: 

  • A steel sports watch that wasn’t what everyone else had (not a Submariner, not a Speedmaster)
  • Whose main appeal was its design, not its historic importance or its complication (I don’t care that my Cartier is quartz)
  • That perhaps wasn’t new, to save a grand or so
  • But wasn’t so old that it would need constant maintenance to be functional
  • That probably wasn’t on a NATO-stype strap (they never really appealed to me)
  • Under £5k or so

I can imagine a guy going to a PS reader and asking his option in a similar way about what new suit to buy for a wedding, or what shoes were worth the money. I think he would be given good advice - and perhaps a couple of links to articles. 

Later in 2014, I also wrote a very basic guide to buying a good watch. It’s at the kind of amateur level that I wanted at the time. 

But its main point was that a watch is worth investing in. I have a friend who earns very good money, and whom I’ve been trying to convince to buy a goods watch like a Tank for years. It will be on your wrist almost every day, I say; you’ll use it more than anything in your life; it will elevate how you look every single one of those days.

I’ve yet to convince him, but I can see I might have more joy with PS readers. Save up: buy one really good watch. Value it, get it insured. You’ll never need more than a very small number. 

Then perhaps take a similar attitude to suits and shoes too. 

(P.S. The watches featured here are very expensive, and I recognise many people will not be able to afford them. Some things to bear in mind are that they were much cheaper when I bought them; I bought them all pre-owned; I did so over a period of years; and I don't think I'll ever buy any more.

Lastly, I think the core principle applies to a range of budgets. Namely, that this can be something you spend to your limit on, but then treasure for decades, wear every day, and get good value out of that way. It should be the kind of expense that means you insure it, and that you want to pass on to your children. It’s how more people used to view jewellery.)

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Ajbjasus

Interesting how without reference to each other we’ve arrived in a similar place :

20 year old dateless sub, although I am jealous of your Pepsi gmt!
Tank Americain on tan alligator strap
Reverso in steel on black alligator
Speed master on chestnut leather strap
My original watch – a small seamaster on steel. My wife now wears this when w3 travel, but I would swap it for something a bit more colourful and nautical, maybe on a coloured strap.

I get a real kick out of the fact that they all do a proper job for me, and each is perfect for wkat it does. I have skied and scuba dived in the sub, been to black tie dinners in the reverso, wear the carrier with tweedy jackets – the speed master is endlessly versatile.

Ajbjasus

PS the chronicled is much nicer on your tan strap than a bracelet.

eddie spinks

Hi Simon
I have a bit of a thing about watches. My collection of seven features a couple of Rolex, Bremonts, Panerai, Omega and a PP, all of which get worn regularly (except the PP, which is only worn with black tie).
Were I to be making a change to your group, I would trade the IWC (by the way, it’s Portugieser, not Portugese) and replace it with an Omega. The Seamaster or Planet Ocean ranges offer you plenty of choice and are not seen often (agree not a Speedmaster). Alternatively, the Breitling Navitimer range is worth a look.
By the way, what’s with the Casio?

eddie spinks

Fair enough. I get that. A bit like using a Bic biro. Does the job.

P.D. Williams

I also have a Casio (an original G-Shock) for the same reason; great at the beach, working in the garden, when running, etc. It’s cheap, borderline indestructible, and a bit of a design classic in its own right.

Adam Jones

Although not a massive Breitling fan myself i do second the reccomendation on a Navimeter – but will caveat that by saying a vintage/ semi-vintage model – the beauty of these older ones surpasses the newer models in my opinion, and retains some of the functionality of the IWC.
Based on your requirements list i would say this is a great option. The excessive costs of Rolex these days will write them out. And you hit the nail on the head with a submarriner – hence why i am selling my new-vintage one.
and funny you mention casio – i am just about to buy the steel version for wearing at home/garden/ holiday etc.

David

I bought a Breitling Top Time on ebay for £1500 and spent a further £1600 having it refurbished by their vintage department. I think it was made in around 1962. Plain gold-plated chronometer. I had seen one years ago and could not, at the time, afford it.

I really like it: just chunky enough to be masculine but also understated and not bulky as many newer models are. I bought it for weekend wear but it also works well with a suit.

It chimes with what you say about collecting a small number over an extended period.

Alex

Lovely article, thanks Simon. I think there is great value to be found for 6-7inch wrists in 1940s-1960s “big 3” dress watches, which look great in yellow/rose gold whether with tailoring, or a t-shirt and jeans/chinos (more like the baseball cap with a tweed jacket or Barbour over a suit; less like black oxfords with workwear!)

There’s a lot to explore with straps too – not only colour, but the range of texture from calf, to alligator/croc, even to silk Armoury/Drake’s efforts.

Re: multiple watches, I personally have found over the years that consolidating 4+ watches of £2500-£3000 each back down to just two has made me very happy – one really special piece of £10000-£15000 and a beater (like your fun Casio).

I fell hard for the beauty and simplicity of time-only Patek. You could spend hours on ref 96 variations alone, to say nothing of how stunning other models are like the 565, 2508, 570, etc. I bet a lot of Permanentstyle readers would enjoy the Instagram beauty of a real aficionado like John Behalf https://instagram.com/johnbehalf?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=.

That Alex

Have a look at the Serica dive watch, I think it might suit your needs. I’m not usually a big fan of steel dive watches, but this one avoids being too big, too showy or too macho. Given your other watch choices I think it could be the sort of thing you would like.

CK

Nice read on a Wednesday morning Simon. Like yourself, watches are a secondary interest of mine, often observing and appreciating them on others. As for myself, I’ve been wearing and repairing the same VERY low cost watch for years now, I’m surprised it’s still going, but it is.

Still, I suppose I’m approaching a point in life where making my first sizeable watch investment would be appropriate. I was in a local jewellery/clock repair shop, roughly this time last year and spotted a beautiful Air King in fantastic condition. Tempted as I was, I have had a specific ref. 36mm Datejust in my head for a few years as my first investment, sticking to this with discipline. Maybe next year, we’ll see.

I’ve noticed your attraction to the number 5, it’s a good number. Will I realistically need a collection of 5? Perhaps not, but I would like a strictly ‘Dress’ Watch to accompany the above, although I do like seeing a Cartier contrasted with casual things, like a quality leather jacket and nice denim for example. Doesn’t always work, but when it does it looks great.

Have you any more specific ideas what’s going to replace the IWC yet?

Dan

Hello Simon,

If any, would you mind sharing the different models that would fit the criterias you mentioned? Models that you enjoyed considering for yourself?

Thanks in advance!

David

Hi Simon, I’ve been meaning to ask about the blue Casio ever since you posted a photo of it on Instagram, as I really don’t get the appeal such a watch could have for someone like you who enjoys classic style, understated elegance, and workmanship. I agree it’s cheap and you don’t want to wear a 5K watch to the beach, but there are so many great options for that, such as the Acquascaphe from Baltic, which manages not to look cheap or tacky, or the Fairwind from Halios. Nothing to write home about in terms of watchmaking, as they use standard movements, but they look more stylish and refined than a plastic watch, and I’m not sure looking “fun” is a worthy pursuit after you’ve turned 30 or so (in other words, I hope we’ll never see you sporting a giraffe print tie).

And on the subject of NATO straps, you are aware of course that you can swap them out for a leather strap, either industrial or made by artisans like Equus or Sergey/tightlystitched.

PeterHall

The dark face Lemanias are lovely watches. Certainly beginning to rise in price.
My daily wear is a Seiko automatic. Just a solid daily watch, with the added bonus my wife bought it for me, so has huge sentimental attachment.

Aaron

What do you think of the Casio? I’m somewhat surprised you have one, it certainly looks better in that blue rather than in black.
I should wear my watch more, I’m just often not a fan of something being on my wrist. My shirt cuffs often cover it totally in an annoying way too. Something to resolve with made-to-measure, I guess.

Julien

For a steel watch with a strong design language and impeccable craftsmanship, I would suggest you take a look at Minase Simon.

Robin

I really love how you’ve written this .
Your conscious your writing about a subject your not such an expert on and therefore have relied on others for help and advice .
I think in that sense you’ve come across a lot like PS readers.

I think with clothes it’s even harder to justify the cost as they wear and tear and are specific in size (especially bespoke) .

Would you be happy to add what sources / websites/ shops you’ve used to buy ?

eddie spinks

The two best online sites are Watchfinder and Watches.co.uk. Chrono 24 also useful.

Ondřej Ručka

Simon, I don’t know, how much it fits to your Submariner/Speedmaster category of steel sport watch, but Tudor may have right answers to your needs. Having said that, I am in absolute love with my blue Black Bay 58.

Enrico

Which is pretty much a submariner spin-off

Stephen

Hi Simon,
This article really does resonate with me. Especially the last section in italics and the reference to jewellery.
I have three expensive watches. A gift for my 18th birthday, a high quality and tough steel watch (weekends and summer holidays) and my beloved Panerai that has a more formal alligator strap and a rubber diving strap, that I bought when I retired. They all mean different things to me and are all I need. Although I am tempted by the practicality of Apple Watch, but that means I would wear the others less. Thanks again for another interesting and relatable article.
On a non related note, what if any l, are the plans for a pop up shop this year perhaps autumn?

Richard

Thanks for the article Simon.

That’s a nice selection you have. I like the principle of selling and then replacing watches but wouldn’t do it for gifts or watches to mark an occasion.

It’s going to be a challenge to find something of similar quality to your other watches for around $5k. But maybe a reader is looking to part with something!

Laventure might be something to consider, if you can get hold of one. And how about a MoonSwatch to keep your Casio company?

Keep up the good work.

JL

Sorry to ask a vulgar question, but does the fact that the gmt has gone up hugely in value since you bought it make you want to wear it a bit less given the increase in thefts in London? I’m specifically looking at more niche watches to avoid recognition at the moment; bit depressing in truth…

zo

Simon, you’re not a smart watch user yet? My apple watch is all i default to nowadays. i have the smarter looking steel one, and i swap the strap to suit the occasion..unless its very formal, and in that case I will use my tank. the practicality of my smart watch (step counter, music, working out, stepping out without my phone, etc) just trumps everything.

Nick

Hello Simon, another article that resonates with me.
I have never been a “watch guy” but gradually, over 20 years, acquired 3 vintage watches that I absolutely love (two Universals and a Zenith) based purely on aesthetics (I couldn’t even tell you what models they are!)
They were not ridiculously expensive (each under $2k; less spent on the watch means more can be spent on shoes!) And just like I do with my wardrobe, I maintain and look after them. When they came into my possession, all had at least 50 years on the clock (sorry, couldn’t resist), and I expect will outlast me and my heirs. So very happy with the collection I’ve built up.
I do like the Reverso – but fear I might now be priced out of the market – so will probably, just make do with the 3 I have, and experiment with changing the straps from time to time.
Interestingly, a sports watch does not appeal to me one iota, even though I also am wearing much less tailoring these days; I always find the “dress” watch a subtle way to elevate a casual outfit.
N.

Jtkuga

Simon,

I’ve always admired vintage watches but my main concern has been the crystal. I would bust the crystal on all my watches until I got my old Tag quartz dice watch. It had a sapphire crystal of course, and has been bullet proof for almost 2 decades now. I wonder how the crystal on your Rolex holds up? I assume that is the original and would pre date sapphire crystal being the standard…

eddie spinks

Rolex introduced sapphire crystal on the GMR BLRO in the very early 80’s. Do you know the age of your Simon?

Benjamin

For acrylic / hesalite crystals: a cheap tube of polywatch polishes up the crystal very effectively for scratches. In terms of strength, they are superior to sapphire insofar as they do not shatter on impact.
For sapphire crystals: these are very scratch resistant but can shatter upon impact, do not get dressed in a hurry over a tiled floor as you rush out of the house! But if you are careful not to drop them they are the standard choice given they do not scuff or mark.

Simon

Great article. Very thoughtful, as ever. I currently have a dress watch and a beach watch – but have been considering adding both a sports watch and smarter watch to go with my suits to my (capsule) collection. Do you have any recommendations for second hand stores or websites that provide a good range and good value options?

Glenn Harris

Good article Simon. All lovely watches and I can relate to the changing requirements and perhaps replacing one with something that is more pertinent to what you want it for.
You have sourced some beauties so recommendations will largely be watches you are familiar with.
I think a 36mm Explorer 1 is a classic watch that you would enjoy. Sufficiently different from the Pepsi GMT and a potential ‘one watch’ if away for a few days. Good look with your searching and will be great to hear what you end up getting.

Winot

+1 on the Explorer. If you can up your budget a bit I’d look at a vintage 1016 model from the 1970s.

hugh

In that vein but less ubiquitous would be a Tudor Ranger

Peter

Hi Simon,

Really interesting read, thanks. It’s nice to see your thought process in a secondary area like this. Your taste/approach seems a bit different to tailoring- not exploring the high end of craftsmanship – eg vintage Patek, Vacheron, AP, Lange, or modern smaller producers like FP Journe.

I wondered why you weren’t drawn to these naturally during your “horological fever” period (love that turn of phrase and certainly recognise it personally!)

Have you ever been tempted to explore the worlds of these models – either in one of the arcades in London (Somlo etc) or even visiting the craftspeople (I can only imagine you loving the Patek museum!)

Calum

Hi Simon,

Thanks for another interesting read. I have a question around the concept of high / low dressing that you sometimes talk about and whether a watch could be part of this. Would a rose gold , black alligator strapped dress watch work with a casual outfit like say a checked shirt, jeans and a pair of loafers.

As a replacement sports watch I like the balance that the Carl F. Bucherer manero flyback chronograph either with the metal or blue strap.

https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/carl-f-bucherer-manero-flyback-chronograph-blue-horizons-live-pics-and-pricing-introducing

Liam

Great post as always Simon.

Can I ask which steel sports watches you’ve been considering? I imagine you’re looking at something of a slightly higher level but my one and only watch is a Tudor Black Bay 58 (currently on a brown leather strap.) Couldn’t ask for more from a sports watch, perfect proportions, rugged yet refined with a reliable in-house movement.

Liam

I must admit I’d not given Tudor much consideration until the release of the BB58. Most of the other watches in their catalogue are too big / bulky for me.
I believe my next watch will either be a Vintage Omega Seamaster or the new Cartier Tank Solarbeat.
I look forward to the article once you decide on your next watch!

Ajbjasus

Damn spell check.

Chronoflex

Silo

I have just one watch that my wife bought for me as a wedding gift. She very kindly offered to buy a reasonably priced Rolex or equivalent but instead I opted for the less expensive, but infinitely more unique, TO Automatic, designed by Tokujin Yoshioka for Issey Miyake. It is large, perhaps too large for most tastes here, and no one else can tell the time on it due to its strange minimal face. But I have never seen another and I love wearing it, perhaps mostly because of the sentiment.

Jeff

Out of curiosity, what metal is your wedding ring? It looks good with both gold and silver jewelry. Just curious as I feel a bit weird switching rings to match watches. Thanks!

David Lane

Simon,

Great article, I am glad you are putting this out there for other folks to read, I think it will be very helpful for folks who are looking for a new piece. Watches can be a challenge with so many options out there. Considering your budget and wanting a steel sports watch, I was going to recommend the new Tudor Ranger. However, I am not as big a fan of the faux patina on the numerals and the size is just a bit too big at 39mm for that style of watch. From there I was thinking you could source a vintage Ranger, but, at 34mm and the potential services it may require, I moved off it rather quickly. This led me to the Rolex Explorer. At 36mm it is a great size and thickness, but the ones I really like, reference 1016 are well beyond your 5K budget. With that said, I don’t think you can do much better than the current version of the Rolex Explorer. It is understated enough not to stand out and even though it has a rich history, barely anyone will recognize it on your wrist and should fly under the radar quite well.

Good luck with the purchase and enjoy the new piece whatever it may be.

-David

eddie spinks

Simon look for an Explorer Polar, with a white face. Different watch all together but probably outside your price range.

David Lane

Simon,

I should have clarified I was referring to the Explorer I which is a time only 36mm watch. The Explorer II is also a GMT and agreed is similar to the 1675 you already own. If that is too similar I would consider a Grand Seiko, there are several options there, and are very well made and finished. I like them best in the 36-37mm cases. I would also consider an IWC Mark XVIII which is a 40mm case, but is also available in 39mm and 36mm. Unpopular opinion but the 36mm is the correct size for this watch.

Good luck and enjoy the hunt.

-David

Alex

If you’re interested in a GMT function, the Grand Seiko SBGM221G is a real delight

Georgios

A very interesting article mostly for the perspective of someone who has and wears many clothes. I have for 10 years a rolex explorer 36mm and since i bought it i never wanted something else. For me its the best compromise one can do if he wants one good watch and thats it. It goes well with shirts, t-shirts, polo, very casual jackets. I wouldnt mind wearing it with more formal clothes too, since the 36mm let it easily do the trick. It doest scream rolex, it looks expensive of course but not on the gold plated side. I also had a gmt and was a great watch but i dont need two hours. The watches like cartier Tan, jlc reverso look nice on some people but to me they are very very limiting. If i was wearing every day a suit( glad that not) id get a patek or a vacheron and id be set since i love the look of such watches but with more casual clothes they look easily out of place. If you get the oportunity to try the explorer do it.

James O

Great article as always, super interested to see where you end up with this, steel sports watches are a big space to play in.

Tudor has already been mentioned, and it’s certainly a top option. Bremont might be interesting but it can be a divisive choice. Oris are doing good stuff at the moment, as are Doxa and Zenith, and they are all quite different!

I’m poking around looking for something in this sort of spec range, especially with that “not worn by everyone vibe”. Not sure quite how inside baseball I want to go though.

Whilst secondhand is more homogeneous now, Royal Exhange does still have a good few boutiques to see the new stuff. Also, the downstairs of Watches of Switzerland in Regent Street feels like the best place in town to see a lot really quickly to help narrow down the search.

Yosef777

Similarly, I too have bought fairly early in on the stainless steel sport watches and did well in the resell market, which i might add, was NOT the reason for initial purchases. It seemed pertinent in my this ss sport watch market to sell when my value had doubled or tripled. Each time I bought another, more modern ss sport watch for a fraction of the price if my previous piece. As you are well aware almost any ss sport watches from the crown (rolex) is well past that price point. Even IF you are fortunate enough to find a lesser variant than the biggies (subs, daytona, gmts, etc.) a used explorer1 , milguas’, etc. are ridiculous imo. In any case maybe the omega seamaster would be appropriate, not a speedie but still interesting especially in terms of British heritage. Or you can always call an italian collector who got in before all of the rest if us : )

MikeNDN

My sartorial journey started when I have accumulated a nice collection of watches, and I realized I need to upgrade my wardrobe as well. 🙂

REUVEN L LAX

For a sports watch, I would recommend looking at the Grand Seiko range. I have the Grand Seiko “Snowflake” – it is a beautiful watch, and the beauty is all in the subtle details (dial texture, angles on the hands, etc.), which seems up your alley. The execution quality is also extraordinarily high.
For something a bit less expensive and with more “interesting” designs, worth checking out the British brand Farer. They’re not at the level of some of these other brands (though still not cheap!) and they don’t make their own movements (which is important to some watch aficionados), however they have some nice designs and focus on sports watches.

Steve

Hi Simon, if you were starting your collection today, what five watches would you select? Would you be more willing to leave the gold cases out in favor of steel because prices have skyrocketed? Or do you think the amount / ratio of gold pieces you would have in your future selection would be worth the now-inflated price, style-wise?

Dan

Some very nice watches there Simon. If anyone is interested in acquiring some very affordable vintage watches (sub £100) some brands I would look out for include

Certina
Cyma
Eterna
Longines

The quality of these pieces in the 1950s ( for some the golden age of watchmaking) wasn’t far off Rolex and you can put together a nice collection that cover all bases for little outlay. These watches were often in the 33-36mm size range which is lovely for a dress watch in my opinion.

m

It will be interesting to see what you will decide to add to your collection Simon. Based on your recent articles I feel like vintage watches would be best aligned with your current interests and tastes. If you were to buy something newer and had unrestrained budget then a Journe, Lange or maybe VC Historiques American would fit nicely into your collection. Even though none of those is strictly a sport watch they work with all kinds of outfits except the most casual.

Personally I feel like JLC Reverso and Cartier Tank are almost like a navy suit in a way that those are so classic to the point of being almost boring. A must have off the checklist so you can move on to more fun pieces. An obligation.

I’ve been also looking around for something more sporty and my requirements were for the watch size to be under 40mm, thickness maximum of 12.5mm (preferably around 10mm), price ~ 5000€.

What I ended up shortlisting:

Cartier Santos Medium on bracelet,
Omega Aqua Terra 38mm from third generation released in 2017,
Zenith Chronomaster Original 38mm that has quite a few visually stimulating and colourful dials,
Grand Seiko Omiwatari

I’m leaning towards Santos the most at the moment but I’m not quite ready to commit yet.

SVT

But when I was in college and I was 19, I bought real Tissot that weren’t available to anyone. And my classmates looked at me like a Duke)

SVT

I enjoy swatch irony from 7 years

Jan

Hi Simon, great, thoughtful article, as always, and it really resonates. I have one (second hand) gold PP Calatrava with brown and black straps for formal (which my wife gave me as her wedding gift after I told her it was the watch I had been eyeing for years), one (new) steel Reverso Small Seconds with a light brown ostrich strap for semi-formal or casual, one (second hand) Rolex Explorer I for semi-formal and casual and one (new) Garmin Fenix 6s for running, cycling, swimming, sailing, golf, moving houses, skiing etc etc.
I will never need anything else and I find myself grabbing the Explorer most days of the week. I respectfully disagree with your comment that it is similar to your GMT. I think the size, dial and crown are much more understated and elegant and the Explorer I is in fact the only Rolex that I would want to have (unless they’re handing them out for free of course).
Also agree with some other readers about the older Breitling Navitimers, some of those are simply beautiful, but generally better with leather straps I think. One other option that keeps popping up in the back of my mind every know and then, the PP Nautilus. I know it is overpriced and I am not sure about the size but mon dieu it is beautiful.

Keep up the good work please

RK

Which one do you prefer between the Reverso and Tank?

RK

Cool thx

DKP

@Simon – I’ve a lovely Reverso and have thought of picking up a Rolex 5513 from my birth year as my “other watch” but then the big question: who are the most trust worthy sellers that won’t over inflate what will already be a once in a lifetime investment?

DKP

Then I suppose my revised question would be, who are reliable watch experts?

Michael Powell

I’m a simple guy with simple tastes. I wear an affordable Seiko diver on a NATO most days; that goes with both casual and business dress for me. If I want to change up my look a bit, I wear a diver on a bracelet. Occasionally, I wear a chronograph; because some times you just like to feel pretty.

Alan

It’s nice to see a relatable article on watch collections that fills the middle ground of taking an interest in nice watches without being an expert or collector. I also appreciate the inclusion of the Casio, if for no other reason than that it shows you don’t take watch collecting too seriously and are not a snob about it (unfortunately I have come across a few watch snobs who turn their noses up at anything that’s not automatic).

My personal budget does not allow for watches in this price range, so I’m content with two Seiko’s. I have an Alpinist on a steel bracelet as my day to day watch and a Cocktail Time on a leather strap as a dress watch. What I like about Seiko’s is that they offer unbeatable value at their price range and all have their own personality and unique designs. I don’t like budget watches that just imitate more expensive watches – there are far too many Rolex Submariner homages for example. Whereas the Cocktail Time is unique to Seiko – even at the premium watch level there is nothing quite like it.

Dan

I agree. I don’t think you could go wrong with anything from Seiko. I think yours is a very nice two watch collection ( from a fellow Alpinist Sarb017 owner)

Alan

I find even watch collectors who can afford a much higher price point generally respect Seiko for what they offer. The Sarb017 is very nice. I like the green dial – it has a bit of personality without looking flashy. My Alpinist is the SPB243J1, which is a remake of a 1959 Seiko. For me it’s the right combination of hard wearing and elegant for a day to day watch – looks at home with the jacket, trousers and oxford shirt outfits I mostly live in but doesn’t look out of place with either jeans or a suit.

Nico

Dear Simon,
I am a long-term reader but first-time commenter. Perhaps the IWC watches from the 90s are interesting for you. I have the Mark XII with JLC movement in 36 mm, but the chronograph 3706 is also beautiful. Both are not cheap but within your price range. Nomos might also be nice.

R

Hi Simon,

As a big Omega fan myself, it would highly recommend their watches (their METAS certified movements are second to none). Maybe though given your stated preferences and uses, you might prefer a stainless steel Aqua Terra or Constellation–both of which straddle the sporty/dressy line–instead of their super sporty tool watches like the Seamaster 300m Diver or Planet Ocean. I would highly recommend the Seamaster 300 (hopefully my next purchase!) but, brand new, that might a bit over what you are willing to pay.

Other less conventional ideas though could be the recently released IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX (if you would still like to have an IWC but maybe something a bit less dressy than your gold Portugieser), or perhaps a NOMOS Glashutte. I am a big fan of Nomos and have a couple myself. They are not my daily driver, I save that the Omegas, but they are very honest and fun watches. They are quite elegant on the wrist (unlike other brands which can be chunky), have the right amount of quirk for me, and are just pleasurable to wear. If you are not familiar with them I highly suggest giving them a look. Most models are definitely in your stated price range as well

Last suggestion, since you seem to be a big fan of Cartier, is why not one of the stainless steel Cartier models? A steel Tank Must or Santos Dumont, should fall within your budget limitations while giving you the sporty yet elegant vibe which you seem to desire (and, like me, you don’t buy into the watch community’s bs snobbery around quartz movements so that should not be a problem).

Best of luck as you research and make a selection! Buying a new watch is not something which I do very often but which I always look forward to doing. Really interested to know how you decide. Hope that you will do a follow up to this piece

R

Also, other stainless steel sports watches which you might want to consider are the Glashutte Original SeaQ and the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscape. In the smaller sizes of both (39.5 and 38mm respectively), they are elegant tool watches. New they might be out off you price range, but they might be more affordable pre-owned? Oris also makes good watches in your price range, though of varying sizes.
If looking for another GMT instead of a diver or the dressier sports watches which I mentioned in my previous comment, then consider a pre-owned Grand Seiko GMT SBGN005.

Kenneth

Good morning!!!!! Lovely article…yes i remember your previous article that you wrote in 2014….like wearing clothes have fun wearing a watch…i have a large collection but i am not a collector….name brands?? Heck no!!!!!!! Every watch for the spring and summer seasons are strapped on with nato straps no leather… to close whenever you live around the world stay cool…i pray for rain…..much peace…health to you and your family..cheers

Gary Mitchell

We have a similar collection I see, mine are:
Rolex GMT Master 2 (the apparently rare ‘fat lady’)
Rolex Sea Dweller from the later 90’s
IWC Aquatimer titanium 2000
IWC Fliegerchronograph (with the squared off hour hand)
JLC Reverso Grand Taille (stainless)
And brace of Casio G-shocks
For years I have decided I only ever needed the Sea Dweller and a Cartier Tank Americaine in gold but I seemed to have deviated from the path and like you I did go off my Reverso for a while deciding to swap in in for the Cartier yet then I re-fell in love with it and would say its my favourite (yet least worn) watch. As an aside, I was issued my first Rolex by the RN in the late 70’s but the trend was not at the height then and none of us we much fussed by the watch, it was only our dive watch, to make matters worse I could have kept it when I moved on but didnt (yes I often kick myself) for whatever reason and I now often weep when I see the money they change hands for. My GMT, however, seems to have been stolen by the memsahib who also has a James Bond style Omega Sea-Master and a Cartier Tank Francais and indeed her Casio G-shock.. she rarely wears any of them though.

HP

If I was you I’d just stick to what you already have. Just wear the Portugieser more and the Rolex less.

If you really want to flip the Portugieser how about a Panerai Luminor Marina 1950 3 Days Automatic 42mm?

Alan

Hi Simon,

Lovely article, thanks for sharing.

Best of luck in finding a great new steel sports model – please do share with us what you end up choosing!

I wonder if you’d enjoy something like the IWC 3706 fleigerchronographs from the 1990s? Nice changes from your sports Rolex perhaps being
– utilitarian aesthetic
– sports chronograph without being a Speedmaster
– Arabic numerals (vs. Dots/stick indices)

Wonder what you think of the design/aesthetic of it.

Antony

Hi Simon,

Looking at your criteria for the next steel sports watch – I wonder whether a Zenith El Primero A386/385 might fit the bill? Some lovely variations out there in colour/style etc.

Felix

Below 5k is the problem with your criteria – I doubt that at that price point you will find something that is not “a cheaper version of something else”, yet is original and reliably functional.
My best guess would be (the reeditions of the historic) Omega Seamaster 300 or Railmaster. Alternatively, I guess you would like one of the reeditions of the JLC Geophysic or (sadly significantly more expensive) the Memovox Tribute to Deep Sea.

HP

But not the monopusher. It looks unbalanced.
How about an older Marinemaster 300?

HP

Yes there is! If I didn’t already have a diving watch I’d go for the ZRC Grands Fonds of the French Marine Nationale. It’s a very original watch,not a copy of anything. And well below 5’000.
It’s style is very unique. It’s a tough & adventurous looking watch and not overly big. The only thing I don’t like is the bracelet.

Otto

Dear Simon
have you ever tried the Bulgari Octo Finissimo? In titanium it has a very muted color; it is an interesting, slim design; and not something that everybody else wears. The online pictures don’t do it justice, one really has to try it on. The reason I finally decided against it was the size, I have small wrists and it wears quite large for a 40mm watch, similar to other sports watches with an integrated bracelet.

Otto

Fully understand after reading the other comments. One alternative that came to my mind is a vintage Breguet Type XX: A pilot chronograph in steel, 39mm, not very common these days, and in your price bucket.

AA

I feel that the best bargains in the world of watches are the shape dress watches from the less mainstream high end models from the 1990s and early 2000s: Vacheron’s Historiques (1972, 1912, Carree, etc – but the first generation Overseas is also a great bargain), Audemars (Edward Piguet, Millenary – basically, anything that is not the RO), Daniel Roth (Athys, etc.), Roger Dubuis (Symphatie), GP (1945, Richeville), Parmigiani (Ionica, Toric, Kalpa), Piaget (various models, I particularly like the Upstream, even if its not a dress watch), Breguet (3490, but the round guilliched Classiques also) and Patek (5024, the Ellipse).
These watches feature stunning, idiosyncratic designs that are not dissimilar to the great shape designs of the 1950s-1960s (thase Roni Madhvani collects), preserve the real-deapl hand finishing, but also a minimum of marketing/celebrity surcharge, resulting in excellent price/value.
Among the watches currently in production, only the Reverso and some Grand Seikos (GBM221, for example) in my view, offers a similar level of design, class and value.
All the contemporary steel “luxury” sports watches are all about hype, marketing. They appear massively overpriced to me. A real tool watch such as a Sinn or a Seiko or a Gshock shows more integrity in this regard.
On the other hand, some microbrands such Straum, Ophion, Holthinrichs seem to be an interesting and promising.

AA

And excuse my grammar, it is hard to type on a smartphone

Mikey

Try the Cartier Santos. In medium size.
The shape and bezel design is different enough from your gold tank franchise.

It is a steel sports watch with 100m water resistance.
Very versatile on either the steel bracelet or leather strap.
With the shape and the screwed bezel, it is an understated but differentiated design that doesn’t look at all like the subs and speedmasters. Masculine and feminine ar the same time.

It has a lot of the functionality of a Royal Oak or Patek Nautilus on the bracelet. But without the douchey cryptobro connotations. It is also a more time tested design, whereas the latter two are primarily artifacts of the 70s.

Mikey

Of course, that’s a very fair personal view, as these things are always personal.

For what it’s worth, I’ll just say I had a similar reaction at first, but when i tried it on, it felt and looked very different from typical dress watches, such as the Tank or the Reverso or a Calatrava.

The bracelet and the screwed bezel give it an industrial look (which you may or may not enjoy) and give the watch a presence that is heavier and much bolder than typical dress watches. It definitely doesn’t disappear on your wrist like a dress watch is often meant to do.

To be clear, I am talking about the newer version of the Santos introduced in 2018.

This Hodinkee review is decent, published before that site became basically like GQ for watches:
https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/cartier-santos-review

The Santos was also originally designed as a sports watch, specifically a pilots watch. But that’s a bit of watch nerdery you probably don’t care about.

Another watch I’d suggest the IWC Pilot. I like the 36mm size, but there are many different variations, both in current and prior production, such as Mark XV, XVIII, and XX. Very class design, much more sporty and military than the IWC Portuguesier Chrono you have.

https://www.iwc.com/at/en/watch-collections/pilot-watches/iw324010-pilot_s-watch-automatic-36.html

Alex

I find the Santos is fairly effective at straddling the two extremes – it works well in more formal attire as well as looking nice with a t shirt and jeans. Although they can look fairly chunky in the larger sizes.

Alex

That’s a fair point, and perhaps raises a wider one about the practicalities of buying a watch and building a collection. My first proper watch at a relatively young age was a Santos – at that time of my life, having something that could work both ends of the formality spectrum was invaluable. As my collection grew, the need for that level of versatility became less and less, to the point where I let the Santos go and no longer have it in my collection.

jack

Simon,
A really wonderful article and the follow up comments are equally interesting. One small observation from this older reader: as one ages, one’s eyesight changes and watch faces get harder to read. For several of my watches, I must put on my reading glasses to see the time- generally a pain. I have a Movado, selfwinding, heavy gold, a graduation gift from high school in 1958 that is beautiful but too small for me to read. My favorite these days is a Raketa “Big Zero” that I bought in St Petersburgs years ago – long before these dark days in Russia. It is manual winding, but the numbers are very large – so prepare to make adjustments in your collection as the years pass.
Jack Williams

ML Santorsola

Of all the watches you have, I like the Casio; looks like a fun watch.
If I was to buy a watch, I would buy a G-Shock watch. I always liked it and all its features yet never bought one.
My watch collection consists of a Rolex Day Date that I bought new in 2000 which replaced a Rolex Datejust that I bought new in 1988 which I gave to my brother.
I once knew a guy who had 6 watches and could never understand why he didn’t buy one quality watch instead of 6 common, inexpensive watches.

Mark

Hi Simon,
I am going to second the comment about the Minase. Urashi-finished dial, zaratsu polishing and interesting construction of the watch.
It appeals to my sense of craftsmanship in finishing, has an interesting aesthetic and flies completely under the brand radar.

Alexander

Hi Simon,
First time commenting (though long time reader). A lovely article as usual. Two brands pop into mind for your criteria: Oris, specifically the Propilot X. A beautiful stainless steel sports watch by a renowned (but not famous) Swiss marque. The grey dial is understated, the pink a big pop of fun.

https://www.oris.ch/en/collection/big-crown-propilot-x?filters=all,col35

The other is Sinn. Their “design grammar” is not totally up my alley, in general, but many love it and it is certainly very different from the GMT. The simple 556 (also in a range of colors) and the classic U1 come to mind. Good luck and enjoy the search!

Steve Laz

Thanks for this. I appreciate the Fives, in that we don’t need 100 watches, bespoke suits etc. Watches, for me, is a passion since childhood. I have more than I need, really. Still and all, my grandfather’s 1965 Girard Perregaux, my couple of Tissots and Hamiltons, a Seiko Alpinist, Orients, and a G-Shock, Gallet, and a few others – they give me pleasure. But for the G-Shock they are all automatic or hand-wound, and they are all 38mm or smaller. The Rolexes and Omegas and Audemars are a bit out of reach for me, and the used Rolex market is a bit too too lately (they are an amazing marketing organization- a million watches made a year is neither “exclusive” nor “handmade”. But I digress.). Still, A good watch is a pleasure of design, mechanics, and horology.
Cheers,

Simon Thomas

Sell the Portuguese??? I’ve got one and wear it every day – I love it an indecent amount. I once sat next to a guy on a plane and he noted my watch with the follow up comment ‘I had one myself and sold it a few years ago and regretted it ever since….’ Don’t do it, Simon

Mike

Below is my collection over the last 28 years.

DEFB73D1-3215-4534-BF99-E7D689FA623E.jpeg
Jason Reed

Dear Sir

This is one of those posts that I read and think to myself and think to myself “if only…”. I am fortunate enough to have a Rolex Submariner which was given to me by my parents on my 21st birthday some 30+ years ago and is not only sentimentally invaluable to me, but is the watch that I have come to understand to be the fons et origo of most if not all steel divers watches today (please don’t correct me if I have this ever so slightly wrong – you understand what I mean in principle).

All I would say is that you are very lucky man – irrespective of how long it took you to save for your very expensive selection of watches or over whatever length of time you scrimped and saved for them. Having been a teacher for the last 20 years, those watches probably amount to a good few years of my total income.

I will conclude by adding that comments which suggest that my watch is in some way prosaic and ordinary is as annoying as it is patronising. – especially for someone who adores good clothes and fine things, but can normally only stand with my nose pressed against the store window.

Regards.

Stefan

Great article! I like your strategy to have a few but good watches and stick to them. Some people in the business have been buying and selling watches like crazy in recent years, especially with all the hype around nautilus, royal oak, gmt pepsi, daytona and so on…

I’ve had a wristwatch dilemma for years. 🙂 I have saved money and bought some good tailoring during the last years but never bought a quality watch. I’ve thought it is too expensive and not worth it yet. (I also have an interest in saving and investing money in the stock market and I trying to be rich 🙂 )
But at the same time I have always thought a guy like me (with the clothes and work I have) should have a quality watch…

I have looked at several brands and models for years but not yet found what I’m looking for. I like a daytona on the wrist, and also a datejust 36…but it’s expensive and a lot of people have them. The watches that sings to me most are the Grand Seikos, but I haven’t tried them on my wrist yet. The grand seiko sbgw231 is really nice. They have also the snowflake models that are really nice too, below 5K I believe! 🙂 The grand seikos tick all the boxes for me. Japanese (I love a lot of japanese things), well made, most people don’t even think it is an expensive watch.

JayMc

If you’re still looking for a sport watch for under 5K you could do worse than a Tudor Black Bay, which is something of a classic. Check out the new bronze model.

Dutch Mateix

Simon, great article as usual, I have something similar, with good old 1980’s Casio classic that is use when I am not into making a statement, as well as a 1979 daytona, Monaco, PPGC, etc etc however my favourite is one I had made bespoke in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham. There are some very skilled watch makers still in the UK. Have you ever considered getting one made bespoke? It’s a great experience, just like tailoring.

Gabriele

Seems like no one has suggested the Hermès H08 yet! Not everyone likes it but I find the design interesting and original.

Benjamin

Bespoke shoes / suits / shirts are expensive (but this audience thinks they are worth it for reasons of craftsmanship/ design / longevity).
Equally there are some watches which are expensive (but some in the audience may consider are worth it for similar reasons. They should last a lifetime and may contain many happy memories to be passed on. See Judi Dench’s recent BBC Repair Shop visit as an example.

So, that said, here’s a fun list of alternatives to the watches mentioned in the article, at different price points (as Simon says- you can go pre owned or vintage as well as new). Additionally, some element of value as this author perceives it, must be present:

1. Sports: Second generation (cal 8500) Omega Planet Ocean 42mm. Why? Great British watchmaking, this was the first time they perfected George Daniels’ coaxial movement. Great size. Dive watch that is great on a strap or a bracelet (it has 20mm lugs which make it v versatile). Can be worn anywhere.

2. Dress: an LUC Chopard gold 1860 watch. Officer’s caseback is a fun variant. Incredible value particularly second hand, microrotor in-house movement, in my humble view it is superior to the Dufour Simplicity for a fraction of the price. There is a modern honeycomb variant with hand guilloché on both dial and caseback that is more interesting than anything calatrava from the holy trinity.

3. Fun: find something unloved by the market- potentially neo-vintage. What about a Heuer Carrera reissue from the late 90s, a Longines sector dial, a late era Minerva, a Breitling aerospace. Lots of fun to be had around the £1000 point, even better if it takes you time to research and to track down.

robert gault

I have a Rolex as my only watch. It is a good watch, keeps decent time.
The downside is that it requires servicing every decade or so. If I send it to Rolex the bill is about $1000. Luckily I have a Swiss matchmaker that will do the refurbishing for $500. I fear the next time it is required he will have retired and the Rolex factory the only option.

Gus

Simon

Very poor people in the UK are going to have a winter that many will have never endured. Low paid people and many senior citizens will die from hypothermia this winter, it’s really upsetting. I usually love your articles and narratives, but reviewing luxury watches and bespoke suits, seems like a side show from what’s going on. Unto thine own self be true

Benjamin

This website isn’t really meant to be a hard-hitting look at the many problems facing Britain today. It is more like fantasy premier league- an exercise in taste, for fun, to demonstrate personal style.
Or to put it another way, during the winter of discontent during the 1970s, what art, fashion, jewellery was being worn at the time? The answers may not directly solve any economic crises, but perhaps they are of interest to social historians.

AA

Gus, but the same point applies to other periods as well. Even in stable, peaceful periods, the opportunity cost of spending thousands on luxury goods is not spending them on the lives of people living on $1-10 per day…One Rolex = 10 years of life of an average human on Earth…

Dominic

Gus, I understand your point. It may seem unseemly to be discussing luxury items when many are struggling. Perhaps it’s also thinking about the working people whose livelihoods depend on the luxury goods trade. Artisans, retailers, marketers, writers etc. And that the buyers of luxury goods may have saved and made sacrifices to be in a position to buy. No-one should ever flaunt wealth and especially not now, but if you can afford to make a considered purchase then you should do so without guilt.

Antony

Gus, I just wanted to respectfully and gently disagree with this sentiment. There have always been times of hardship, both in the U.K. and abroad – during which blogs like PS offer a welcome respite. As a NHS doctor with a young family, my enjoyment of PS articles is generally not lessened by the fact that I can rarely afford the items for myself. In many cases it has led to long-term enjoyment – witness my trusty decade-old C&J shoes, which provide great pleasure and are still going strong from clinics and wards to churches and weddings! PS sets itself apart with honest and regular commentary on waste, sustainability, & avoidance of needless consumerism.

Finally – the enjoyment to be found in unaffordable luxury despite straitened circumstances is not exactly a new phenomenon…

“In povertà mia lieta, scialo da gran signore rime ed inni d’amore. Per sogni e per chimere e per castelli in aria,
l’’anima ho milionaria.”…

Peter.

How about a pocket watch….they are much better value!

hugh

They can make a good desk clock, if that applies in your case.

Fran

Hi, Simon
As a very long time reader (from Spain), I think I know something about your tastes, since they have had a strong influence on me.
After reading your article, and all the precedent coments, I think you could apreciate this sugestion: have a look at the Eterna Kontikis from the early 60s, like this:
https://goldammer.me/products/eterna-matic-kontiki-1960s-nos

Michael

I think the one (crucial) point that you omitted from your list is size. More than shape, make or material, the one thing that determines the suitability of a watch to its wearer is face size relative wrist size. Despite what the manufacturers may like to push, fine-boned men (and East Asians in particular) look ridiculous with a watch of 40 mm or more. Likewise, men with forearms like tree trunks look silly with anything under 36 mm, as the watch just disappears. As with tailoring, buy a watch that suits your frame.

Kay

Great article again Simon, and to be honest my collection is also varied, but modest; I’ve got 3: a Planet Ocean, JLC Master Control Calendar and a Daytona. I’ve often contemplated moving up to the ‘big leagues’ and chasing a holy trinity watch, however the pricing currently is well beyond my means. To be honest, I’m relatively content with the three, but might get a G-Shock for the knock about/sporty events of when travelling.
I did want to get your thoughts on two-tone watches? My Daytona is such and at times I feel like it’s too flashy to be worn in the office (I’m in my mid-30s and work in finance). Are there particular outfits you think a two-tone works best? Or do you think the 80s should stay in the 80s?
Thanks!

Kay

Haha yes, definitely made by consumers! Although I guess when you think about the history, craftsmanship and innovation that AP, VC and Patek have demonstrated it’s completely understandable! …..not to mention price point!

Thanks for your views, it’s a watch I do like, but will save it for more casual occasions if that’s a better fit. I suppose swapping the bracelet for a leather strap could ‘tone’ things down a little too?

David G

Feels like a non-diver sports/sporty watch on a leather, rubber or textile band might be a suitable replacement for the IWC. Slightly less dressy, different enough from the Rolex, and versatile. As ever, stick to recognised watch makers and models that will hold value.
Examples:
Minerva Palladio B241
Heuer Autavia
Heuer Carrera 3647N
Tag Heuer Carrera Green Special Edition 39mm
Glashütte SeaQ
Glashütte Vintage Seventies
AP Millenary 15016ST
and less sporty, but if you like the Lange 1 check out the Glashütte PanoReserve and PanoMaticLunar, with their beautifully finished display movements.. superb value
Apologies for any repeats of previous suggestions.

Higgins

On the danger of challenging your narrative, Simon:
I think you (like most people) have a much more narrow range of styles and outfits which look good on you than you think.
Having followed your website for a couple of years, I believe you really look being yourself in these neutral/earth/greyscale soft-fabric odd jackets, thousers without dramatic drape, and some well made suede loaders.
Once you go into black, workwear, James Dean’s leather jacket, Great Gatsby or “businessman” it looks “costumey” on you. Your height and slender built will make any clothes look good on you, like a dressmaker’s dummy. But your “self” does not have such a wide range.
And the same goes for your watch collection. I am surprised how much I like the Cartier on you, it is – in watch collector circles – probably the most un-fashionable watch (yellow gold, quartz, roman numbers on dial, small case). But it looks like “you” on you. Yellow gold seems to work really well with your skin tone.
The Rolex, while a very sought-after collector’s item, looks pale and washed-out. The Reverso is simply too small. The Casio…let’s not even go there. And the IWC looks nice but generic.
So, congrats re Tank –

Ian Daly

Hello Simon

Ian Daly

I think the problem you have with the IWC is about proportion. It looks as though you have quite delicate wrists/hands, and so it seems it is size that impacts on the overall look of it on you. Whilst I get the pushers/chrono bit might not appeal, my view is that the size overwhelms your wrist. It is this point on proportion that makes the JLC and Cartier sit so well on you.
I have very thick wrists and hands like shovels. This makes a big difference when wearing a larger watch.
Hope this makes sense.

AA

Agree on the IWC. I have never felt the appeal of any of the brands models, exceot for the 1980s “egg” (5152). Just like Nomos, it looks too generic, sterile, lifeless… Even its name – International Watch Company – smacks of something generic and corporate, not artisanal or creative. And Pi agree that its proportions are not elegant, it is too big. The watches that I have mentioned in my post above all (exvept the GS), as well ad Simon’s Tank and Reverso, have very thin profiles (6-8mm), which I believe is what watches should have anyway.

Higgins

And on the apologetic “P.S.” – the watches you featured are much cheaper than most pre-owned cars.

If I have 2,000 GBP or EUR burning a hole in my pocket, I would

  • look at 2,000 GBP cufflinks, they would be a killer object
  • struggle to find a pre-owned 2,000 GBP watch, even old Rolex Oyster Precisions are now above that
  • not be able to buy a Swaine Adeney briefcase or document case anymore
  • end up with an old banger of a car, but the days when that kind of money could buy something cool and neo-vintage are long gone.



Petronio

I love watches but I wear double cuff shirts and am lefthanded. I wear watches only in the week end since wearing the watch on the right wrist means that the winding crown plays like a saw on the cuff. My watches are:
Reverso with ostrich strap
Bulgari Bulgari with black dial with brown strap
Universal Geneve Aerocompax
Tudor “Big Block” cronograph with panda dial
Eberarhd Extra Fort Cronograph
Baume & Mercier from the 60’s in gold super thin
Most of them were gift from my parents so they are not the result of personal choices but I do like my collection. A good submarine watch is missing and I am thinking about it.
After many Swatches and quartz watches thrown away since I have not replaced the battery I come to the conclusion that despite I am not obsessed with complications and mechanisms it is wise to opt for mechanical or automatic mechanism.

Chris

Hi Simon,

Thanks for this article.

There was an interesting piece in the FT recently about steel sports watches being in high demand and consequently being quite overpriced in the secondary market:
https://www.ft.com/content/8f49cc5f-dacb-47d3-8112-baa26b18fa2b

If you want to save that grand maybe good to enjoy the Portugieser a bit longer and switch to a steel sports watch when the squeeze has eased.

Best
Chris

Joe

I’d recommend the medium stainless steel Cartier Santos.

Owen

I can thoroughly recommend a Tudor Black Bay 925 as your new sports watch. I purchased one earlier this year and it’s been rarely off my wrist. I have mine on the standard leather strap which has developed a nice patina, having been worn to the beach and the pool all summer long.
The sterling silver case is probably not the most practical for a sports watch, being relatively soft, but it has a very nice heft and had a lovely bright tone without being flashy. It’s 39mm, relatively slim, and has the feel of a vintage submariner with the raised crystal.
The unique taupe dial means that it won’t get confused as a Submariner and I found the dial colour changes between brown/olive/grey depending on the colours that are worn next to the watch. I’m sure it would compliment a lot of your casual outfits really well. I think this watch ticks a lot of boxes and falls well within your budget, even purchased new with a warranty.

Jan

Everything Tudor makes feel like a Rolex copy and I also struggle to see the appeal (just because of that, I’m sure the make and some small design features of some of the models can be lovely as readers have testified, but not for me…).

Ian Daly

Well Rolex and Tudor are part of the same family, and historically Tudor has always been seen as a less expensive version of the two. A bit like a Cayman and a 911; not that there’s anything remotely wrong with the Cayman.
More recently, Tudor has developed a style which is more distinct, but the family likeness remains.

Alex

Tudor’s range has quite aggressively shifted towards the vintage Rolex homage spectrum since the massive success of the Black Bay. That said, there are still some interesting watches that have their own design language – the discontinued North Face is a pretty great watch if you like the design, and the Pelagos range has its own unique characteristics that I prefer over the standard Black Bay range – the FXD in particular is a lovely one. Then there’s the frankly bonkers P01, which is a marmite watch – if you can appreciate the weirdness of the design, it’s a great piece of industrial design and a genuine pleasure to wear.

Owen

I understand what you mean, and agree to a point, but I think most dive watches borrow some of the aesthetics of a Submariner by function or style. I have two Rolex watches in my collection, but I think that Tudor are doing something different with some if their products, that their conservative bigger brother cannot do with its own range. Rolex would never produce a 39mm silver dive watch on a leather strap with a grey dial. These characteristics also make this model stand out in the BB58 range vs the stainless steel models.

In my opinion, Rolex sports watches have become too large, too flashy and somewhat crass in their execution. If a Tudor you can buy now has the feel of a vintage Sub, then it’s all the better for it. I fear you might be somewhat of a watch snob to disregard Tudor because of their relationship with Rolex. Also it sounds like you don’t want to spend Rolex money, so I’m afraid you’ll have to look ‘downmarket’.

Luke

Dear Simon, I’d like to offer three suggestions based on your criteria:

1) A ‘neo vintage’ IWC pilots watch might be a good option. It’s an iconic design. Perhaps too similar to your GMT, but maybe not with a leather strap. Suck the oyster has one for sale: https://www.shucktheoyster.com/portfolio/iwc-mark-12-die-fliegeruhr-neo-vintage-watch-3241-full-set-3/
2) Another option might be a vintage omega with a simple design, strong case and robust movement. Eguchi in Japan has one with a textured dial and nice patina: https://eguchi-store.jp/249452-2/
3) Habring 2 is a modern watch maker in Austria with some options in your price range. Their designs are functional and the watchmaking is high quality without flourish. Some variants are nice and others not to my taste. There might be something for you if you want the benefits of a new timepiece.

Simon K

Nobody brought up Fifty fathoms? It is more understated than what steel divers developed into later on. This makes it more wearable to me. Came out in the 50s so alot to choose from.

Catrl

Interesting. I have two dress watches. One high-end and one mid-end (Nomos), one with a black strap and one with a brown. I also have one sports watch in steel (Tag Heuer Aquaracer) and one true sports watch for sports (a Garmin). The Aquaracer is perfect for weekends and workwear. The two dress watches matches black and brown shoes. The Garmin works for outdoor and training.

SVT

as for me, a good woolen sweater will keep you warmer than your tracking of life in minutes

William Marques

Two other makers to look at are Garrick and Sarpaneva. Not everyone’s taste but they make to order and have their own style

Jerry

Hello Simon
I’m a longtime reader, but it’s my first time commenting since watches are a great passion of mine. One of the classiest sports watches ever which i think would be perfect for you, is the TAG Heuer Carrera reissue from the 90s. 36mm case, lemania movement – the exact same as the speedmaster, and 3 dial variations of which i particularly like the white one. The reference number is CS3110.
Alternatively, among modern watches i would either go for a nomos ahoi, or a breitling premier chrono (or top time) if you prefer something less unusual. All of those are well within your budget.

David Lilienfeld

And yet nary a pocket watch in the bunch…

David Lilienfeld

I think it’s likely they will come back with suits at the office.

David Lilienfeld

I think suits will come back as people try to make more of a branding statement in reduced hours at the office. As for the pocket watch, same idea.

Alexander

Dear Simon! Do you have any opinion on vintage Omega Seamasters ? Simplistic ones from the 60s or so. (I have no clue about watches. I just like the design.) I think they should go well with the tailoring that I wear almost daily (high twists, flannels, sport coats). I only own one watch (a simple Seiko Sport 5) and I wanted to invest (probably 1-2 thousand €) in something classic, simple, for every day use at work (law), not too dressed up, something that is smaller and thinner than my Seiko, so my shirt cuffs finally can go over it. Any thoughts or other recommendations? (Also from fellow readers of course.) Thank you for your opinion!

Alexander

Thank you. Now I also thought about skipping the Omega, going straight for the reverso (basic model, quarz, steel). Or is that too soon?

Alexander

I went for a vintage omega from the 30s (small, art déco) and the reverso in quartz. Concerning your Tank quartz: Do you have any fear that the watch could break down some time (I don´t know how old your Tank is.). I was told by a vintage watch dealer that quartz watches are expected to break down irreparably in around 50 years or so. In other words: should we consider switching to a mechanical movement, if we want to keep the watch as long as possible and probably hand them down to our children?

hugh

I have the steel quartz reverso (250.8.08). I love it! Though if you’re able to try one on, do it before you buy. It wear much smaller than most watches you will find today

Alexander

Thank you. And yes, I did try it on. The smaller size is central for my choice.

Hugh

Some of those vintage Seamasters are definitely dress watches. The earlier Seamaster name denoted water resistance, not necessarily the diving bezels, James Bond laser beams, etc.

Alexander, I also have a soft spot for older Omega Constellations. They’ve often got more… distinctive… dials

RT

This was an interesting article for me. I’ve never been much interested in watches. Having spent my early working life as an engineer and production manager in industry, I damaged or lost several watches. At the time, my budget was small, so it didn’t matter too much, but it led to a sense that watches were almost disposable items. When I moved to work in higher education, that outlook didn’t change much and I acquired a number of relatively inexpensive Rotary watches that served me well. In any case, watches were never an interest in the way that clothes were. For those, I always bought the best I could afford and continued to do so as my career and income and, hence, budget increased. My watches remained pretty much the same, though. In the later stages of my career, as a member of university senior management, I was able to afford high-end MtM and bespoke tailoring and shirts and began to think that I needed to upgrade my watches to a level which was a little more in keeping with my tailoring (and casual clothing, too). Still wary of investing too much money on something about which I knew very little and not being attracted by much of the chunky sports watches on offer (having been blessed/cursed with slim wrists), I finally bought three watches which I enjoy wearing and which continue to serve me well. As a first foray, I bought two new. The first was a Longines Conquest Heritage which is simple, slim and understated with its black strap, black dial and rose gold indices. It pretty much satisfies any need I may have for a formal, dressy watch. The second acquisition was an Oris X Cervo Volante pilot’s style watch, with a grey dial, date pointer and sustainable deerskin strap, which is a perfect casual watch. Finally, I bought a second hand Omega Seamaster from the early seventies, with an unusual, subtle grey-brown dial and a leather strap and sits nicely between the other two in terms of formality. It’s a manual wind, whereas the two new ones are automatic and much more expensive than the other two. I’ve also rediscovered three watches I had sitting in a drawer, which I’ve resurrected and wear frequently. None of them are of any significant monetary value, but each is of immense sentimental value to me. They are a Seiko quartz watch on a metal bracelet (I’m not sure of the model, but it says 50 50 on the dial) given to me by some grateful students about twenty years ago, my grandfather’s Accurist, given to him on his retirement in 1964 (and engraved to that effect on the back) and my father’s Marcus, dating from the ‘60s, I think. I had a new strap for the latter made by David Richards aka The Strap Tailor (who I highly recommend, by the way).
Apologies for the essay (once an academic etc…), but the point I want to make is that whilst I really enjoy wearing my better quality watches, I get just as much pleasure out of wearing the three much less valuable watches because of their associations for me. Each of the watches gives me great pleasure, but in different ways. I’ve developed a slightly greater interest in watches recently and I can see the possibility that, in the fullness of time, I might replace the Longines and Oris with other models. I would absolutely love to own an IWC Portugeiser like yours, Simon, but I know that it would be too big for me. I’m looking at a Blancpain that has a similar vibe, but is smaller. I’m not sure that I want to spend that kind of money yet, though. I doubt that I would ever become a collector – I’d be the last person to criticise collectors, I have a modest collection of pictures and a far-too-large (according to my wife) collection of musical instruments (many of them bespoke) – but I will always wear the three cheap, but O so valuable to me, watches and derive as much pleasure from wearing them as anything else I might acquire.

Russ

For elegant and witty use of language, brilliant buying advice, plus an understanding of the human genius that goes into making a good mechanical watch, I don’t think one can beat the ‘Watchfinder’ videos on YouTube. Whatever the budget, anyone thinking of buying a good watch would do well to look at those (or at least select the videos relevant to the brand on fancies).

SSummers

Simon have a look at Grand Seiko. They have their own aesthetic, beautiful dials and world class fit and finish, as well as tradition and history

Mario

Hi Simon, thank you for your insight. I find it very interesting how the worlds of watch enthusiasts and those of menswear somehow collide here. I always thougt they are running in parallel. But if you have a look at the Explorer 1 for example the difference becomes obvious. While the watch is perfect from a watch persons’ perspective, it is not what you would look for. It kind of melts into every outfit with its understatet timeless design but will never be jewellery really enhance one‘s outfit. That is something very different – like your tank does. I ve never thought about watches that way before. Unfortunately I do not have a solution really – maybe the Rolex OP 34 in white grape could do the trick.

Cheers
Mario

Stamos

Given your original parameters, I would have suggested something from the Grand Seiko Heritage Collection, particularly those with the 44GS style case. Steel (or titanium) on a bracelet but go well on a strap, 100m water resistant, design focussed, different enough to everything else.
However given your following comments, they may lean too elegant rather than sporty, so I would suggest you check out the Chopard L.U.C Sport 2000.

Kn

Simon, can you talk a little about the service required for the mechanical watches? ie, service interval, cost, and do you simply send back to the manufacturer? Servicing vintage Rolex, in particular, seems like a tricky task as I have heard that they will simply replace all the old parts and polish the case, thereby removing much of the vintage charm.

Kn

Thanks so much for the reply Simon. Would you be happy to recommend Steven Hale to others based on your experience?

kn

Blimey! Six months is a long time for a watch service, but I suppose in the case of your GMT, a vintage piece is more complicated as you note. Thanks again.

Al Spok

GREAT Reporting on GREAT Watches!

Tim

Sounds like you need an Omega Seamaster. Brilliant watches, and they’re thankfully undervalued and ignored by the Rolex obsessives.

Rolex?
Omega.
Beautiful

JDV

What about a vintage IWC Ingenieur? Integrated Bracelet, Genta-Design, Steel, History and way cheaper than it’s counterparts from PP and AP.

Jimmy James

A Panerai … my preference is the radiomir. I wasn’t a fan until I tried one on and found them far more wearable then the diameter would suggest. It would certainly stand out from the rest of your collection and has flexibility to wear various leather and even rubber straps. I love Panerai, like Cartier, has its own design ethos and is not derivative like so many watches are these days.

Chancellor

Looks as though you have a different coloured/styled strap on each watch: black and brown on the Tank and Reverso, burgundy on the IWC, Rolex is a steel bracelet, and blue rubber for the Casio. That makes sense in terms of diversity to coordinate with different outfits.
I’m wondering what your thoughts are on suede straps to coordinate with shoes that might be suede. Probably not necessary if one has only a small number of watches but with a large enough collection, would it make sense to have some with suede?

Lachie M

I really like the idea of your travel watch being ostentatiously affordable. I bought a micro brand watch that was cheap, has a great movement, but looking at it sometimes feels like it’s trying to dress up as being fancier than it is in reality.

Jeremy

I’ve been musing on this for a while, and reading the comments. At the risk of losing some of the nuance of what you’ve written about, I think my own philosophy on this is that watches fall in a middle ground between items one wants to be of the very best one can afford (a suit, a coat), and items that don’t (underwear).
The closest they come for me is to glasses. I am sure there are companies that make better lenses than others, but I don’t care: the quality of the working parts of the vast majority of glasses sold in an opticians are all obviously very good and basically indistinguishable. The difference between a pair of Tom Fords or Dolce & Gabbanas or whatever has nothing to do with how well I will see through the lenses, and all to do with the make and style of the frames.
This is how I also see watches. I’ve no doubt a Rolex or a Patek or what-have-you will have amazing inner gubbings to make the hands go round with extraordinary accuracy, with hundreds of years of craft gone into it. I don’t care. Such a watch will never tell appreciably better time than a cheap one – in fact, some will tell worse time as quartz are more accurate, I think. Either way, pretty much any watch at any budget will be able to do the primary job of telling the time accurately and the difference on this front is infinitesimally small and not something I’m going to consider when buying one. So again, it’s the make and style, particularly the latter.
I have slender wrists, so don’t like massive watches. I don’t like winding the watch up. I like the look of steel bracelets. I don’t care about the cachet of what brand I am wearing. It’s something I can look at to tell the time and it’s a piece of jewellery that will go with my clothes. I have a Swiss watch made by a not-prestigious mark, Candino. It’s a simple design, looks good on my wrist, has a lovely shade of dark grey that almost looks taupe in certain lights for the face, it complements my clothes, it tells the time. That’s all I need. It cost about 200 euros.
Is it permanently stylish? Perhaps not in some ways – in others, I think it is. I don’t wear bespoke boxer briefs because it’s a waste of money, I don’t have handmade glasses for the same reason, and this fits in with that rationale. I’ll spend the thousands on other things that I value more.

BB

It is an obvious necessity to match your belt colour to your watch strap, but I am interested in your opinion on the need to match the watch metal (gold/steel) to the belt buckle. I have a few steel sports watches that I wear quite often as I live near the beach – but would naturally sway towards a brass buckle on my belt if making the choice in isolation. Additionally, any other jewellery (wedding ring etc) is gold. Is it OK to mix and match metals here or would you try to synchronise as much as is possible?

BB

Thanks Simon! Makes sense.