10 Things I learned building my affordable watch collection

May 12, 2020 By Dappered Team | Heads up: Buying via our links may result in us getting a commission. Also, we take your privacy rights seriously. Head here to learn more.About the Author: Zach S. is a United States Marine Corps Officer and Product Photographer from Maryland’s Eastern Shore. When he’s not training or doing photography he enjoys reading and writing on a myriad of topics.
I first became interested in watches when I saw a Breitling ad in National Geographic. Something about the connection between machines, adventure, and exploration got to me, and I began to seriously consider watches. Now, ten years later, my watch box is full and I consider my collection fairly rounded out. I don’t yet own all the watches I want to own, but I have learned a few lessons along the way. Here are 10 of the most important lessons I learned going from not owning any watches, to assembling a pretty robust (but still relatively affordable) collection:

#1. Start with something you’ll wear every day

Corgeut Automatic Dive Watch – $140
Orient Bambino V2 – $125
Tissot Visodate Automatic – $399
Invicta Pro Diver Auto – $85
This one is the easiest rules to understand. Your first watch is your only watch, so pick something you can wear all the time. Something versatile. If you spend most of your time dressed casually, then go with a watch to match. If you find yourself dressed up more often, find something versatile that looks good dressed up as well as dressed down a little bit.

#2. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with cheap watches

Timex MK1 Chronograph – $109.99 ($139)
Timex Weekender Chronograph Blue Dial – $53.33
Casio MDV106-1AV 200m Dive Watch – $45
Casio G-Shock DW5600E – $45
Invicta Pro Automatic – $84.99
I know initially you’re going to perhaps want something spendy. Something you saw in a fancy advertisement. But there’s nothing wrong with affordable watches. Brands like Timex make a great range of everything from field watches to chronographs. They’re durable and often look really good. Don’t let their drug store pedigree scare you off!

#3. It’s worth checking sales once in a while

Seiko Samurai “Save the Ocean” edition – $343 (picked up on a whim, on vacation, when it was marked down in a store) 
Glycine by DROP Soda Diver – $399 (pops up on Drop, but rarely)
Nordstrom Price Matched Watches – Nordstrom is an authorized retailer… who will sometimes price match non-authorized dealers. This means you get a lower price AND a manufacturer’s warranty from Uncle Nordy. It’s a rare occurrence though. But sometimes it can result in big time savings.
While I don’t believe in looking to buy something just because you’re bored or it’s on sale, occasionally you’ll see a great price on something you totally forgot about, or something that was previously out of reach. Keep an eye on the 8 zillion promos and sales that seem to happen these days. Watches, even affordable watches, seem to get excluded a lot. But sometimes the promo gods will throw the doors open on a wristwatch you’ve had your eye on.

#4. Own a pilot’s watch or a field watch

Timex MK1 Chronograph – $109.99 ($139)
Citizen Nighthawk – $189.98
Hamilton Field Automatic – $368
Seiko 5 SNK805 Automatic – $90ish
Nodus Sector Field Automatic – $400
Bulova Automatic Military “Hack” 38mm Watch – $250ish
Timex Waterbury 42mm Red Wing Chrono – $159
Timex Expedition Field Chronograph Watch – $48.25
These styles of watches go great with most casual outfits and are very easy to dress up and down with a strap change. They’ve got tried and true rugged good looks, and they’re also notoriously easy to read. Casual? Yes. But they’ll be something you reach for time and time again.

#5. You might have a watch you wear way more than others, and that’s okay

Seiko 5 Sports Automatic Watches – $177 – $250 (various models via Macy’s, olive option is hard to find)
Invicta Pro Diver Auto – $85
Seiko 007 – $350ish
Hamilton Field Automatic – $368
Seiko SARB – $350 – $450
Timex Weekender – $35
As you collect, you’ll get a lot of cool watches that might be a bit too specific looking to wear every day. That’s okay, because along the way you’ve filtered down your preferences, and you almost certainly will end up with a watch you prefer and want to wear daily. It’s hard to find that one daily-workhorse from the beginning though. You’ll get there!

#6. Get a retro-styled dress watch

Orient Star Classic – $355 (sold out? Discontinued?) 
Orient Bambino V2 – $115
Timex x Todd Snyder Beekman 40mm Leather Strap Watch – $158
Timex Milano 38mm Leather Strap Watch – $99
Tissot Visodate Automatic – $399
Seiko Cocktail Time Automatic – $319
Everyone makes a fuss over retro styled dive watches… BUT… get a retro dress watch instead. They’re cheaper, just as authentic, and that’s what everyone wore anyway. Ever see a Mad Men character wear a diver? Nope. Go with something clean, simple, and classically sized (read: 36 – 40mm). They elevate just about any look. From chinos & a polo, to full blown suit & tie.

#7. Check yard sales and Ebay for vintage treasures

I’ve acquired three or four really cool old watches for virtually no money at yard sales. There are plenty of old gems hiding out there. Of course, the current health-situation means it’s probably not the time to go picking through other people’s for-sale belongings in their front yard, but for future reference? Yard sales can be gold mines.

#8. Own something gold or gold-toned

Vintage Bulova (obviously no longer available)
Orient Small Seconds in Champagne – $165
Jack Mason Ellum – $159
Lorier Falcon Automatic – $449
Hamilton American Classics Jazzmaster Viewmatic – $595 (A splurge, but wow)
I honestly never even thought of this until I got a vintage Bulova, but there’s something really warm and pleasant about a gold watch. Most of my watches are on the sporty side, so it’s nice to have something that feels a bit more sophisticated.

#9. You’ll eventually break down and buy a retro diver

Bulova Devil Diver – $415
Q Timex Reissue Dive Watch – $179
Seiko 007 – $350ish
Dan Henry 1970 Automatic Diver – $290
Lorier Neptune II Dive Watch – $399
I don’t know what it is, but they’re just cool. There’s something about walking around in the summer with something that looks like it was worn by Jacques Cousteau on your wrist. Bonus points if it’s a chunky 1970s looking monstrosity.

#10. Quartz watches can be worthy and cool

Marathon JSAR Dive Watch – $760 to $850
Seiko SNDC31 Chrono – $99
Timex + Todd Snyder The Military Watch – $99 ($138) 
Bulova Lunar Pilot Chronograph – $399
Armogan E.N.B. – $155 – $190
Timex Made in the USA “American Documents” Collection – $495
Timex Milano 38mm Leather Strap Watch – $99
When you first get into this hobby, mechanical movements will feel like the best. There is something about the tiny artistry that goes into the wheels, gears, and springs which make mechanical and automatic watches go. But there’s a ton of cool quartz watches that are way more accurate and durable (like the admittedly spendy, ISO certified, designed for search and rescue/salvage diving Marathon diver shown above). Wristwatches are one of the few markets where technological innovation has led to more efficient, more economical products, yet a good chunk of the consumer base clings to the old, less advanced technology. But there are plenty who recognize the absurdity of this, and wear a quartz with pride because of it. Don’t automatically write off a quartz watch. There are some great ones out there!

(Bonus!) Have fun with it!

While there are plenty of reasons to wear a watch, you’re in essence wearing a highly antiquated piece of technology on your arm. So don’t take it so seriously. It’s a hobby, not a quest. Don’t be afraid to have some novelties in the box. My mickey mouse watch is one of my most worn.
Big thanks to our man Zach for passing along all that he learned in the above post! Are you a newbie to the watch game and want even more tips for how to get started? Head here for a few more.
Interested in the watch box shown in this post? Some of you have asked. It’s from Amazon. Just thirty bucks. 

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