Once you’ve started a watch collection, keeping it ticking along is fairly easy. There’s a world of boxes and cases to choose from, all of which will keep your watches safe. And there’s a wave of winders available, all of which will keep them going. Maintaining your timepieces, from case care to strap servicing, is the easy part.
The tricky part is amassing a collection worth your time. When you finally decide to graduate from quartz watches, you’ll discover there are so many mechanical watches on the market that you’ll need some help deciding which should form the foundation of your collection.
Thankfully, we’re here to help. With our own collections, we’ve found that variety is the best approach. So, from a military-inspired pilot’s watch, through a traditional dress watch, to a rugged reliable diver’s watch, these are the best affordable timepieces with which to start your collection.
To start a sleek Swiss collection: Frederique Constant Classics Index Automatic
Where better to start than with the timepiece Frederique Constant has termed its ‘Gentleman’s Watch’? With a 38-hour power reserve, the FC-303 calibre movement is a strong start for your first foray into automatic watches. And, with that silver-coloured guilloché dial, it doesn’t look half bad either.
The Swiss brand is a good bet for reliability when it comes to your first big money timepiece. And, although the case is just stainless steel, it’s dazzling enough to swing it as your new black tie timepiece. Come to think of it, with those hand-polished pearl black hands and leather strap, it does have a touch of the tuxedo about it.
To start a rugged, retro collection: Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical
As your collection grows, and even as you add Patek Philippes and Rolexes to your horological ranks, admirers will still always ask about your first watch — so you’d better make sure it has an interesting history. With Hamilton’s new pilot’s watch there’s a banger of a backstory built in. A reinterpretation of a vintage military watch produced for the Royal Air Force in 1973, this is a retro timepiece with character to spare.
Even behind that stylish dial, this watch makes its stainless steel case for being the first timepiece in your collection — with an impressive 10 bar water resistance, 80 hour power reserve and military appropriate NATO strap. If you want to start a collection of watches you’ll wear day-to-day, this is your best bet.
To start a low-priced, practical collection: Seiko Prospex SRP779K1
Yet, while the Hamilton’s water resistance may be impressive, this Prospex from Seiko blows it out of the water. Resistant to depths of 200 metres, the Japanese offering has been designed with an underwater life in mind — from that hardy silicone strap to the Lumibrite on all hands and indexes.
It’s a strange choice with which to start a collection, but bear with us. Inside, the 4R36 calibre is one of the most impressive you can buy for under £500. It’s automatic, but boasts a manual winding capacity, and has a power reserve of over 40 hours. Pair that with the handy day/date display and Pepsi bezel, and you’ve got a watertight contender for your first plunge into watch collecting.
To start a timeless, traditional collection: Baume & Mercier Classima 10332
The clue’s in the name; here’s a watch for those of you after a sophisticated, traditional collection. And this Baume & Mercier has class in spades — from the smooth calfskin strap to the subtle minute markers encircling the rim of the dial.
It may only have a water resistance of five bar, and a power reserve of 38 hours, but the automatic, self-winding movement is more than impressive enough for the first entry in your collection. Just look at that well-proportioned white dial and polished Roman numerals: timeless elegance and a contemporary cornerstone of your collection for years to come.
For a versatile, varied collection: Longines Flagship Heritage
In the early days of Longines, the maison’s designers were inspired by the pioneering spirit of adventurers tackling air, land and sea. Decades later, the heritage models are celebrating that same style. This timepiece brings together the history of the Hamilton with the class of Frederique Constant and Baume & Mercier — and is the perfect start to a versatile, varied collection.
In stainless steel, but with golden gilt indices and hands, the Flagship Heritage is a multi-metal delight. The brown alligator strap affords the watch an air of the traditional, and the self-winding mechanical movement — with a 42 hour power reserve — displays the peak of reasonably priced modern watchmaking. A serious contender for your first serious watch.
Looking for another watch brand with history? Here’s how Vertex ticked back onto the market…