Watch collecting can be as affordable or unaffordable as you wish! Collections can range in value from hundreds to millions of dollars, spanning a diverse array of brands and complications. At higher price points, you certainly have more options, but today, we’re going to build the perfect 3-watch collection for under $15K. This is no doubt a considerable sum, but it allows for the exploration of a large variety of brands without sacrificing quality or craftsmanship in the process.
When picking the watches for our collection, we’ll focus on three primary categories: first, a dress watch for formal wear and important occasions that prioritizes simple aesthetics and refined proportions.
Next, we’ll pick a capable sports piece that’s suitable for all recreational applications. This watch will need to be robust enough for hard use while hiking, biking, swimming and exploring.
Finally, we’ll choose an everyday piece that bridges the gap between dress and casual, balancing a robust design and an equally suitable dress presence. This timepiece will need to be versatile in style and be compatible with a range of strap options to help change the character of the watch to suit multiple applications.
Between these three choices, we’ll have a well rounded collection suitable to all aspects of modern life.
NOTE: The price ranges we quoted are accurate as of publish, but markets are of course subject to change. Check our listings frequently for examples of current pricing.
The Dress Piece:
Audemars Piguet Yellow Gold 'Tank' (~$7,400)
Long before the Royal Oak came to dominate the Audemars Piguet catalog — not to mention the conversation surrounding “It” watches in general — AP was a boutique watchmaker in the Vallée de Joux that concentrated on elegant, dressier timepieces produced in small series. Indeed, for many years, these watches even lacked reference numbers, such was the size of the production runs.
This 23mm, simple golden dress piece in the ‘Tank’ style may date to the 1970s — the genesis of the Royal Oak — but its inspiration stems from a much earlier era: namely, the 1930s and 1940s, when rectangular watches were all the rage. Simple, diminutive, and wildly handsome with its hobnail bezel, this hand-wound watch is a midcentury masterpiece, and the perfect accompaniment to suit or tuxedo and a night out on the town.
Should you be willing to overlook all the masculine chest-beating surrounding case sizes, you’ll be presented with a timeless, beautiful piece of horology that will quite simply never go out of style. Put quite simply, this sort of watch is Audemars Piguet in the pre-Royal Oak era; even now, many decades since that model has come to define the very concept of the “luxury sports watch,” this slim dress watch still looks fetching and classic.
The Sports Watch:
In recent years, the Omega Seamaster Professional has exploded in popularity, beautifully balancing utility and refinement. Largely recognized for its affiliation with James Bond, the Seamaster is a cultural icon, recognition of which transcends the watch industry.
The Seamaster line has changed with time. The earlier Reference 184.108.40.206.01.002 (I know— it’s a mouthful) preceded the wave dial variant, and is a bit less cluttered and more mature as a result. This variant comes in quite affordably as well, which is perfect for our $15,000 collection. This reference features a solid caseback and the iconic 4 link bracelet as well as the helium escape valve at 10 o’clock.
For just a bit more, the contemporary Reference 220.127.116.11.04.001 features a ceramic bezel insert and exhibition caseback. Maintaining the beauty of the Seamaster design but updating the aesthetics and specs for modern demands, this reference contributes the luxuries of present-day technology.
Perfectly suited for swimming applications with a 300 meter depth rating and rotating bezel, the Seamaster is built substantially, yet still feels comfortable in use as a result of the sculpted case and lug profile that conforms to the contours of the wrist.
Equally robust with respect to the movement, the Omega Seamaster Professional 300 is equipped with the Caliber 2500, which is outfitted with a Co-Axial escapement that guarantees chronometer accuracy and reliability while decreasing friction on the escapement lever. A ceramic bezel resists scratches during hard use, and bright loom ensures clarity and legibility in low-light environments. Thus, the Seamaster is optimally equipped to address all sports needs.
The Everyday Watch
Universal Geneve Polerouter (~$3-4K depending upon variant)
Arguably the perfect entry point into vintage watch collecting, the Universal Geneve Polerouter is a faultless everyday timepiece. Conceived by esteemed Swiss designer Gérald Genta — who also drafted the sketches of the Patek Philippe Nautilus and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak — at age 24, it perfectly captures 1950s design. Born as a result of increased commercial air travel in the 50s, the Polerouter is available in countless variations and case/dial combinations.
At 35mm, the case is conservative and well suited for light dress attire, but is also substantial enough in thickness to present in a sporty way. This allows the Polerouter to be a bit of a chameleon — a serious attribute of the best everyday timepieces. From afar, it’s easily recognizable by its twisted lugs, unique chapter ring, and sector dial. This particular steel example is quite handsome with its classic ‘crosshair’ dial and clean looks.
Universal Genève Polerouter Date - IN THE SHOP
One of the Polerouter’s key qualities is its incredible versatility — almost every strap material and color matches perfectly, allowing the watch to take on an entirely different personality on demand. For a quick look at a few of the other configurations of the multitalented Polerouter, take a look at this gold example with a stunning black dial and date window, or this gold example with a micro-tappisserie dial. The options are endless!
The Collection as a Whole
This three-watch collection is well rounded to equip the owner with a watch for every occasion. The vintage yellow gold ‘Tank'-style dress watch nostalgically represents the reason that AP is considered a member of the horological “Holy Trinity” — a focus on excellent design, classic aesthetics, and craftsmanship established the brand’s legacy prior to the release of the Royal Oak in 1972.
The Omega Seamaster is a modern piece well suited for swimming and exploration, bringing the water resistance and substantive construction that are necessary for a strong sports watch. The Seamaster is an icon of the watch industry, and wearing one will undoubtedly result in many compliments throughout the day.
Finally, the Polerouter is a pure enthusiast’s choice. Those that recognize this piece understand its significance and brilliance of design. For the discerning collector, it represents the essence of vintage watch collecting, but even for the newcomer, the watch is charming on the wrist and brings a smile to the face of whoever wears it.
This $15K collection checks all the boxes, balancing vintage and modern, sport and dress, reliability and refinement. To build your own collection, hit us up on Instagram, via our website, or by phone, and we’ll be happy to help you out!