No collection is ever complete. Not without a long wish list at least. Neither is mine.
With my new found love for watches, I had to make a few tough choices. Choices like – Quartz vs. Mechanical? Automatic vs. Hand-wind? Swiss vs. Res of the World? and what not. To summarize these confusions… I had categorize the kind of collection I wanted to have.
For a poor man’s genius son (gorib ghor’er medhabi shontan) like me, the primary driver in decision making was price. So I picked the $100-150 category to begin with.For a watch enthusiast, this actually is a no-go category. You barely get anything worth collecting at these prices. I was illiterate and new… and had grown up with only one watch in kind. The Honda Cub, The Volkswagen Beetle, The AK-47 of wristwatches… venerable Seiko 5!!!
I got my first Seiko 5 from a random store in Sunway Pyramid, Kuala Lumpur. They had a huge collection of Seikos and I was just astonished by the prices they offered. Later I found out, these were mostly produced in a Seiko factory in Singapore, thus the unbelievable bargain!!! Just in case you are in the lookout for good Japanese watches (Seiko or Citizen), Singapore and Malaysia are just about perfect places to look for. (Sadly they no longer offer Seiko 5’s in homeland Japan).
So my first was the SNK613K. I guess I tried to pick up one that resembled most with my imagination of a mechanical (first seen with my Grandfathers). Good or bad, this was the first…
Like many many things before this, I got glued into the Series and wanted to collect a few more Seikos (5 or not). But my steel bracelet watch collection was already comprehensive and Seiko 5 collection didn’t have much of the other. So when I stumbled upon the Seiko 5 Military Collection, the appeal of o.wning a flieger dial (resembling pilot watches worn by German pilots in WWII) got the best of me.
The SNK809K2 is a very popular model indeed. One of the more affordable military watches that didn’t cost a penny to run and offered the luxury of a NATO strap. The NATO strap made it easier to be worn everyday and was another first in my tiny collection. Its been two months since I got it, and I am loving it!!!
Swiss will always be Swiss. But considering the price point, there was always only one brand to choose from, Swatch. In my 2010 trip to KL, I also got myself a Swatch. The Swatch watches are unique in many ways… Swiss-made but cheap, Has separate battery casings and Sealed clockwork (you can’t open the watch if it breaks down). Basically what it offers a one night stand the fabled Swiss art of watchmaking.
My Swatch was from the Irony series and called Black ‘n’ Red (YCB4008AG). Quite attractive a piece but yeah as I said earlier, comes with some major drawbacks. The best thing about Swatch has always been its bold and rather eccentric styling, and this one is no different!
Another decent bargain I came across while looking for a proper dress watch was the Skagen and Obaku brand.While Skagen and Obaku are both of Danish origin. Skagen produces self-branded watches, jewelry and sunglasses; Obaku franchises its designs to other watchmakers (Ingersoll in UK and Titan in India). Although I would like to believe Skagen is a better brand (and value), I got a good bargain at Amazon for a Obaku Harmony piece and picked it up. The watch had a considerably large dial (41mm). Thanks to my thin-build, I am restricted to watches between 36-38mm for best fit. But its a proper dress watch with a clean and elegant dial. The Japanese zen philosophy that supposedly inspires is evident throughout this minimalist design. For the price you pay for such a design/build… its worth every penny!!!
It was time I moved to the bigger league (not necessarily money-wise, but popularity and heritage). The major Swiss brands are still dreams (Omega Speedmaster, Rolex Submariner etc. etc.) but more affordable yet equally classic options were there (Hamilton Khaki, Orient Mako). So here goes my list of future probables. Some are here because of their “cult” following, while others for “value”. Poor me is still not sold on the idea of spending a 1000 grand (or more) over a timepiece that has exact same features as any of the above except the country of origin. Yes, I am an Apple fan but I use and promote Android just as much 😉
The cheapest of the lot, Invicta 8926 Diver… a watch that has Rolex looks at Casio prices. An all time favorite in forums like Poor Man’s Watch Forum and Watchuseek. It retails for only $79 with 550 reviews averaging 4 stars on Amazon as I type… and I’ll leave it to that 🙂
Next up, an American classic. Although owned by The Swatch group and runs on Swiss ETA movements, Hamilton’s Khaki Field watches are a must-have for any military watch enthusiast. And at $368 (on Amazon) its decently priced for a classic brand like Hamilton.
No wishlist would be complete without a proper pilot’s watch. And I found just about the perfect deal (and bargain) with Archimede Pilot. As elegant as the watch is (made in Germany), it doesn’t cost you a fortune to own one (sells for about $540).
Finally, nothing beats the brute and crude Russians when it comes to rugged products that just delivers. Applies just as much for wristwatches, too. The no-nonsense Amphibia and Komandirskie from the house of Vostok represent the very best of Russia. Practical, functional, durable and inexpensive (Amphibia at $70 and Komandirskie at $50), one of them just needs to feature in my collection.
The history was to introduce what watch enthusiasts call, Poor Man’s Grand Seiko (PMGS). No way in hell, am I going to spend that much of greenbacks over a perfect piece of timepiece made by Seiko. Just like everyone else only a Rolex, a Patek Philippe or a Panerai fits the bill for such a hefty tag. However Seiko (I don’t get their marketing or product design objectives) makes a few Seiko 5 models that exactly resemble their expensive siblings. Cheap-ass or whatever, I thought it would be great to get my hands on a PMGS (2 models shown below).To rub off the image of inferior quality watches, Seiko started producing the Grand Seiko series in 60’s. Priced between $4000-10000, they were crafted to compete with the very best of Swiss watches. Considering quality and price they are indeed as close to perfection as watchmaking can possibly get. However due to rather limited or failed (whichever applies) they have found their place mostly in Asia (Japan to be precise) but with a cult following in many watch forums.
That’s about it for now. I am sorry to have disappointed the ones who were looking for brands like Omega, Tag Heuer, Rado or even Tissot, Movado, Oris etc. Since watch prices vary on perceived vs. actual quality mostly, I would suggest anyone looking for affordable watches to have a look at Top 20 Poor Man’s Watches (below $1000) and visit enough enthusiast blogs/forums. A watch is actually an investment in the $1000+ category. It can still be a collectible at <$1000. But I beg you not to waste money buying junk fashion watches. Amen!