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Feature: 10 watches every enthusiast should have in their collection

Now, the criteria for what makes a perfect watch collection varies from person to person. You could keep it simple and follow the guidelines set out by John Mayer—“Is it shiny and does it say Rolex on the dial?”—and that’s one way to go, for sure. But if you’re looking to build a comprehensive and eclectic collection of timepieces, then there are many styles, categories and families of watches to consider. I’ll be looking at the most popular kinds of watches to cover all your bases and all your wrists. So, here are ten types of watch every enthusiast should have in their collection.

Field watch – Studio Underd0g 02 Series Field Pink Lem0nade

The first type of watch you should consider is the humble field watch. The field watch, sometimes known as a trench watch, could be considered the birth of the wristwatch—for men anyway. Women had been rocking wristwatches for a while before men realised that a pocket watch was too bulky to take into battle. So, the army men of the past required a timepiece that was rugged, reliable and could be read at a glance, without the need to fumble around in their pockets.

Field watches are lightweight, often with a slighter smaller case and with clear simple dials—usually consisting of big white numerals on black. Some classic examples of the field watch include the famous Dirty Dozen watches—a set of twelve rare vintage military watches originally commissioned by the British MOD and made by twelve Swiss watchmakers including Jaeger-LeCoultre, Longines, IWC and Omega that collectively showcase the simple field watch aesthetic.

These days most brands have their own interpretation of a field watch. Prime examples include the Timex North Expedition and the Hamilton Khaki Field. But if you were looking for a field watch with a fun modern twist, this Studio Underd0g Field and its eye-catching pink lemonade dial—with a full lume paint job—could be right up your alley … or trench.

Dive watch – Tudor Black Bay 58 Blue

The next type of watch you might consider for your collection is a dive watch. Arguably one of the most popular styles of watch, a dive watch is sporty, rugged and of course, splashproof.

Dive watches vary in their water resistance, from a respectable 200-metre depth rating to serious diving watches, waterproof to thousands of metres with ultra-thick cases, helium escape valves and shark repelling straps—ok, maybe not that last one. But they all follow a similar design code that’s optimal for underwater usage: simple, highly legible dials, with big chunky hands and markers and lots of lume.

They’re typically made of hard-wearing, corrosion-resistant materials like steel or titanium with a screw-down crown and a rotating bezel. This kind of construction, while functional, also gives them a style that’s very suitable for daily wear.

Watches like the Tudor Black Bay, Omega Seamaster and Rolex Submariner are also sporty enough to be worn every day in all situations. Perfect for dipping in the pool on vacation, but classy enough to be dressed up for formal occasions. That’s why a dive watch is perfect for any watch collection—and probably why you have several already.

Dress watch - Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Réserve de Marche

Speaking of formal occasions, next up we have the dress watch. Elegant timepieces designed for special occasions—those ritzy, glamourous gatherings that I’ve heard about. Black tie and a tux, looking scux. Now, at one time it was frowned upon to wear a watch at such an occasion because it was deemed rude to be seen checking the time. But in a post “dry slap from the Fresh Prince” world, checking the time at the Oscars is not even a minor offense anymore.

Anyhoo ... the oldest and most enduring dress watches still popular to this day include Cartier’s Tank from 1919 with its signature rectangular case, the Patek Philippe Calatrava, originally released in 1932, with its purity of design (it's still one of the main pillars of the brand) and the inimitable Reverso from Jaeger-LeCoultre with its case-reversing action, created to flip and protect the dial from polo match-related impacts.

So, a dress watch is simple and elegant, like this Réserve de Marche, for example another beauty from Jaeger Le-Coultre. Typically a dress watch would display the time only, yet Jaeger-LeCoultre manages to effortlessly display the date, power reserve and a small seconds while retaining a subtle elegance—and an ultra slim profile, allowing the watch to slip under the cuff of a formal shirt.

It features a beautifully decorated automatic movement and, like most other dress watches, it’s available in precious metals, if that’s your sort of thing. It wouldn’t look out of place at even the swankiest of soirees.

But if precious metals sound a little out of your price range, the Seiko Presage is a great entry point to the dress watch game at just a few hundred pounds. It, too, wouldn’t look out of place at the swankiest of soirees. But don’t take my word for it, this is coming from a guy currently wearing socks and flip-flops and a tracksuit that’s got baked beans stains down the front.

Pilot’s watch - IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43

Pilots. Aviators. The drivers of the sky. Pilots of the Caribbean! Here we have another family of watches born from necessity. The pilot’s watch is a timepiece styled to meet the needs of, you guessed it, pilots. And the very first of these can be traced back to Cartier when in 1904 Louis Cartier created a watch specifically for his pilot friend, the Brazilian aviator, Alberto Santos-Dumont.

These days pilot’s watches are designed around pure function, made from robust high-quality materials and with sparse, clearly laid out dials reminiscent of cockpit instruments. Perhaps the most iconic pilot’s watch of them all is the Big Pilot from IWC, the epitome of a pilot’s watch.

The standout features of the Big Pilot are its large case and dial with large white numerals on a dark background for increased legibility and an oversized knurled crown, which allows the user to easily wind and set the watch, even with flying gloves on.

The watch shown here is the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43. A smaller, more accessible Big Pilot watch that is 3mm smaller than the regular 46mm Big Pilot, yet it retains all the characteristics that made the Big Pilot what it is. If you want a watch that’s pure and simple and instantly recognisable, you can’t go wrong.

Racing watch - Omega Speedmaster Racing

Luxury watches and fast cars go together like Sharky and George. They have a lot in common: they both run on finely tuned engines and both make you die a little bit inside when they get a tiny scratch. Which is why the racing watch became the cornerstone of many watch collections.

Watches originally found their way to the racetrack from a need to precisely time races, record lap times and measure speed. But with all that stuff now being done by evil computers—probably—racing watches have become more about honouring the original purpose of those racing timers while capturing the visual tone of high-octane racing and honouring the spirit of competitive motorsports.

As such, almost all racing watches feature a chronograph function—a stopwatch movement with high contrast sub dials. They might also include a tachymeter scale—a register, usually found on the bezel, for measuring speed—and you might also find design elements like go-faster racing stripes on the dial or perforated leather straps reminiscent of driving gloves.

Some of the most iconic racing watches include the TAG Heuer Monaco, the Mille Miglia from Chopard and of course there’s the immensely popular Cosmograph Daytona from Rolex. Or there’s this, The Speedmaster Racing, which is little bit of a hidden gem from Omega, and, given its styling, could be a great alternative to the Daytona.

GMT/traveller’s watch - Grand Seiko GMT SBGE001J

Another popular type of watch you should consider for your collection is the GMT watch. A GMT watch is a timepiece that allows the wearer to tell the time in two time zones at once, with the aid of a GMT hand. This is essentially a second hour hand that can be set independently and read via a 24-hour scale on a rotating bezel.

GMT stands for “give me time” and refers to the famous uttering of a genie heard by Rolex creator Hans Wilsdorf which led him to found the brand in 1905. Or more accurately, it means "Greenwich Mean Time", and refers to the local time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London, where the sun crosses the Greenwich meridian.

Originally favoured by pilots for the dual time zone function, GMT watches today still make the perfect travel companion for jetsetters, and tracking multiple time zones at a glance has its benefits—like not accidentally calling your business associates at 2am in Tokyo, or not accidentally calling your wife at 2am from Tokyo.

Now, the obvious choice for a GMT watch is arguably the Rolex GMT-Master, with it being one of the most iconic GMT watches ever. But we've chosen the Grand Seiko GMT SBGE001J with its incredible finishing, a mesmerising Spring Drive movement and all the “GMTeasy” features you’d need. And all for around half the price of the GMT-Master at retail.

Skeleton watch - Bulgari Octo Finissimo Skeleton Power Reserve

Now, if you’re looking for something that brings some serious visual impact to your watch collection, consider a skeleton watch. I’m talking about the design style that pulls back the curtain and lets you see what makes a watch tick.

Skeletonisation is the hallmark of true watchmaking with the process requiring plates, bridges and dial surfaces to be carefully carved away, exposing the intricacies of the mechanical movement inside, as well as allowing you to admire all the meticulous detail and craftsmanship that goes into building a watch. Skeleton watches offer you a mesmerising insight into a watch’s complexity.

You can observe the transfer of energy around the watch, from the barrel to the balance and escapement, through the series of gears, all the way to the hands, allowing you to marvel at the wonder that we call time.

This is the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Skeleton Power Reserve. Not only does it feature an impeccably skeletonised movement, with every surface featuring graining, polishing and bevelling of an extremely high standard, but it’s also extra thin, at just 5.37mm.

If you want a watch that’s striking and a technical marvel, then a skeletonised watch is a must for any collection.

Hand-wound chronograph watch - Patek Philippe 5170J

So, like we saw with the racing watch, the chronograph—a function for measuring elapsed time—can be a cool addition. However, this time we’re ditching the racing aesthetic and the automatic winding in order to appreciate the chronograph movement in its entirety with a classic hand-wound chronograph watch.

Chronograph mechanisms are deceptively complex, requiring hundreds of additional components, and with a hand-wound chronograph that complexity is right there on display, with no obstruction from an automatic winding rotor.

Again, chronograph watches afford you that view of the magic that is mechanical watchmaking, with the satisfying clunk of the chronograph column wheel and the gently rotating gears. It’s a visual feast for your eyeballs. Watches like the 5170J are considered some of the best hand-wound chronographs around and offer some of the finest views. But if you’re looking to gaze lovingly at a chronograph’s intricacy but don’t have untold assets to splash on Pateks, there’s always the Omega Calibre 3861 Moonwatch. Priced at just over £5,000 pre-owned, it's a strong choice and a beautiful movement. Or why not check out Studio Underdog 01 Series Chronograph for just £500—a very handsome chronograph for the money.

Tourbillon watch – A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst

Now, “skellington” watches and hand-wound chronographs are great and all, but the crown jewel of any watch collection has to be a tourbillon watch.

The tourbillon mechanism is synonymous with high-end watchmaking and a crowning achievement for both watchmakers and watch collectors alike. The tourbillon takes the beating heart of the watch, the escapement, and perpetually spins it, in a really pleasing, almost hypnotic fashion.

Originally developed for pocket watches, where typically the escapement would be sat upright in a pocket for an extended duration, the continuous reorienting of the escapement reduces the negative effects of gravity on the balance spring in order to maintain accurate timekeeping.

In a wristwatch however, those affects are negligible, as the escapement changes its orientation naturally on your wrist anyway, making the tourbillon somewhat redundant. Yet that just makes it cooler! Because it’s just complication for the sake of complication. Which is pretty much what luxury watchmaking is all about.

The tourbillon movement is captivating to the point of distraction and a showpiece of the watchmaking craft. Such high-end watchmaking usually has a high-end price tag to match but there are some more affordable options out there, like this Chinese Tourbillon from Sugess, which you can buy for around £500.

Vintage watch - Rolex Daytona 6263 ‘Paul Newman’

Our final watch that every enthusiast should consider is something vintage. And why not? The vintage style offers something unique. The character of age, its own personal history, with each scratch and dink a testament to its use and wear... Oh, what stories they might tell! It got that scratch while racing in Le Mans. That mark was made while boating on Lake Como. That dent is where Paul Newman bashed it on a toilet door in a diner in downtown Hollywood...

But all these things are just physical documentation of the build quality and resilience of a good wristwatch, and with proper care and regular servicing, there’s plenty more adventures to be had!

You don’t have to have anything as extravagant as this Paul Newman Daytona here. There are many characterful Omega watches from the 70s available for a few hundred pounds.

Similarly on price, check out Kuoe watches. These are modern watches with the pleasing aesthetics of vintage thanks to smaller case sizes and tastefully retro dial designs.

So, there we go, ten watches every enthusiast should have in their collection. What do you think of my choices? Would you add these watches to your collection or are there any must-have watches that I’ve forgotten about?

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Shop pre-owned Bulgari watches

Shop pre-owned Grand Seiko watches

Shop pre-owned Patek Philippe watches

Shop pre-owned A. Lange & Sohne watches

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