Most of my colleagues already had their turn to assemble their perfect watch collection with a budget of €25,000. I have seen some exciting picks, but it also made me realize that it depends heavily on where you are in your watch-collecting journey. Someone who just started will probably pick entirely different watches with this €25,000 sum than someone who has been collecting for decades.

Looking back at my journey in collecting watches, I made some unusual choices early on. But they also had to do with the much friendlier prices back then. One of my first serious watches was a Rolex Sea-Dweller, and not much later, I added an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Without a proper budget today, the latter is not possible. But at the time, it was just €5,000 for a pre-owned Royal Oak 15300ST.

Those days are (long) gone, but the experiences still affect my spending behavior. I have difficulty spending tons of money on watches that used to be (relatively) affordable but cost a small fortune today. It is also difficult for me to spend money on certain modern watches that are sometimes even more expensive than trophy watches back in the day. I’ve found solace in buying certain watches that I always found to be handsome and exciting but that have not been picked up by the masses yet.

The Ebel Sport Classic Chronograph, a recent and long-desired addition to my real-life collection

It’s about the journey

Why am I sharing the above thoughts? Well, if I were to put together a €25,000 collection for myself today, it would be very different from the collection I’d want if I were just starting out buying watches. So to make this article a bit more interesting, I’ll put together a €25,000 watch collection as I would do today but also one that I would probably put together if I were just getting started.

I firmly believe that you need to experience the journey properly. Having €25K to spend on watches is one thing, but genuinely enjoying and understanding the watches you buy is something else. The journey makes it fun, and it doesn’t always mean you have to grow into more expensive pieces. Once you have your Patek or Lange, you will still enjoy some of the watches that are much more affordable. You also might find out that Patek is not for you and that you’d rather stick to Rolex instead, for example.

The €25,000 starter pack

As Lex wrote in his essay here, assembling a collection means building one brick at a time. I am building this €25,000 starter pack not only with the knowledge I’ve gathered over the past 20 years but also by looking at how my younger colleagues like Ignacio, Daan, and Thomas look at watch collecting.

I would start with a classic without breaking the bank. So — surprise, surprise — I’d choose the current Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch. This one will set me back €7,700.

Rolex Datejust Oysterquartz

Rolex Oysterquartz Datejust

But then I would add something quirkier and in contrast to the Speedmaster, such as a nice Rolex Oysterquartz 17000 or 17013. Yes, it’s quartz, but it’s also a Rolex without being a typical choice. I’d budget €6,000 to get myself a lovely Rolex OQ, which leaves me enough to go after something more modern and suitable for daily wear.

Breitling Navitimer B01

This leaves me around €11,500 to spend on other watches. Some say you need a dress watch if there are a few sportier watches in a collection, but I don’t necessarily agree. Some of us have no use for a dress watch (or a diver’s watch, even). A more versatile watch can be helpful, though — one you can dress up or down with a nice strap (or bracelet). The Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 on a steel bracelet comes to mind. This watch will also look incredibly good on a leather strap. With a retail price of €9,150, it leaves me with approximately €2,150.

RJ's perfect watch collection €25,000 Airain Type 20

Airain Type 20

Now, I know that some of my colleagues would prefer to add a “beater” watch, but I am not a firm believer in that. I never do things that require me to wear a beater watch, I guess. I want to buy watches that I can just wear, except when going into the water, for example. The only times I swim are during holidays, and I don’t need a watch when swimming.

I also don’t need a G-Shock, although I currently have my share of them. They hardly get any wear. Instead, I will add a fun watch. Even though I love vintage watches, they’re not always a great choice for those new to the hobby. The Rolex Oysterquartz Datejust is relatively easy to purchase, but vintage in general can be a snake pit. So I’d add the Airain Type 20. It’s a faithful interpretation of the Type 20 from the past that was manufactured for the French Air Force by several watch companies, including Airain.

The Type 20 has a retail price of €2,650. If I use all of my allotted €6K for the Oysterquartz, that’ll bring the total to €25,500. Yes, that’s slightly more than the budget, but there might be some room to negotiate when purchasing the Speedmaster and Navitimer from (authorized) dealers. Even if they don’t budge, there is still a good chance that I can find an Oysterquartz in nice condition for less than €5,500.

gold and two-tone watches Rolex Day-Date 18238

The €25,000 collection today

Now, I have or have had the watches in the starter pack. And after more than 20 years of collecting, it’s very tempting to just blow my hypothetical €25,000 on one watch. An H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Centre Seconds Vantablack comes to mind. Or how about a Czapek Antarctique Passage de Drake or a new Breguet Classique 5157?

Something high-end?

The problem is that I can’t live with just one watch, even if it’s a piece from Moser, Czapek, or any other high-end watchmaking brand. So, this leaves me going pre-owned to obtain some of the treasures that I want in my watch collection.

RJ's perfect watch collection €25,000 Rolex Day-Date 18238

Option 1: Start with a Rolex Day-Date 18238

The Rolex Day-Date was on my wish list for an incredibly long time. Ever since I had one on my wrist for a couple of days in the early 2000s, it was very difficult to get it out of my head. I finally bought mine in early 2022, and owning the Day-Date in yellow gold has lived up to my expectations. It’s an easy watch to wear as it goes with virtually everything, and the modest 36mm case size makes it very comfortable as well.

I bought the Day-Date ref. 18238, which has a double quickset function, and always wear it on the gold President bracelet. I can see why so many people have this as their only watch. A pre-owned Day-Date ref. 1803 can be had for just over €10K, but if you want a five-digit model with a sapphire crystal, double quickset, and not too much stretch on the bracelet, expect to pay around €17,000.

RJ's perfect watch collection €25,000 Omega Speedmaster 145.022

Image: Davidoff Brothers

A vintage Omega Speedmaster Professional 145.022

That leaves me with €8,000 to spend. At this point, I think condition is the most important thing when it comes to watches. You can always hunt for a bargain or the cheapest buy, but you’ll likely end up with a bunch of watches that will always have some kind of flaw. I also have to agree with the guys over at Amsterdam Vintage Watches that I’d rather have a watch in impeccable condition than one in mediocre condition with its box and papers.

RJ's perfect watch collection €25,000 Omega Speedmaster 145.022

Image: Davidoff Brothers

For this €8,000, I would buy a nice vintage watch, probably an Omega Speedmaster. And I’d get the best vintage Speedmaster that money can buy for this sum, which would likely be a decent reference 145.022. Our friends at Davidoff Brothers have a nice 145.022-78 from 1981 that fits the budget.

RJ's perfect watch collection €25,000 Breguet 7027BA

Option 2: Lead with a Breguet Tradition 7027BA

There’s also another mix that I’d like. Earlier this year, I purchased a 37mm Breguet Tradition 7027BA (yellow gold), and it receives a lot more wrist time than I ever would have expected! Prices for a yellow gold 7027 have gone a little bit up in the last few months, but about €15,000 should get us one in good condition (here’s one). This will leave us with a remaining budget of around €10,000.

RJ's perfect watch collection €25,000 Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch 3570.50

Rounding it off with an Omega and a Rolex

For approximately €4,000, I would add a Speedmaster Professional 3570.50 or, if possible, a slightly older 3590.50. As said earlier, I don’t care about the box and papers. The latter has the old-style bracelet (ref. 1479), tritium dial and hands, and the caliber 861. I would then spend the remaining €6,000 on a Rolex Explorer (1)14270.

Oof, now that was difficult

Now, you might not (or probably don’t) agree with my choices. However, these are the watches that I would purchase to set up a €25,000 collection, both as someone who’s just getting into watches and as someone who has been collecting for a while. It was not an easy task, and if you follow me on Instagram or read my articles here, you may have noticed that all of the watches in the latter assortment are in my real-life collection too. Also, the watches in the starter collection are pieces that I own or have owned at some point.

I also realized that I could consider myself lucky to have started collecting early on. Because of that, I have been able to buy and try so many different watches. On the other hand, I have also spent more than I’d like to admit on watches in recent times. Some of these watches might sound very boring to you, and you’d probably rather have seen an A. Lange & Söhne, H. Moser & Cie., or even a Jaeger-LeCoultre or Cartier in there. But those are watches I’d add on top of the collections described above. As Lex preached in his The Best Boring But Brilliant Watches series here on Fratello, there’s little that these watches can do wrong, and they are often incredibly versatile.

Oh, and I also realized how easy it is to blow €25,000 on watches and still miss some crucial pieces in your collection. If the budget forever remains €25,000, it means you’ll need to trade (up) for as long as necessary until you achieve the perfect collection.