Starting A Watch Collection With €5,000: Balazs’s Picks from Doxa, Baltic, And Hamilton
When I was given the task to pen down my thoughts on my perfect watch collection for €5K, I knew one thing: I didn’t want to end up with a two-watch assemblage. If you know me (or have ever heard an episode of Fratello On Air), you are aware that I’m a sucker for chronographs, so I needed one of those in the lot. But that’s not the ultimate sports tool watch. That label must go to a diver. And what is a chrono/diver collection without a proper dress watch to balance it out? There, I’ve got my parameters. Now I just need to find the right pieces.
I must admit that I started my list with the diver and worked my way up (or down, depending on where you’re looking). The second had to be the chrono, one that would leave just enough capital to squeeze a dressy piece in. You tell me if I did well or not.
My collection needs one diver above all
Please don’t throw stones at me, but when I think of a diver, the first watch that pops into my head is not the Rolex Sub. Aside from the fact that €5K would not cut it when it comes to Submariner prices, there’s another watch that headlines my imaginary diver ranking. You’ve read the title of this article, so you probably can guess that I’m talking about the Doxa SUB 300. This piece is just as iconic as any other vintage diver out there, if not even more so. I own a modern SUB 300 — one of the first limited editions that Doxa made — so I know how that feels on the wrist.
Furthermore, earlier this year, I had the luck of test-driving one with the Aquamarine dial while in Miami. I also own a vintage SUB 300T, but that’s a different animal. It’s a lovely piece, but it’s much chunkier than the original vintage SUB 300, which is what Doxa used to create the new ones.
Aside from the fact that you can choose from a bunch of dial colors, case materials, straps, and bracelets, there’s the price factor. Doxa SUB 300s might not be the cheapest divers out there, but you are getting a lot of watch for the money. I love the vintage look, the sturdiness, and how it feels on the beads-of-rice bracelet. All that for €2,490 is as great of a deal as it gets.
OK, one in the bag. Only two more to go. But half of my €5K budget is gone. Next, I needed to look for a chronograph. I wanted to spend as much on it as possible while leaving some wiggle room for a dressy piece, so I had to look for a (possibly mechanical) chronograph for around €2K. It’s not an impossible task, and nobody made me set these rules, but following them is part of the fun.
I always wanted one of these
Not necessarily the new version, but the vintage counterpart. I’m talking about the Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph. I promise this is the last time I’ll write this name down. The original Khaki Pilot Chrono (short but gold) is the cornerstone for many vintage-military-watch collectors’ lineups. Sadly, I have not been lucky enough to pick one up in good condition for a fair price. Mike did, though, and you can read about his thoughts on this vintage beauty here. What can you do when you are unlucky like me? Settle for the second-best thing, that’s what.
Let me make this clear: this is not a bittersweet settlement. I love the new Khaki Pilot Chrono. It embodies most things I love about (vintage) chronographs. We have a lovely case size of 40mm. A tad too big, indeed, but I could live with that. It’s got a brushed steel case with pump pushers, a black dial, yellowed (some call it faux) lume, and those great hands. What drew many collectors to the vintage piece, aside from the military provenance, is the asymmetric case. Luckily, that feature is also one of the key visual elements of the new Khaki Pilot Chrono.
I’m not sure how many hand-wound chronographs are on the market these days, but I reckon it’s not a high number, so it’s always great to see a bold move like this from a brand. The Khaki Pilot Chrono has a mechanical manual-wind movement, the caliber H-51-Si. Based on the ETA 7753, it’s the beating heart in the other Hamilton mechanical chronographs from the Intra-Matic line.
Lastly, a few words about the price: we are a hair over the €2K mark at €2,095. I don’t know what you guys think, but if you love the aesthetics of the Hamilton Khaki Pilot Chrono, you are looking at a great deal at this price. We have spent just over €4.5K and already have two killer timepieces. But I still need a dressy watch, and I know just the right one.
So much watch for the money
When the name Baltic popped up in the past, I always thought of divers. That’s understandable. The brand started as a dive-watch company, and I’m sure to many, it still is. This means that I slept on the MR01 for a bit. Boy, was I wrong to do that… Let’s address the elephant in the room — the movement. Yes, for the €648.55 that this Baltic MR01 will set you back, you won’t get a Sellita or even a Seiko movement. Instead, you’ll have a Chinese caliber beating inside your watch. So what? I’m tired of the snobbery surrounding watch movements. It’s time to manage our expectations. I can live with the Hangzhou caliber 5000A inside my Baltic dress watch.
I’m not the only one, as the model recently made a comeback after being sold out. I can understand why; this timepiece is a thing of beauty. We have the perfect case size at 36mm in diameter, 44mm from lug tip to lug tip, and less than 10mm thick. This is such a comfortable size for a dressy piece. While the thick bezel is a great vintage-inspired touch, it is not the only classy feature. Look at those beautiful raised Breguet-style numerals and the off-centered sub-dial between the 6 and the 9. And that’s not even everything. Flip the watch over to admire the micro-rotor through the enormous display case back. It’s simply stunning.
All of that you can get for less than €650. If you did the math on these three watches, you’re right — I’m slightly over €5K, and that’s just fine. Two-hundred-something euros won’t make a difference when you have 5,000 of them to spare. Let’s play fair, though. You can get all three watches for below the limit with a bit of luck and an AD discount. Or chose the SUB 300 on a rubber strap, and it’ll get you €50 closer. In any case, a Doxa diver, a military-inspired Hamilton chrono, and a beauty from Baltic might be someone’s new collection. If so, please do let me know here or on Instagram (@ferenczibazs).