If you follow Instagram accounts with watch-focused content, you may start to believe that amassing as many watches as possible is the goal. Yes, by nature, collectors like to collect, and if you get bitten by the watch bug, the urge for “just one more watch” can be strong. However, we’re here to tell you that not only does a small yet thoughtfully curated collection cover every occasion but it is also easier to manage. You really only need three timepieces for the perfect assortment: a daily watch, a sports watch, and a dress watch. If you’re ready to get started, here’s our beginner’s guide to the best 3 watch collection to help you out.
The Daily Watch
This watch will be the workhorse of your collection. It’ll be the watch you wear most of the time, therefore, it should complement the majority of your wardrobe and work for your lifestyle. There are no hard and fast rules as to what constitutes a daily watch but definitely keep comfort and durability in mind. You don’t want a watch that you have to be too precious with if you’re going to be wearing it all the time and you certainly don’t want an uncomfortable timepiece that you consistently have to adjust or remove from your wrist.
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Also, you’ll want a watch that you can dress up or down — whether for a night out, running errands, or working from home. Think about the combination of shape, material, and color when you’re considering your daily watch. Are you a minimalist, maximalist, or somewhere in between? Do you always wear white-tone metals, gold-tone metals, or a mix of both? Do you prefer round watches or do you gravitate towards other shapes?
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If you’re not sure what style you’d prefer, below are some popular examples of high-end timepieces that can work as daily watches to give you some inspiration.
- Rolex Oyster Perpetual, Datejust, Explorer
- Omega Constellation, Aqua Terra
- Cartier Ballon Bleu, Santos, Tank
- Tudor Black Bay 32/36/41
- Patek Philippe Aquanaut, Twenty-4
- Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
- IWC Portugieser
- Bulgari Octo
- Panerai Radiomir
While the above watches are obviously different, what they have in common is immense variety. These well-known watch collections offer a wide range of materials, sizes, and colors so you can choose a daily watch that fits your style best.
The Sports Watch
Think of this piece as the weekend watch. Compared to the daily watch, a sports watch will typically have a beefier case, added functionality, and often, more color. Dive watches, GMT watches, and chronographs all fall within this category. They’ll come with extra bells and whistles such as buttons to activate the chronograph (stopwatch feature), bezels that rotate to use as timers, and additional displays on the dial.
In terms of style, the sports watch can be its own thing without having to worry about it matching what you’re wearing. In fact, sports watches are often selected for their striking style; they’re expected to grab attention rather than blend seamlessly with your look. So if you want bright colors and bold silhouettes, then go for it.
Almost all high-end watch brands will offer a few sports watch collections. Sports watches have become increasingly popular in recent decades and the following are some of the most famous in the luxury market.
- Rolex Submariner, GMT-Master, Daytona, Yacht-Master, Sea-Dweller, Explorer II
- Omega Seamaster Diver 300M, Planet Ocean, Speedmaster
- Tudor Black Bay, Pelagos
- A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus
- Patek Philippe Nautilus
- Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore
- Breguet Type XX
- Hublot Big Bang
- Panerai Luminor, Submersible
- IWC Pilot’s Watch, Big Pilot’s Watch
- Cartier Pasha, Calibre Diver, Roadster
- Breitling Chronomat, Navitimer
- Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Sport
Again, the above collections are varied with plenty of different colorways and materials to choose from. Whether a steel diving watch, oversized pilot’s watch, or solid gold chronograph, the sports watch will be the most fun one out of the trio that makes up the best 3 watch collection.
The Dress Watch
Many of us have items in our wardrobe that we wear when we want to look extra sharp. A fave suit, a snappy pocket square, a perfect dress, and some killer shoes. And the timepiece to take out for those occasions is the dress watch.
Whereas the sports watch is defined by its big and bold style, the dress watch sits on the other end of the spectrum, characterized by restraint and subtlety. Dress watches often have ultra-slim cases that sit low on the wrist. They also feature understated dials that are easy to read and more often than not, dress watches are paired with leather straps. Demure design is prioritized over robust durability.
Above all, you’ll want a dress watch with a classic design that won’t go out of style—regardless of current trends. The below fine timepieces are perfect examples of dress watches with enduring appeal:
- Rolex Day-Date, Cellini, 1908
- Omega De Ville
- Cartier Tank, Panthère
- Patek Philippe Calatrava, Gondolo
- Vacheron Constantin Patrimony, Traditionnelle
- Breguet Classique
- A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia, 1815
- Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, Master Control
- Piaget Altiplano
- Blancpain Villeret, Ladybird
Although luxury brands certainly offer current dress watch collections, you can always look at vintage watches too. Vintage timepieces will often feature the understated designs and restrained proportions characteristic of the ideal dress watch.
3 Watch Collection Under $5,000
If you have about $5,000 to spend on a three-watch collection, then there are plenty of mid-range watch brands that offer some solid options. Another approach is to look at discontinued models from more premium brands as you can often find good deals on the pre-owned watch market.
Three watches we’d recommend to make a complete collection at $5,000 or less include the discontinued Tudor Black Bay 41 as a daily watch, a Longines Hydroconquest dive watch as a sports watch, and a Frederique Constant Classics Automatic as a dress watch. Here are the prices you should expect to pay:
- Tudor Black Bay 41 ref. 79540: Around $2,700 pre-owned
- Longines Hydroconquest: $1,775 MSRP
- Frederique Constant Classics Index Automatic: $995 MSRP
When thinking about how to spend your budget, generally speaking, it’s best to invest more into the watch you’ll wear the most and least on the special occasion watch.
3 Watch Collection Under $10,000
With a total budget of $10,000 or less, you can start adding more premium luxury watch brands to add to your collection of three watches.
Three watches we’d recommend for a complete collection at $10,000 or less include an older discontinued Omega Aqua Terra as the daily watch, a TAG Heuer Aquaracer Calibre 7 GMT as the sports watch, and an older Cartier Tank Solo as a dress watch. Here are the prices you should expect to pay:
- Omega Aqua Terra 41.5mm ref. 231.10.42: Around $3,500 to $4,000 pre-owned
- Tag Heuer Aquaracer Calibre 7 GMT Watch WAY201F.BA0927: Around $2,500 to $3,000 pre-owned
- Cartier Tank Solo XL W5200027: Around $3,000 to $4,000 pre-owned
Again, it’s always worth looking at the grey market for pre-owned versions to see if you can score a deal.
3 Watch Collection Under $20,000
For $20,000, you can build an impressive 3 watch collection with plenty of big brand names. We’d recommend a Rolex Datejust 41 as an everyday luxury watch, a Tudor Black Bay Chrono as a sports watch, and an Omega De Ville Prestige 39.5mm as an elegant dress watch. Here are the prices you should expect to pay:
- Rolex Datejust 41 ref. 126300: Around $11,000
- Tudor Black Bay Chrono ref. 79360N: Around $5,500
- Omega De Ville Prestige ref. 424.13.40: Around $3,000 pre-owned
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3 Watch Collection Under $50,000
With $50,000 to invest in a three-piece collection, the options are vast. You’re looking at more than $15,000 for each watch, which is a fantastic price point for many luxury watches. Or, you can invest a major portion of the budget in one style of watch (either everyday, sport, or dress) and then divvy up the rest to cover the other two styles.
One great way to spend $50,000 or less on a three-watch collection would be to buy a Cartier Santos as an everyday watch, a Rolex GMT-Master Pepsi as a sports watch, and a Patek Philippe Annual Calendar as a dress watch. Here are the prices you should expect to pay:
- Cartier Santos WSSA0030: Around $7,000 pre-owned
- GMT-Master II 126710BLRO Pepsi: Around $20,000 on the secondary market
- Patek Philippe Annual Calendar 5035R: Around $23,000 pre-owned
3 Watch Collection Under $100,000
With $100,000 in your pocket to spend on watches, you can build a three-watch collection of the Holy Trinity of watches. For example, a Vacheron Constantin Overseas as an everyday watch, an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore as a sports watch, and Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Regulator as a dress watch.
- Vacheron Constantin Overseas ref. 4500V: Around $30,000 pre-owned
- Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore “Bumble Bee”: Around $25,000 pre-owned
- Annual Calendar Regulator 5235/50R-001 – around $43,500 pre-owned
The beauty of the Overseas as an everyday watch is that it comes with three band styles: metal, rubber, and leather. Therefore, you can switch up the look of the watch depending on the occasion, which makes it even more versatile.
There you have it—a guide to building the perfect three-watch collection. With a daily watch, sports watch, and dress watch in your possession, you’ll always have the right timepiece to wear for any occasion regardless of your budget.
More from Grey Market:
Beginner Guides from Grey Market Magazine:
Types of Watches: A Simple Guide
A Primer on Watch Movement Types
An Introduction to Common Materials Used in Watchmaking
A Primer on the Different Types of Watch Bands, Straps, and Bracelets
A Primer on Watch Hour Markers
A Primer on Watch Hands