A little while ago I put together 'The Ultimate Watch Collection'. A collection where money is no object.
But, what if money is an object?
In other words, if we wanted to build a watch collection of 'attainable' watches, where attainable isn't necessarily cheap, but that a person making an average salary could, with time, save up to buy at least a couple, what would that look like?
Well, I'm about to tell you (in no particular order), and yes there are watches in this list that overlap with the "ultimate watch collection", and thats because money isn't everything:
Omega Speedmaster - This is an easy choice. Not only because it's probably one of the greatest (if not the greatest) manual chronograph ever made, but because it's still in production, which means there are many available to buy, you can still pick up a pre-owned version for around $2500.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak - The watch that established the 'Luxury Sport Watch' category, that made steel a precious metal, and with the help of Gerald Genta introduced a design so iconic it'd be copied again and again, this too was easy. But careful, it's the original version you want to focus on (references 15400 or 15202 as of 2014), not the offshore monstrosities.
Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso - Created in 1931 for Polo players, so that their crystals could be protected during a match, the Reverso is also an icon. Yes, it's a 'dress watch', however, this beauty can easily be dressed down. Comes in many variations that are pretty much all beautiful.
IWC Portuguese - Perhaps the Portuguese was the first truly 'big watch', especially considering it's peers of the day, but regardless, it is a watch that established a new way to design watches. A portuguese is unmistakable. And just like some of the others on this list, it's an icon that has influenced many.
IWC Big Pilot - Another IWC, but this time the Big Pilot. Actually, one could argue the entire IWC's Pilot line is filled with influential and important watches (think: Mark series and Doppelchronograph, etc.), but the Big Pilot is definitely the most recognizable. A simple, non-nonsense watch that is timeless.
Rolex Submariner - Maybe the first true dive watch, or was it a Doxa? Either way, the Submariner defined Rolex as a Tool Watch company. Probably the most copied watch of all time, to the point where buying a Submariner can be considered a common choice. But keep your eye on vintage models, with a bit of wear and tear on them, coupled with a nice vintage leather strap, and you have something that is versatile, durable, accurate and beautiful.
Patek Philippe Calatrava - One of the 'go to' heirloom watches, the Calatrava has been the standard bearer for this category. It's also one of the least expensive ways to get into the Patek family without being insignificant (think: aquanaut).
Patek Philippe Nautilus - Another Patek, but this time the legendary Nautilus. As mentioned a bit earlier, it was heavily influenced by the Royal Oak, so much so that Patek hired Genta to design it, and used the same Jaeger Lecoultre 920 movement found in the Royal Oak 15202. But somehow, the Naultilus maintains it's individuality (while being similar), and has become a legend in it's own right.
Heuer Carrera or Monaco (vintage ONLY!) - What a difference a few decades make! In other words, looking at what Tag Heuer is today, and what it was pre-1980's, when it was just Heuer, it's shocking to think these are the same company. What a pre-1980's Carrera or Monaco is, is nothing short of iconic. Wether it's with a Valjoux 72 as was used in the 60's, or their famous c.11 invented in 1969, nearly any model should be on your bucket list of watches to 'must have'.
Zenith El Primero - As mentioned just now, Heuer invented the c.11 in 1969, one of the first automatic chronographs ever made. But the very first, by only a couple months was Zenith's 'El Primero' (hence the name, which means 'the first' in Spanish). But, the El Primero as a movement was a bit more sophisticated and is still in production today (although an evolved version). The c.11 on the other hand, has been dropped. Stay away from the gaudy models, which are also far more expensive and you can't go wrong.
So there you have it, a 'Top 10' most attainable list of watches.
An yes, there are other watches we could add or swap out, but then again, maybe not :)