Starting a Watch Collection & Best Affordable Watch Brands

Starting a Watch Collection & Best Affordable Watch Brands

3 min read
Al Hidden



Al Hidden



Plus best affordable watch brands. Read what happened when a copywriter started writing for an affordable watch brand and built a watch collection from scratch…

Writing for the ‘Geckos’ (and starting a watch collection)

After nearly 18 months writing for them, WatchGecko asked me to blog on being a watch newbie – starting with 'starting a watch collection'. I ‘get’ the logic. I spent decades oblivious to watches as anything more than simple timekeepers. Eighteen months ago, when I started working with Geckota Ltd, our household had only one watch (my wife’s old Swatch). Now we’ve nearly 30... That, and climbing a steep learning curve from a very low base, gives me useful perspective.

Before WatchGecko, I hadn’t worn watches for decades – I used my phone. Before that were a couple of cheap Ingersolls and Seikos. Back then, if you’d asked, ‘Why do people collect watches?’ I’d just have shrugged.

Sharing my watch adventure with you

When Geckota’s Jon Quinn gave me a K-01 Fliegeruhren, I wasn’t even sure I’d enjoy wearing a watch. But I accepted and entered the world of affordable watches. Now I’m hooked, feel naked without a watch and love writing about all aspects of these little wrist-sized machines. And going to Baselworld. And building a watch collection. And having free rein to share my watch adventure with you.

What have I collected?

So, 18 months on, what have I collected? Soon after starting writing for WatchGecko, I fell for Omega’s Seamaster 300 Professional and came within a balance-spring-width of buying. But I didn’t. (Not yet!) Instead, I took a different approach. I’ve probably ‘bought the Seamaster’ by now, but given my work, I’ve surely learned more, and got equal pleasure, from ‘a Seamaster-worth’ of popular – some of the best – affordable watches.

Along the way, I’ve collected some of the most popular, best value for money watches. And compared other affordable watch brands with Geckota watches I’ve been given – and bought.

I’ve discovered why Seiko’s SKX007 is a classic. And that talk about underwhelming lume on Invicta’s ProDiver is true. I also know a bit about Rolex Sub ‘lookalikes’ now, thanks to Invicta, Gigandet and Steinhart’s Ocean 1 GMT.

GMTs and worldtimers

Talking of GMTs, I’ve discovered a penchant for watches with ‘GMT’ or exotic place names, on them. I see them as watch collection essentials. Therefore, alongside the Steinhart, a Seiko SRP129 and a J Springs world timer, there’s a Citizen Eco-Drive Aviator GMT. Maybe one day, Breitling’s Navitimer World or Tissot’s Heritage Navigator too. And in my dreams, Patek Phillippe and Vacheron Constantin worldtimers…

Early articles covered Military style straps and pilot watches: several Geckota K-01s joined my collection. Later, writing about chronographs, Seiko’s SNA411 delivered the ‘pilot chrono’ experience. And though not a GMT, it has a secret traveller’s tool. More later…

Affordable divers

Divers? Geckota’s stainless steel K3 was my first before three Orients, two SKXs, the Invicta, Gigandet and Vostok’s Amphibia – the latter like something from a 1970s lucky bag, but still with character.

Since starting a watch collection, it’s only grown (‘it’s work’ I tell my wife, who doesn’t understand having several watches, yet didn’t refuse a Geckota K-01…). Soon I explored vintage watch territory with Universal Genève’s Polerouter. Then, in Japan’s legendary watch stores, I bought Seiko’s Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) SARG005 field watch. The strap was lucky bag material but the Seiko looks great on Geckota leather.

My current favourite watch and strap combo?

So what are my current favourite watch and strap combos? I’ll resist the classic watch-addict response of, ‘the next one!’

For a GMT/travel watch, it’s the Citizen on a brown leather ZULU. For a diver, my original K3 on shark mesh. But I’ve seen Geckota’s new prototype…
The Polerouter (when new, a serious Rolex Datejust alternative) is a superb vintage/dress watch on Geckota V-stitched leather. And for a sports watch and strap? My Seiko 5 Mount Fuji World Heritage on an orange Bonetto Cinturini strap.

And for a pilot chronograph? I love my Seiko SNA411, on Geckota’s classic engineer bracelet, with its 200 m rating and ‘secret’ dual-time alarm sub-dial!

Time for a ‘Mr Swatch’ pose

My wife still says I can only wear one at a time! Yeah! Right! She hasn’t seen the late Nicolas Hayak. Next job: get our photographer Alice to snap me in classic ‘Mr Swatch’ pose…

So that’s ‘starting a collection’. Next time, I’ll answer the question, ‘If you could only own one watch (from each of Geckota; Baselworld 2017 and all watches, ever) what would they be?

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Al Hidden

About the Author: Al Hidden

I’m a Gloucestershire copywriter with extensive experience writing for automotive, aerospace, travel and other technical fields. As a watch industry copywriter, I’ve often contributed to the WatchGecko website. I specialise in researching and writing in-depth articles on topics as diverse as Baselworld’s visual design, Steve McQueen’s Le Mans and the challenge of odd lug widths.

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