01/31/2024
 6 minutes

The Best for $24,000 in 2024: Sebastian’s Perfect Watch Collection

By Sebastian Swart
Sebastian’s $24,000 Watch Collection

Sebastian’s $24,000 Watch Collection

At the start of January, our esteemed content manager approached me about writing a piece for the new series “My Perfect $24,000 Watch Collection.” Different authors will be contributing in the coming months, and it was an offer I just couldn’t pass up. Why exactly $24,000? Well, just think of it as our way of kicking off the 2024 watch year!

Those who’ve read my articles might have noticed that I’m not your typical watch collector, protectively hovering over his timepieces the way a mother hen keeps her eggs warm. I’m also not trying to make a quick buck on my watches as investments. Instead, I buy watches that I like, and sell the ones I’ve grown tired of. I’m also not trying to anticipate which of my progeny will inherit a watch from me, making it easy to pass a watch on that I no longer feel like wearing.

I’m into mechanical watches that suit my own taste, are excellently made, and offer great value for money. Sure, big brand names are nice, but they’re not my end-all. For me, it’s all about the product. With only a few exceptions, I stay away from watch market speculation, artificially pumped-up prices, and hyped-up watches; for me, there are way too many allegedly “iconic” watches out there that people think have an interesting story to tell. Four of the watches I’m presenting today are in my collection, with another one (hopefully) on its way. Let’s kick it off!

1. Hamilton Pioneer Mechanical Chrono Khaki

We’re starting things with the Hamilton Pioneer Mechanical Chrono Khaki ref. H76409530, a pilot’s watch that was released in 2023. I’d seen a bunch of online reviews of it, but had never held one in my hands. I picked one up on a popular watch forum in November last year, and have been very impressed ever since by what Hamilton delivers for a list price of $2,095.

This retro-design chronograph has the features and look of the timepiece Hamilton made for the Royal Air Force in the 1970s. While the original had an acrylic crystal, today’s model features sapphire glass over the dial. Both the original and 2023 timepiece have a screw-down case backs. What I really like is the clean dial design, with its Arabic numerals, dot indices, and dual subdial layout. Its 40-mm asymmetric, all-brushed case delivers a great tool-y look and feel, along with 100 meters (10 bar, 328 feet) of water resistance.

Hamilton Pioneer Mechanical Chrono Khaki – bestes Preis-Leistungs-Verhältnis
Great value for money: Hamilton Pioneer Mechanical Chrono Khaki

The hand-wound Hamilton caliber H-51-Si ticks away inside this chronograph, and is based upon a modified Valjoux 7753. These days, Valjoux is in the hands of ébauche movement manufacturer ETA which, like Hamilton, is owned by the Swatch Group. The H-51-Si caliber was created exclusively for Hamilton, contains a silicon spring, and delivers a 60-hour power reserve. Its large crown lets you enjoy the buttery-smooth, precise winding action on this timepiece. Now, the 22-mm leather strap and buckle it comes with is a bit wide for my taste, which is why I swapped it out for an aftermarket Arillo strap from Gunny.

The Hamilton Pioneer Mechanical Chrono Khaki is hard to beat when it comes to value for money. Pick one up on Chrono24 in new condition for around $1,900.

2. Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster

I’ve had the latest Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver in my collection for more than two years now, and it’s slowly but surely becoming a keeper. Nivada Grenchen first released the original two-subdial version of this watch in the early 1960s, and would go on to produce it into the 1970s in countless variants. At the time, the Chronomaster, some models of which were powered by top-of-the-line Valjoux movements, was a direct competitor to timepieces from Heuer or Breitling. With its nine different complications and features, the Chronomaster had more than a leg up on these industry behemoths.

After falling victim to the quartz crisis, Nivada made a comeback decades later in 2020. Some of the first new timepieces were reinterpretations of the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver. I chose the manual winding reference 86012M03, also known as the “Orange Boy” on a rubber strap. This modest 38.5-mm watch shares the width of the timepiece that inspired this modern iteration. The watch is water-resistant to 100 meters (10 bar, 328 feet) and has a sapphire crystal. Powered by the Sellita SW510 M BH B caliber, this Nivada has a power reserve of over 60 hours.

Dem Vintage-Original zum Verwechseln ähnlich – Nivada Chronomaster Orange Boy
A chip off the original watch block: the Nivada Chronomaster Orange Boy

This watch, with its excellent construction and design, also provides great value for money. It can be yours for around $2,000 on Chrono24 in new condition.

3. Squale Sub-39 GMT Vintage

It’s a long start-to-finish journey when you’re putting together a $24,000 watch collection. So let’s keep moving forward to the next great watch that can be yours for well under $2,000, the Squale Sub-39 GMT Vintage.

Squale’s history dates back to 1959, when the brand was granted the first patent for making cases for diving watches. In the 1960s, the brand manufactured dive watch cases for famous watchmakers such as Blancpain (Fifty Fathoms) and Heuer.

The Squale Sub-39 GMT Vintage (ref. SUB-39GMTV.PN) pays homage to 1950s and 60s dive and GMT watches. But this is anything but a cut-and-paste replica. Instead, it borrows classic design elements from the era to create a series of great-looking new interpretations. The finish on this watch is outstanding. The Squale’s 40.5-mm case is fully polished, giving it a certain “bling” factor. This remarkable design also has sleek, slim flanks and slightly curved lugs.

Squale Sub-39 GMT Vintage
Squale Sub-39 GMT Vintage

This watch is equipped with an elaboré-grade Sellita caliber SW 330-1, which delivers 38 hours of power reserve. It also has a sapphire crystal. Its screw-down case back and crown give it 200 meters (20 bar, 656 feet) of water resistance.

The Squale Sub-39 GMT Vintage shows you what a brand can do when it skips all the marketing hype and sources a great, time-tested caliber instead of insisting on an in-house movement. A GMT diver from a brand with great heritage, and that for well under $2,000? Amazing.

4. Rolex Explorer II 16570

Alright, with the Rolex Explorer II 16570, I am admittedly getting off the “value for money” track I’ve been on so far. This model is unquestionably a fantastic tool watch, and maybe even one of the last true tool watches Rolex ever made. But upon closer inspection, when you see what you get (a simple three-hand stainless steel watch with a GMT and date complication), we’re talking about a pretty decent chunk of change to get one on your wrist. You do, however, get the brand name on your wrist, which will earn you the occasional jealous look or even comment.

I acquired my 2003 newly-refurbished model in 2021. Those familiar with the watch market of recent years will know I bought at peak price. (Check out my article “The Love We Share”, in which I tell the story of my purchase). Although the Explorer II 16570 is anything but inexpensive, it’s beautifully designed, with excellent functionality and quality. Its in-house caliber 3185 is COSC-certified and boasts 50 hours of power reserve.

Rolex Explorer II 16570
Rolex Explorer II 16570

The Rolex Explorer II’s unpretentious look and moderate 40-mm size make it the perfect everyday wearer for any occasion. A Rolex Explorer II 16570 with a black dial (like mine) in very good condition can be yours for around $9,000 on Chrono24.

5. Heuer Autavia GMT Ref. 2446C

The last piece on my $24,000 watch collection list is the Heuer Autavia GMT ref. 2446C. In case it hasn’t sunk in after seeing the other watches on this list, I’m a big fan of chronographs and GMT watches. The Heuer Autavia GMT is my perfect watch because it masterfully combines these two complications. I don’t own this beautiful vintage Autavia – at least not yet. But believe me, my radar is up for one, and the search is on. I look forward to things falling into place soon to get this timepiece on my wrist.

The Heuer Autavia looks back on an exciting heritage. Watch icon and hobby race car driver Jack Heuer personally developed the original Autavia model at the start of the 1960s, which would go on to be the racing sports watch into the 1970s, donning the wrists of many of the big names in racing. For more, check out my TAG Heuer Autavia Buyer’s Guide on Chrono24.

A functional, stunning cult classic: Heuer Autavia Reference 2446C GMT
A functional, stunning cult classic: Heuer Autavia Reference 2446C GMT

The Autavia 2446C first appeared in 1968, and is powered by the Valjoux 724 movement, which is based on the Valjoux 72, a legendary caliber considered to be one of the finest-ever in Swiss series production. Many luxury brands like Rolex, Breitling, and Jaeger-LeCoultre have used it in their timepieces over the decades.

The Autavia 2446C is the vintage piece on this list, beautifully rounding off my perfect $24,000 collection. The average price on Chrono24 for one in good condition is around $11,000. Expect to pay considerably more for models in very good condition, especially in light of the willingness of enthusiasts to pay inflated prices to get their hands on this horological icon.

These are the watches in my 2024 $24,000 collection. Did you see anything here that you might enjoy having on your wrist? Then explore Chrono24 today to find your next great-looking watch.


About the Author

Sebastian Swart

I've been using Chrono24 for years to buy and sell watches, as well as for research purposes. I've had an infatuation with watches for as long as I can remember. As a …

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