More than ever, brands understand the value of their own heritage. They know that their place in the market will be cemented by design technology and craftsmanship right from their conception. And so, over the past few years, many of the best watch companies have trawled their own archives to find pieces to either update or literally copy and modernise, giving them a whole new marketplace of potential clients.
A reworked edition (often limited), is a statement by those that have chosen to sport such pieces. It says: “I know the brand, I know the history, I know the value of this brand as a statement on my wrist’. Much like a precious piece of jewellery, a watch is no longer is a necessity, rather a piece of arm candy that works as a talisman and style point for the wearer. Before, clocks were everywhere: on our phones, cookers and computer screens. Now, watches have a very different raison d’etre. They are no longer just technology to let us correctly tell the time but also in some cases provide lifesaving qualities.
Nostalgia is, of course, a big fashion trend and has been something that clothing and other luxury brands understand as a good tactic to entice brand continuity and loyalty. Fashion knows that if they put some heritage into a new collection, it’s a pretty good bet it will sell well. Fashion is, after all, a constant re-visiting of past silhouettes. However, it does not just include fashion. Think cars: the fiat 500, motorbikes: the Ducati Scrambler, home design: the resurgence of mid-century modern. The reissues market in music is growing year on year and so nostalgia is big news and a big money maker. It makes us feel secure, it feeds into our need for a sense of safety: vintage styling evokes a sense of emotive connectivity.
As families have become more dispersed, the concept of passing down an heirloom has become less common place, but that doesn’t mean our love of nostalgia has left us. We may not have grandad’s actual watch, but we can buy a replica which may well be a more accurate time keeping piece than your grandparent’s original! Following this, there is of course, the idea that the technology may well be far better in a re-issue than the original. Some examples are literal re-issues whereas some are remakes with updated technology.
However, right now this emotive reconnection to the past is going nowhere and is only growing. So, if you want a vintage watch, maybe buying a new one is the way forward.
See the selection from a cross-section of watch makers all enjoying this new, yet old, trend.
Rado Golden Horse Automatic
Rado have delved into the beginnings of the brand but have taken this history and updated it. As a brand that leads in materials and technology, is it only fitting that any heritage inspired pieces will be modernised with the best available materials alongside the evolution of vintage design.
Among Rado’s first collection of watches in 1957, was the famous Golden Horse: a watch in stainless steel, which at the time was a bold move.
The brand-new Golden Horse re-issue is, of course, still true to the original: stripped back and functional. The 37 mm stainless steel case houses the curved, crimson and black ombre dial which perfectly set off two gold coloured seahorses. The date window at 3 o’clock has red numerals on a white background, an unusual but readable touch. The signature moving anchor symbol is also true to the original. Sapphire crystal, now a feature of all Rado watches, replaces the acrylic glass used for the original and the quality Swiss made ETA automatic C07 automatic movement offers a power reserve of up to 80 hours.
To complement the ‘new vintage’ Golden Horse 37 mm models, Rado also presents ‘new contemporary’ Golden Horse Automatic models. These are based on the original design but with exaggerated elements: the case is bigger; the bezel is bolder and the crown more distinctive.
Stainless steel cases with complementary elements in rose gold coloured Ceramos TM or the warm metallic shine of plasma high-tech ceramic, offer a two-tone look that is both a vintage design element and a Rado hallmark. A pair of seahorses – the enduring symbol of all the Rado Horse collections – appears on each dial. The 42 mm range includes models with dark grey, blue, green and silver dials and each has a choice of interchangeable leather strap: 3 links or rice grain style stainless steel bracelet.
Modern design features and a vintage base allow the Golden Horse Automatic models to unite Rado’s illustrious past and glorious present. With the eye-catching new Golden Horse Automatic collection, evolution beats revolution for a strong design statement and a truly versatile contemporary timepiece.
Rado Captain Cook Automatic
Also launched from Rado’s new-vintage edition, is Captain Cook watches taken from the 1962 original; utilising signature materials that have appeared on models throughout the brand’s history. The sword, arrow hands and curved dial are as distinctive as they are authentic, with wedge shaped indexes that are luminescent.
As before, the original is updated with the initial concave turning bezel, now benefiting from a durable high-tech ceramic inlay which appears in glossy black. Colours which are a signature of the brand are another element of the new collection; with green, blue and brown versions. The signature sapphire crystal replaces the acrylic glass of the original, adding scratch resistance while retaining its bubble-effect box shape.
These new models feature the more powerful Swiss made, high-quality C07 movement with extended 80-hour power reserve in keeping with the needs of the modern watch wearer.
This is also a Captain Cook Automatic Limited Edition with only 1,962 pieces available, coming with a hardwearing leather travel pouch with a selection of additional straps. These include the brown vintage look leather strap, a fine knit stainless-steel Milanese bracelet or a durable NATO strap. This is a balance of authenticity, with the modern preference for personalisation and up to date technology and materials. Modern material updates include; the high-tech ceramic insert for the bezel for added scratch resistance and the sapphire crystal that offers optimum dial protection. The modern automatic movement also offers up to 80 hours of power reserve – a feat unimaginable in 1962.
With its subtle colour scheme, the Captain Cook Automatic can blend seamlessly into any situation. Its 37 mm case won’t stand out but it definitely makes a statement about the wearer.
Omega Speedmaster Moonshine Limited Edition
Unless you’ve been living on another planet, you’ll be aware that 2019 is the 50th anniversary of man walking on the Moon, and those men had Omega Speedmasters in their possession. While this isn’t the reboot of the Calibre 321 every watch enthusiast has been waiting for, it is an exact replica of the BA145.022 which was limited to 1,014 pieces and first presented in the November of 1969 at a dinner honouring the astronauts who went lunar.
Several brands submitted their watches to be the infamous ‘first watch worn on the moon’. Following thermal, shock, vibration and vacuum tests, only the Omega Speedmaster succeeded and gained the title of: ‘First Qualified for all Manned Space Missions’. The original, was crafted from 18k yellow gold, had a rare burgundy bezel and was inscribed with: ‘to mark man’s conquest of space with time, through time, on time’. Here, bog-standard yellow gold has been traded for Omega’s proprietary Moonshine Gold, while it is powered by a new manual version of the iconic 861 – the 3861: a certified Master Chronometer. Otherwise, the specs of this updated model remain very much close to the original. It’s a Speedmaster, Jim, but not as we know it.
TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph
Think of this as the controversial mash-up. When TAG Heuer unveiled its new three-hander Autavia Isograph vintage Heuer enthusiasts were vocal. Given its motoring and aeronautical heritage – this was originally a dashboard clock with the name being a portmanteau of automobile and aviation – purists thought this should only ever be a chronograph. Whether a faithful reproduction or a fanciful reimagining, Heuer’s history informs a large proportion of the brand’s modern output.
Rather than get one’s Y-fronts in a twist, it’s best to see this as a series of vintage references. The railroad track and big crown from the 1930s; Arabic numerals and date window from the 1960s and the up-to-the-minute Calibre 5 complete with whizzy new carbon-composite hairspring. If you want to monitor your egg’s cooking time, just use your iPhone like everyone else. The combination of the calibre and carbon-composite hairspring gives every watch in this collection Isograph distinction; ensuring stable and consistent timekeeping with ultra-precision.
The new collection features seven models, each maintaining the functionality, timeless style and numerous combinations, found in the original. The interchangeable straps make every model suitable for whatever the adventure might bring. There is a leather calfskin strap (which comes in light or dark brown), a NATO strap and a stainless-steel bracelet. In addition to the stainless-steel model, TAG Heuer also released two in bronze. These 42mm timepieces, featuring a smoked green or brown dial, are inspired by the successes of the original models but introduce their own modern identity to make their mark in history.
Rolex’s 1967 Sea-Dweller was designed as an ultra-resistant diver’s watch for deep-sea exploration, initially waterproof to a depth of 2,000ft. The watch was designed in collaboration with professional divers to ensure its suitability and subsequently played a vital role in the first experimental underwater habitat programme.
The release of the Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller combines Oystersteel and 18ct Yellow gold; the latter for the very first time in the collection. Rolex have pioneered the new materials used (ceramics for monobloc bezels and monobloc bezel inserts), to ensure that they are corrosion-resistant and virtually scratchproof, without compromising on the colour’s rare intensity which is unaffected by ultraviolet rays.
However, aesthetic does not limit functionality here as the new version sees a unidirectional rotatable bezel fitted with a 60-minute graduated Cerachrom insert in black ceramic that allows divers to safely monitor their dive and decompression times. The bezel’s knurled edge allows for excellent grip so wearers can comfortably set the dive time, even whilst when wearing gloves.
There is nothing that Rolex haven’t considered in the safety of their watches, either. The winding crown, fitted with the Triplock triple waterproofness system, screws down securely against the case and is protected by an integral crown guard. The crystal is made of virtually scratchproof sapphire and is fitted with a Cyclops lens at 3 o’clock for easy reading. The helium escape valve, which Rolex patented in 1967, acts as a safety valve which means that excess pressure built up in the watch during a dive is allowed to escape, without compromising on the waterproofness. Further, the new version of the Sea-Dweller is equipped with calibre 3235; a new generation movement by Rolex which sees precision, power reserve, resistance to shocks and magnetic fields and convenience and reliability. Vintage design is carefully balanced with bold new elements using the brand’s latest pioneering material innovations.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Barakuda
The 2019 500-piece edition of the Fifty Fathoms Barakuda diving watch sees an innovative technical upgrade of its most prestigious heritage piece whilst retaining many features of the original. The 1953 watch was the only diver’s watch to meet their special requirements and was later made a fundamental piece of gear for marine corps: supplied to the German Bundesmarine by diving equipment company, Barakuda. Following its success, a civilian model was introduced in Germany which adopted its distinctive style; two-tone rectangular hour-markers, white-painted fluorescent hands and highly visible date display.
The new Fifty Fathoms carefully reinterprets the aesthetics of its original. The black dial is strikingly punctuated by large red and white hour-markers, coated with Super-LumiNova®. The luminescent pencil-shaped hands are white-lacquered and the date (a key element of the original), returns its position in a prominent window. Blancpain have combined their vintage features with an emblematic unidirectional bezel, with a scratch-resistant domed sapphire insert. The 40mm satin-brushed steel case of the new model is water-resistant to 300 metres and houses the 1151 self-winding movement. The watch is finished with a tropical rubber strap, which is identical to that of its predecessor. The Fifty Fathoms Barakuda epitomises timeless design with advances technicality.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Date
Jaegar-LeCoultre’s Polaris Date draws inspiration from its 1968 Memovox Polaris: an icon of the Grande Maison. Produced in a limited series of 800 pieces, the new watch aims to combines the manufacturer’s high-watchmaking expertise with contemporary proportions, vintage designs and aesthetics changes.
Rarely deviating from its inspiration of the 1970 Polaris II, the Date features a new hand-lacquered, blue double-gradient dial with sunrayed, grained and opaline finish. The central disc and main dial now each incorporate a shimmering, colour-changing effect from a deep turquoise to a brilliant shade of royal blue. This model also features a unique new blue rubber Clous de Paris strap which is colour-matched to the inner bezel which rotates for added functionality (found in the original).
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Date remains instantly recognizable thanks to its elongated Arabic numerals, trapezoidal hour markers, and baton-style hands. These are all treated with Super-LumiNova ™ (a vanilla-tinted luminescent coating) to provide maximum legibility in low-light scenarios. The watch remains a modern creation being hewn from stainless steel, the 42mm case has two prominent crowns; one to adjust the time, the other to control the rotating bezel. Further, by incorporating brushed and hand-polished surfaces, the case appears graceful but undeniably sporty-looking.
Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-edition
Breitling looked straight to its heritage when releasing this timepiece. The Navitimer was developed in 1952 and became a revolutionary wristwatch for pilots: its innovative slide rule enabled them to make all critical flight calculations. The Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition replicates, almost exactly, the design codes of the 806 with an all-black dial with tone-on-tone subdials and a rotating beaded bezel. Breitling released 1959 pieces (in celebration of the year it was originally released), all individually numbered and engraved on the caseback.
The Re-Edition has a rotating beaded bezel is made of precisely 94 beads, replicating the exact number found on the original. Meticulous detail has gone into the design, with the stainless-steel case, measuring exactly 40.9mm being specifically designed for the Re-Edition.
The only noticeable updates to this model are its water resistance, which has been increased to 30m and a Super-LumiNova™ coating. However, exceptional attention was paid to ensure that its colour remained faithful to the material on the original watches. A new manual, hand-wound, caliber (B09) has been developed which remains as close to the original as possible.
Tissot Heritage 2018
Tissot’s Heritage 2018 derives its inspiration from a wristwatch that was part of the original Tissot collection in 1943. It was previously made from nickel-chromium alloy as part of its resilient and ‘man about town’ image.
This vintage-style watch celebrates its heritage as the first non-magnetic wristwatch, with reference to ‘antimagnetic’ under the logo but uses modern technology to ensure the highest quality. The watch continues its design layout but the hands are now leaf-shaped and rotate above a curved dial made of brushed silver, featuring vintage-style numerals.
Whilst the dial borrows the aesthetic codes of the period, the mechanism is the very contemporary calibre ETA 6498-1. Once damaged, the watch will provide up to 46 hours of power reserve. The Geneva Wave design on the bridges and plates of the hand-wound movement is shown beneath the sapphire case back. The steel case is watertight down to 50m and comes in a very modern size with a width of 42mm – far removed from the diameter of the earlier watch, which must have been around 35mm!