By Roberta Naas
It’s no secret re-edition watches and timepieces that recall the classics from the past are making a huge impact on the watch collecting world. Wrists everywhere are beginning to make statements of yesteryear — but with a decidedly modern flair. With all of the noise being made on the watch auction market and with second-hand watches flying out the doors of online sellers in droves, it’s hard to ignore the fact that nostalgia is back in style in a very big way. And that definitely goes for watches.
Just a few years ago, Omega made a huge splash by unveiling vintage re-editions that were exact replicas of original 1950s watches they mimed. The movements, though, were totally new – offering modern-day accuracy to fractions of a second. Following that successful launch, other brands jumped on board and the concept of re-imagining the past has moved full-steam ahead.
Today, watch brands are deftly making their marks with capsule collections that utilize new colors and materials, yet are inspired by yesteryear, or with updated versions that celebrate an important anniversary. As watch brands – from the affordable to the luxury companies – scour their archives for inspiration, they also vow to keep their back-stories and legends in the forefront. It is part of the narrative that makes these watches so desirable.
The key to the success of these re-editions is that each is somehow a faithful reinterpretation of golden eras. They are all true in some way to the originals and capture the look and feel of retro chic. However, they are often made using modern materials that are more rugged and durable and, the best part of all: they house modern-day movements that can go the distance with today’s active lifestyles. The new calibers are often more water resistant, more precise, and easier to care for than their 40-to-70-year-old muses.
In a new partnership with 120-year-old British Triumph motorcycles, Breitling and Triumph unveiled the Top Time Triumph inspired by the café’ racer culture of the 1960s and the Top Time watch released then by Willy Breitling. The watch boasts a brushed finish and the beloved “Zorro” (slashed) dial in pale blue and with cushion-cornered subsidiary dials indicative of the time. The color is derived from the 1951 blue Triumph Thunderbird 6T and the 1970s Breitling Top Time Ref. 815. A COSC-certified chronometer movement powers the 41mm watch. $5,500.
Zenith has a rich and storied past that even includes a time when the top watchmaker hid the plans for the now-famed El Primero movement in an attic (adding a brick wall for added security) so they couldn’t be destroyed during the quartz revolution. Now, Zenith releases the Defy Revival A3642 watch that recalls the first Defy watch launched in 1969. The mechanical watch is almost 99% true to that original in case shape, design, and dial color. It does boast an updated high-tech El Primero movement, sapphire crystals, and modern-day luminous materials. $7,000.
In tribute to the 50th anniversary of the classic Royal Oak watch designed originally in 1972 by the famed Gerald Genta, Audemars Piguet unveils new 37mm version in stainless with a light blue dial color (Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50) that is almost an exact replica of the original but made with updated PVD processes. Slight details on the case, bracelet, and dial are evolutions of the original that allow for better ergonomics, thinner profiles, and stronger aesthetics. The oscillating weight of the self-winding movement is rhodium-plated 22-karat pink gold and bears the “50 years” insignia. $24,100.
The first Omega Speedmaster watch unveiled in 1957 was designed for professional race car drivers. An immediate success, it went on to enjoy many iterations, including the now-famed Moon watch. Now, in honor of the 65th anniversary of the Speedmaster, Omega unveils the 18-karat Canopus Gold™ Caliber 321 Chronograph inspired by that first model. The 38.6mm watch, made in the brand’s proprietary brilliant-white gold, is powered by a column-wheel chronograph movement and boasts broad arrow hands and three classic subdials like the original. The crown bears the NAIAD symbol like the original CK2915 models did, as well. $81,000.
IWC Schaffhausen regularly recalls its impressive past in the world of aviation and the recently released Pilot’s Spitfire watch is a prime example. Crafted in the age-old material of bronze, this 43mm watch is inspired by the brand’s pocket watches of yesterday and by its historic “mil-spec” watches of the 1940’s made for the British Air force. This new bronze watch features a hypo-allergenic titanium case back and is equipped with an in-house-made mechanical movement and a soft-iron inner case to protect against magnetic fields – an invention created by IWC in the 1930’s. $9,350.