The old saying “Everything old is new again,” was perhaps never as true as now. Today’s top watch brands are looking to their roots for inspiration in watch design that strikes a chord with today’s thinking. As customers are looking for items with a genuine authenticity about them, the concept of unveiling reiterations of yesteryear watches has caught on. Interestingly enough, these retro-style watches span decades. Some brands are recalling eras that range as far back as the 1920s and 1930s and as recently as the 1980s. The best vintage style watches, though, are those that have an immediate nostalgic look. Here we take a closer look at 10 top vintage-style watches.
Montblanc Heritage GMT – $2,850 – $3,060
Boasting an in-house-made automatic movement (caliber MB 24.05) this Montblanc Heritage GMT exudes vintage appeal thanks to its magnificent dial. Indicating hours, minutes, central seconds, and a second-time-zone, the white dial with an outer 24-hour track in vintage blue (with color-coordinated blue GMT arrow hand) is clean and easy to read – much like the watches of the past. The numerals and hour markers are also defined on a silvered chapter ring for added distinction. The 40 mm size is also indicative of the retro trend, as it is slightly smaller than today’s larger 42mm and 44mm sizes. Even it’s great price reminds us of the past.
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight, Navy Blue – $3,375 fabric strap
Recalling – almost exactly – it’s first blue Tudor Black Bay watch released in 1969, Tudor updates the iconic model with a new automatic movement that is a COSC-certified chronometer, and some other features that bring it into the 21st century (including SuperLuminova® hands and markers). However, it remains true to the blue color Tudor used initially and that the French Navy turned to for its dive watches in the 1970s, and the 39mm size. The name of the watch – Fifty-Eight – refers to the year 1958, when the first Black Bay dive watches water resistant to 200 meters made their debut. It also features the brand’s iconic “snowflake” hands.
Longines Spirit Collection – $2,150
Fashioned after an iconic watch from Longines, the new Spirit watch (with 11 models in the 2020 Heritage line-up) recalls the 1920’s and ‘30’s with its aviation-inspired looks. The brand has a long history with aviation and equipped pilots such as Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart with its watches. (It later worked with Lindbergh to create the Charles Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch.) Powered by an updated automatic mechanical movement with high-tech silicon balance spring, this chronograph version is highly legible and features updated Super-LumiNova hands and numerals.
Corum Admiral 42 Bronze
Corum first released its Admiral collection of watches to the world 60 years ago in 1960. The watches were an instant hit thanks to the nautical pennants that graced the dial. The watch remains an icon in the watch world, but Corum is regularly updating it. The newest Admiral 42mm bronze watches – with blue or green dials – are naturally inspired by the originals and pay tribute to the brass found on maritime sailing vessels. The 12 pennants are crafted in gold and the hands are Super-LumiNova coated. An automatic movement powers the watch.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic Small Duetto – $9,200
Perhaps no other vintage-style watch is as iconic as the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. Offering vintage style for women or for men, the Reverso rectangular cased watch is inspired by the first ones made in the 1930s when polo players asked the brand to create a watch that wouldn’t get damaged during play. The solution: a watch with a reversible dial that showed the time on one side and could pull out, swivel, and reverse to hide the time dial and reveal a metal back. Today, the Reverso has been reinvented over and over. This version, the Reverso Classic Small Duetto in stainless steel features a different dial on either side.
Cartier Pasha – $5,700 to $25,300
Taking a look back almost 40 years ago, Cartier unveils an all-new collection of Pasha watches that recall the originals launched in the mid-1980s. The round watches with square center drew an immediate cult-like following. Now, the brand unveils a series of new Pasha watches that feature the geometric motif of a square within a round case – offering versions that are simple three-hands to versions that boast tourbillon escapements. Crafted in steel or in gold, the watches are 35mm and 41mm in diameter and are offered with interchangeable leather straps or a contemporary bracelet.
Breitling Top Time – $4,990
Breitling – a master at reinventing its iconic watches from the past – has unveiled a limited-edition (2000 pieces) Top Time watch that recalls the 1960’s timepiece of the same name. The chronograph watch features an unusual graphic dial motif known as the Zorro dial (because it replicates the sword moves of the masked hero, Zorro). The original Top Time watch was used in the 1965 James Bond movie Thunderball. The new watch measures 41mm in diameter boasts Super-LumiNova hands and markers and houses an updated Breitling Caliber 23 self-winding mechanical movement.
Hamilton PSR – $745 in steel, $995 in gold pVD
A real departure from the vintage style mechanical watches, this vintage-inspired Hamilton PSR watch recalls the era of digital LED and LCD watches in the 1970s. It was actually 1970 when Hamilton released its Pulsar watch that lit up with the push of a button to show the dime digitally using bold red LED (light-emitting diodes). The watch went into production in 1972 and was a huge hit. This new version uses a hybrid display that mixes OLED (organic light-emitting diodes) and LCD (liquid crystal display) technology.
Omega Constellation – $7,450
This magnificent two-toned Omega Constellation showcases vintage-style watches beautifully. The Constellation was first launched in 1952 and later was re-released in 1982. This new version best emulates the 1982 series with four “claw” accents (two on each case side) that have become synonymous with the original. The fact that the watch is crafted in brushed steel and rose-colored Sedna gold (proprietary to the brand) also recalls that era. However, the watch is modernized for a bolder more contemporary appeal.
TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years – $6,450
This year, as TAG Heuer celebrates its 160th anniversary, it unveils a host of special pieces that recall its past. Particularly important is the Carrera, which Jack Heuer designed and released to the world in the 1960s. He had been inspired by the Carrera Panamericana races that took place a decade earlier and were considered the most dangerous races in the world. The chronograph Carrera offered auto-inspired appeal. This new version celebrates that time and features silver markers against a silver-colored dial that closely resembles the early models. It is powered by a top-notch automatic chronograph movement.
About the Author
Roberta Naas is a veteran watch and jewelry journalist who began her career in the early 1980’s, and was the first female watch journalist in the United States. She is the editor and founder of the authoritative watch blog, ATimelyPerspective, has written six books on watches, writes for numerous consumer publications (including Forbes and Elite Traveler) – and always brings forth in her work the essence of what makes watches tick. She tirelessly travels the world in search of watch news and stories that she turns into compelling and enlightening articles.