The recent surge in re-editions from the most prestigious watch brands that take inspiration from the past is quite evident today. Despite the fact that numerous Manufactures have recently released watches with the so-called retro vibe, many designers are devoting entire collections to the rising watch trend that draws inspiration from the past.
So, what, exactly, gives a watch that vintage feel? The first thing you’ll notice is that the design makes use of earthy tones, though this is by no means universal among timepieces with a vintage aesthetic. Typical examples include shades of brown, beige, green, and similar tones. Gradient dials (sometimes called fumé watch dials) are another design characteristic that would signify old but are also common on many newer and more modern watches.
The use of certain materials is also often linked to a style that is retro in spirit. Many modern watches that are meant to look “vintage” feature bronze casings or buckles, and this is due to both the material’s durability and its ability to age gracefully acquiring a patina as a result of the oxidation over time.
“Any reissue is not going to be the real deal. But if the original is either not available or prohibitively costly then I think it is absolutely appropriate to say that we do a limited edition of 1000 vintage inspired watches. The disadvantage is that sadly the watch is not vintage, therefore a larger quantity is made and sadly it will not tell you a story you started to be enamoured by, most likely the finishing of the watch is not vintage or original. But the advantage is the cost, the wearability, stability and reliability has definitely increased and so its a trade off for those who cannot go vintage”, auction hero Aurel Bacs, senior consultant, Phillips Auctions.
That being said one would not expect that re-editions inspired by the vintage era would still be a topic of discussion in 2023, and even amongst the new watch enthusiasts.
However, this reality cannot be denied: retro-inspired timepieces, vintage reissues, and classic aesthetics are still mainstays in the collections of major labels today. Some vintage-inspired models are truly fascinating, while many others miss the mark by not striking the appropriate balance between contemporary watchmaking and a classic aesthetic.
And here we are, with our top 5 re-edtion watches that must make it to your collection!
1. Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222
The Overseas collection exemplifies Vacheron Constantin’s participation in the trend of luxury sports timepieces with integrated bands. A more up-to-date take on the famous 222 watch introduced in 1977, the Overseas was a step ahead of obvious competition.
That has now been remedied with the release of the Historiques 222 from Vacheron Constantin, a model that is a faithful copy of the original. And to cut to the chase: that watch is fantastic. Not much has changed in terms of the design. All the original dimensions and homely touches remain. Brand new features have been added, however, such as a redesigned (and much more comfortable) wristband and a more reliable movement that includes a quick-set date. This variant in 18-karat yellow gold is absolutely gorgeous. Read more here
2. Zenith Chronomaster Original
For $9,500 you may own a nearly identical tribute to the 1969 Chronomaster Original from legendary watchmaker Zenith, complete with a 38mm casing and the renowned El Primero movement. The timeless timepiece, with its classic three-tone display and steel bracelet, is a great addition to any collection. The Chronomaster Original, with a power reserve of up to 60 hours, is also a very practical and reliable. Read more here
3. Cartier Pebble Re-edition
The Pebble is a wonderful representation of the quality of work that Cartier London could do in the ’60s and ’70s. Shapes and patterns that are out of the ordinary; a classically inspired dial and outlandish clothing. And in January of this year, the company brought it back with an ultra-thin hand-wound Piaget base movement inside, and it looked almost exactly the same. Sadly, despite the high price, all 150 pieces were likely sold out a long time ago.
From a purely aesthetic standpoint, the French company deserves praise for having the courage to bring back such an iconic timepiece with its unique design.
4. OMEGA CK 859 RE-EDITION
When something new is released, brands usually make a big deal out of it. Omega, on the other hand, produced a watch whose existence we were left to unearth on our own. Even more pleasantly surprising was the fact that this CK 859 Re-Edition is, quite possibly, 2022’s finest new Omega. It’s an excellent illustration of how history can inform the present, as it was inspired by a traditional “Calatrava-styled” model from the 1930s. It is a contemporary watch with a casing resized to 39mm and a sophisticated hand-wound Master-Chronometer within.
The dial and form of the case are what really matter; they exude a sense of nostalgia and attention to detail that will appeal to a certain niche market: fans of the past. The hands and logo on the silver dial are also vintage touches. Not only is it not an overpriced, overhyped, impossible-to-get Omega, but it is also not limited in quantity, and the pricing is reasonable (at least for a time-only Omega).
In 1962, Heuer made some major strides for the firm when it introduced the Autavia chronograph. The “Autavia” would be characterised by providing the legibility and sturdy construction necessary for racers and pilots. It was the first series of chronographs to have a model name printed on the dial. Heuer made the Autavia for nearly 20 years, and it went through three different iterations: a circular screw-back case, a snap-back compressor case, and a C-Shape case designed to hold Heuer’s first automated movement.
In 2017, TAG Heuer reissued the Autavia chronograph with the Heuer 02, an in-house movement designed and built just for this watch. The Heuer 02 uses a column-wheel operated chronograph with a vertical clutch, a frequency of 28,800 VPH, and an 80-hour power reserve. The dimension of the movement is 31.0 mm by 6.95 mm, and it has 33 jewels.
The chronograph dial on a Heuer 02 watch is laid out in the standard 3-6-9 format because of the movement’s reliance on the ETA 2892. Running seconds at six o’clock, the date window at the bottom of the running seconds register, the hour register at nine o’clock, and the minute register at three o’clock. All surfaces of the stainless steel cases are polished for a smooth feel. The bezel can be turned in either direction via a total of 60 clicks. Read more here
Are re-editions the way to go? Finding just that right balance between modernising a vintage whilst maintaining brand DNA could be tricky. Although some are quite fascinating, there have been some major fails as well. Are re-editions a marketing-ploy or is there an actual demand in the market? Post a recent market survey we see a substantial growth in the popularity of vintage and vintage-inspired timepieces. The reasons vary from limited supplies of new watches to actually owning a unique piece from the past. That being said, these time-tested designs with new age technologies (re-editions) are certainly making a comeback and not just amongst the mature watch hobbyist.