Touching the Past: Six Modern “Retro” Watches and the Historical Pieces That Inspired Them
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When retro-inspired watches are modeled after specific predecessors, fans of mechanical timekeeping can “grasp” design history. In this feature from the WatchTime archives, we take a look at six watches that awaken a longing for the past.
JAEGER-LECOULTRE POLARIS MEMOVOX
A sporty and elegant wristwatch is a good choice to wear on a trendy beach. And the alarm function assures that a night owl won’t forget an evening rendezvous. The alarm also functioned underwater on the original watch, which Jaeger-LeCoultre premiered in 1965. A variation with a sporty design (left) debuted three years later. It served as the inspiration for the new model, which arrived in 2018. Stainless steel, 42 mm, manufacture Caliber 956, automatic, limited series of 1,000 watches, $12,600.
The Navitimer enjoys cult status not only among pilots, but also with their earthbound counterparts. Introduced in 1952, this watch also represents an epoch when increasing air traffic revolutionized travel. Numerous new versions without a slide rule on the bezel and even without a stopwatch function debuted in 2018. But classical model variations with both of these functions, such as the Navitimer 1 B01 Chronograph 46 (shown), are still available for Breitling fans. They differ from the original Navitimer mainly due to their larger size and contrasting-colored subdials. Stainless steel, 46 mm, manufacture Caliber B01, automatic, chronometer, $8,215.
ROLEX GMT-MASTER II
Thanks to an additional 24-hour hand and its corresponding rotatable bezel, this Rolex model is the epitome of a traveler’s watch. The main hour hand wasn’t separately adjustable until the debut of the GMT-Master II in 1982. The two hour hands were inseparably linked when the original model premiered in 1955, which meant that if the wearer wanted his watch to show the time in a second zone, he had to turn the rotatable bezel until it matched the additional hour hand. Nicknamed “Pepsi,” the coveted steel version with its blue-and-red bezel celebrated its comeback in 2018. Stainless steel, ceramic bezel, 40 mm, manufacture Caliber 3285, automatic, chronometer, $9,250.
Elegance spanning generations: IWC celebrated a milestone anniversary in 2018 with the latest version of this icon. The new Portugieser Hand-Wound Eight Days Edition “150 Years” is inspired by the large, straightforward, steel watches that IWC delivered to Portuguese importers in 1939. The elegant 41.5-mm case surrounded various dial options. Rose gold, 43 mm, manufacture Caliber 59215 with power-reserve display on the back, hand-wound, $18,800.
SEIKO 1968 AUTOMATIC DIVER’S RE-CREATION LIMITED EDITION
Fifty years after the debut of its first divers’ watch with a high-frequency caliber, this Japanese manufacturer pays homage to the timepiece with the release of Reference SLA025. The manufacture caliber completes 36,000 semi-oscillations per hour. The fast-paced movement and the water-tightness to 300 meters are as exciting as the new design: it’s nearly identical to the styling of the original. Hardened stainless steel, 44.8 mm, manufacture Caliber 8L55, automatic, limited edition of 1,500 watches, $5,400.
The styling of this instrument for professional divers traces its ancestry directly to the Oyster Prince Submariner from 1969. This model premiered the so-called “snowflake” hands with their eye-catching rectangles, which assured that the hour hand wouldn’t be mistaken for the minutes hand. Meanwhile, the steady progress of the luminous rectangle on the seconds hand instantly reassured a diver that his watch was still running in the dark depths. The Pelagos remains watertight to 500 meters, is equipped with a helium valve, and lets divers choose between a rubber strap and a titanium bracelet. Titanium, ceramic bezel, 42 mm, manufacture Caliber MT5612, automatic, chronometer, $4,400.
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