In today’s fast paced world of smartphones, instant gratification and an entire society racked with FOMO, there is a hankering for a simpler time. This has resulted in a resurgence of vintage-designed products, and watches are certainly well represented.
For watches, a further driving force is the health of the second-hand market and watch auctions, which show the growing interest in and worth of actual vintage watches. Take, for example, Paul Newman’s Daytona that sold at auction in 2017 for a record $17.8 million.
On the front lines of the vintage-inspired movement, Davide Cerrato, watch director of Montblanc, is behind the success of the brand’s heritage line. Worth caught up with Cerrato in his Swiss office for this exclusive interview. Then, vintage-inspired watches to know from Glashütte Original, Hamilton, IWC, Oris and Tutima.
Q: Why do you think vintage-inspired is so popular right now?
A: Vintage is at the very heart of a very big wave in society, which started after the financial crisis of 2008, signaling the end of the previous cycle, which was all about weird shapes and extremes. People are now attracted to designs that inject a human touch and emotion, designs that put the human element at the center of it all. We started to go back to designs from the past that were relevant and showed a timeless iconic dimension. All this created the beginning of the vintage cycle, which I think will be a very long cycle. We are still right in the middle of it.
Can every brand get away with doing vintage-inspired designs?
Customers are looking for products that are legitimate and have a timeless attraction that remains relevant many years later. That is the issue that we are seeing right now. Vintage has been selling well and everyone is getting into the vintage game, even brands with no history. Unfortunately, this will accelerate the end of the cycle.
Why does vintage-inspired make sense for Montblanc?
It makes sense for us because of the power of Minerva, our traditional movement manufacture. At Montblanc, we are doing something unique—we are taking the best of Minerva and Montblanc and putting them together. Even though Minerva was a small brand at the time, it was very powerful and there was a lot of value in terms of design, scale, use of materials and more.
To me, it was so clear that the history of Minerva is a goldmine and the key to building up the legitimacy of Montblanc. Everything has come together in such a way that vintage works perfectly for Montblanc. The 1858 Collection has become our leading collection around the world, and the Geosphere is the biggest hit of the brand.
What do you like about vintage-inspired designs?
I like everything about them. I like their touch and feel. I am seduced by the idea of aging the materials with tropical effects and creating something that is different from the original and in some ways nicer. I also like that in many cases, there are incredible stories behind vintage designs. Watches are like cars; they are bits of human history. When you look back, you discover things. Especially at auctions, there are stories behind the special watches that keep watchmaking alive.
What is challenging about doing vintage right?
Good vintage is linked to a particular creative approach, so it is much more difficult and more sophisticated to update. When you have found something in your archives that is relevant and then you do a refresh, you keep the spirit of the original with modern touches and you create something that is deeply rooted in the DNA of the brand and is relevant to today while looking to the future.
Why does bronze make sense for Montblanc?
Bronze is no longer a novelty; it is a material equal to all the others. Some people think it is gimmicky, but I think it will stay forever. It is a material that has unique characteristics, the most exciting one is that it will change with time. It is an accelerator of the aging process and, as a result, it couldn’t be more vintage and that’s why we use it. When we were developing these new watches, we knew they would be used outside, and when you talk about the outdoors and exposure to the elements, bronze was the perfect material. And pairing khaki green with the bronze has been very successful—it’s the perfect expression of the Montblanc brand.
Today, there are a host of vintage designs from a growing number of watch brands. The companies that are having the most success are those with a true, verifiable heritage to reflect.
Take, for example, Glashütte Original. After the Second World War, when Germany was divided in two and the watchmaking town of Glashütte ended up in East Germany, the watchmakers in Glashütte were reorganized and combined into one mass-oriented company called Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe (GUB) which is German for Watchmaking Companies of Glashütte.
After the Berlin Wall fell and Germany reunified, the GUB was successfully privatized and returned to the high-end watchmaking it had been known for before the war. Although the legal name of the company is still Glashütter Uhrenbetrieb, the manufacture has operated since 1994 under the brand name Glashütte Original.
This year, Glashütte Original is introducing the SeaQ in the new Spezimatic (German for “specialist”) collection. The SeaQ is inspired by a model called the Spezimatic Type RP TS 200 from 1969. This was the first and only diver’s watch from Glashütte, and it used the famed caliber 75.
The new SeaQ (the “Q” stands for quality) celebrates this watch’s 50th anniversary but enlarges and refines it for today’s customers. The original Spezimatic was 36mm; the SeaQ is 39.5mm but uses the same design language and the same text on the dial. The design might be close to the original model, but the construction is completely different, using domed sapphire glass and ceramic inserts in the unidirectional bezel, and the modern caliber 39-11.
Price: $8,700 on strap, rubber or synthetic with pin buckle; $9,000 on strap, rubber or synthetic with folding clasp; $9,900 on stainless steel bracelet.
Contact: Peggy Jagerman-Mahoney, brand manager, 866.203.8699, glashuette-original.com
Hamilton Watch has a storied history in military watch production, especially during World War II, when it stopped civilian production to concentrate on making more than a million watches, clocks and marine chronometers for the U.S. Armed Forces. One of Hamilton’s most successful timepieces is directly inspired by those military watches, called the Khaki Field Mechanical. At 38mm and using a hand-wound mechanical movement, this watch channels its history while being completely modern.
Contact: Hamilton customer service, 800.234.8463, hamiltonwatch.com
Oris, which was founded in 1904, has reinvented itself with the phenomenal success of the Divers Sixty-Five, an update of a classic dive watch the brand made in 1965. This year, Oris introduced the Divers Sixty-Five Chronograph.
The IWC Spitfire Automatic in bronze was inspired by a watch the brand produced in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, for the Royal Air Force starting in 1948, which was worn by many of the pilots and navigators serving at that time. Bronze is becoming the metal of choice for vintage, as it patinas over time and with exposure to the elements.
Contact: Jesus Muniz Mateo, New York City boutique manager, 212.355.7271, iwc.com
The Tutima Tempostopp is based on a model from the 1940s but equipped with a brand-new movement incorporating a flyback chronograph (tempostopp in German). Introduced to celebrate the company’s 90th anniversary, the Tempostopp uses the new Calibre T659, which is made by Tutima completely in Glashütte, Germany.
Contact: Gustavo Calzadilla, 310.782.3500, tutima.com