From leather boots and electric guitars to tube amps and classic cars—what was old is getting made new again. And nowhere does that trend resonate stronger than in the watch world, where, for the better part of the last decade or so, we’ve enjoyed a slew of amazing designs faithfully resurrected from various Swiss archives.
But it’s more than just nostalgia fueling the vintage re-issue frenzy—these watches hail from an era where style was quirky and utility was clinical. More importantly? These watches were effortlessly cool. That’s why we’ve rounded up four sterling examples of vintage-inspired references which deliver the warm, vintage character we crave wrapped up in all the movement technology and capability that we’ve come to expect from modern watchmaking. If it sounds like having your cake and eating it too, you’re absolutely correct. Let’s belly-up to the bar and dig right in:
Omega Seamaster 300
The Omega Seamaster 300 is a little bit like a vintage Land Cruiser given a new lease on life by Jonathan Ward at Icon 4×4—classically rugged and unassuming on the outside, but a technical juggernaut on the inside. Except instead of a 6.2-liter, 525-horsepower Corvette engine strapped to the chassis, this handsome dive watch takes the original utilitarian spirit of the Seamaster from 1957 and packs it to the brim with technical details like a corrosion-resistant Liquid Metal bezel, and Omega’s most sophisticated Co-Axial movement ever created. Virtually anti-magnetic and delivering chronometer-level accuracy at depths up to 300 crushing meters, there are precious few places this watch isn’t capable of going—just like Ward’s Defender.
Panerai Luminor 1950 3 Days
Few brands can lay claim to a design aesthetic that’s as pure now as it was nearly 70 years ago. Panerai is one such brand. And it’s from this largely uninterrupted legacy of distinctive, purpose-built watches for Italian commandos that we get the Luminor 1950 3 Days. Arguably the pinnacle of both vintage and modern Panerai alike, it marries that signature minimalist military style and iconic case with a few uniquely modern flourishes.
Granted, it’s hard to call the PAM372 a true ‘re-issue,’ particularly when every Panerai could be called such in some capacity or another. But when you cross-examine the meticulously engraved dial sandwiched with blinding luminosity (hell, they didn’t once call ‘em ‘Radiomir’ for nothing) and the trick manual-wound calibre P.3000 ticking away inside with its generous 3 days of power reserve, you could argue that Panerai’s simply been trending for the better part of the last century, and we’ve only noticed just now.
DOXA Sub 300 50th Anniversary
No, “they don’t make ‘em like they used to,” unless you’re referring to the DOXA Sub 300 50th Anniversary edition. In this case, they make them exactly like they used to, only better. That’s because when it comes to the nü-vintage dive madness, few brands have taken their source material as seriously as DOXA. The brand’s 50th Anniversary Sub 300 is a near pitch-perfect re-issue of arguably the world’s first and most unique purpose-built dive watch—the same one used by legendary undersea pioneer Jacques Ives Cousteau himself.
This go-around enjoys a generously domed, porthole-shaped sapphire crystal instead of the original acrylic, bright Superluminova hands instead of tritium, and a COSC-certified automatic movement powering that iconic handset.
Tudor Heritage Black Bay
Tudor certainly wasn’t the first brand to resurrect a vintage icon, but the re-introduced Black Bay of 2012 was truly the start of something special. Not only did it prove that vintage inspiration, when taken literally could once again create something truly desirable and buzz-worthy, it also gave the imaginations of new watch fans a direct window into the colorful and dangerous era of undersea exploration that defined the late 60s and early 70s.
We’ll never know if Tudor knew they had such a hit on their hands when they combined a relatively unknown ‘big crown’ reference from 1958 with the ‘snowflake’ Marine Nationale-issued Subs from the 1970s, but it’s clear that the vintage trend–and the Black Bay–are both comfortably here to stay, and we couldn’t be happier.
Even in all the vast differences in style and origin, there’s still a singular, unifying theme that binds all four of these watchmaking legends: sheer, purpose-built utility. And like the M65 Field Jacket or a 70-series Land Cruiser, the true spirit of utility never really goes out of style. That’s why we couldn’t be happier to continue to ride the heritage craze for as long as it continues to produce amazing watches for an entirely new generation to wear and enjoy—just as they were originally intended.