Every year new heritage watches and vintage reissues put designs from the past back onto the collective radar. What was once a niche market now accounts for a major part of the watches released each year. We decided to round up the most spoken-about on Instagram at end 2019.
Using a social listening tool, we compared their hashtags and the number of times they were mentioned using search queries such as “#SeikoCaptainWillard” or “Seiko Captain Willard” to gather as much data on each watch as possible. Here are the ones that accrued the highest number of posts.
Seiko Captain Willard (1970s)
Number of posts: 6.5K
History: This is one of Seiko’s most recognisable dive watches, now brought into a new decade. It shot to fame when it made its big-screen debut in Apocalypse Now, worn by Martin Sheen in the role of Captain Willard, who became the namesake for the watch. Seiko has made this reissue slightly larger, measuring 45mm x 13mm instead of the original 44mm. It also increased water-resistance from 150 meters to 200 meters and upgraded the movement to an 8L35 automatic calibre. Apart from these tweaks, it is a faithful recreation of the original, with the same key design features such as the screw-down crown at 4 o’clock with its chunky crown guard.
Why: Priced at €4,359, this was a highly anticipated watch for Baselworld, and clearly online as well. Its popularity could be down to its careful reproduction of the original aesthetics. It is an iconic watch made famous by an iconic film. It’s a watch that’s bought to be used, and used under harsh conditions, hence the difficulty of finding one pre-owned. This reissue is a chance to get your hands on one.
Tissot Heritage 1973
Number of posts: 592
History: This watch is based on the Tissot Navigator that was introduced in 1973: the year that marked the beginning of Tissot’s long-running ties with racing as the sponsor of Alpine sports cars in the Monte Carlo rally. The watch was worn by the Swiss Formula 1 driver Loris Kessel, and the brand worked with Loris’s son, Ronnie Kessel, to create and launch the reissue, which adds a unique family touch. It is clearly an ode to the ‘70s, with a design that retains many of the original elements. The major differences are a larger 43mm case and a sapphire crystal instead of the original plexiglass. The dial also reflects ‘70s design, especially the original colour scheme with orange hands for the chronograph functions.
Why: Online popularity could be due to the fact that this is a nice piece of nostalgia infused with the quality of modern watchmaking. It is a high-spec trip down memory lane to the golden age of racing, meaning it will be popular among both Tissot and racing fans. This is a modern watch that remains true to its origins, even down to the 1,973 pieces in this limited edition.
Tudor Black Bay P01 (1960s)
Number of posts: 392
History: This is a relatively controversial watch designed from a 1960s prototype for the US Navy whose beefy design focuses on robustness at the expense of beauty. It has an interesting history in that only four were originally made. They were expected to meet stringent US government specifications which included a protected crown, a locking bidirectional bezel that could be removed for maintenance, and locked spring bars. Tudor created an innovative watch that met all these requirements. In the end it was deemed too technical for use by the Navy and never went into production. Despite this brief existence, Tudor decided to pay homage to the innovative work that went into it. However, many fans feel it lacks wearability and style, and question whether it was a smart move for the brand.
Why: Despite the unorthodox design, the watch has been championed for sticking to Tudor’s brand heritage as suppliers to the military. This is an accurate recreation of a prototype; it’s not trying to be the next hot property in the watch world and we should appreciate the intention to pay respect to the brand’s past. The story behind the watch is pretty unusual, which makes it an interesting conversation point. It has been described as “visually polarising”, meaning people have a lot of opinions about it, and this could explain why it has been so talked-about.
Bulova Computron (1970s)
Number of posts: 173
History: This aggressive-looking, angular watch is a reflection of what humanity thought the future would look like in the ‘70s. It appeared in the era after the moon landing, when the future depicted in cult movies such as Blade Runner seemed within reach. Remember that LEDs were new technology at the time of production: being able to see the time in glowing red was truly a novelty. Bulova has reissued the Computron as a reminder of a past vision of the future. It stays true to the original with a red LED screen display that’s accessible at the push of a button. Bulova has brought the reissue into line with 2019 tastes by creating three different takes. The main reissue is a fully gold-plated piece that stays true to the original. The other two are in stainless steel with a blue LED display or all-black with a rubber strap. This slightly more affordable version could please a younger generation of watch buyers at $295 compared to $395 for the other models.
Why: The out-there retro design is definitely part of what makes this watch so popular online. It reminds us of a different era and hope for the future.
Q Timex 1979
Number of posts: 170
History: The final piece in the line-up is a diver-inspired watch from Timex. First released in 1979, it is one of the most iconic watches issued by the brand as part of a series of quartz watches that launched throughout the 1970s – a period known in Switzerland as the “quartz crisis”, when mechanical watches were being outpaced by quartz. The Q series symbolized Timex’s entry into the quartz era by proudly displaying a “Q” just under the 12 o’clock marker. The reissue includes many references to the original version, with key features such as the iconic woven steel bracelet and the Rolex GMT-inspired red and blue bezel.
Why: What makes this watch special is that it stays true to almost every aspect of the original design while updating to a modern quartz movement. According to its designer, Giorgio Galli, this reissue is the perfect way to introduce the brand, its heritage and expertise to a younger generation of watch buyers while keeping a very approachable design and affordable price. It sold out in less than 24 hours.