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A Guide to Retro Watches: Taking it Back to Classic

By Elsie Flynn 9 Minute Read
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As far as ice-breaker questions go, it’s a pretty good one: “If you could travel back to any period of time in your life, which would it be?”. Your mind might drift to your childhood, or maybe your wedding day. Perhaps it goes straight to that Queen concert you went to in 1981, where your ticket only cost a fiver and you could’ve sworn that Freddie Mercury winked at you on stage.

Whichever era, whatever event: the question ignites a nostalgic fire within all of us – no matter how modern, present, and thankful to Steve Jobs you are.

But with time-travel still - as I understand it - a little while off, there are few opportunities to satisfy our yearning for the past. But with a retro watch in your possession, you can transport to a different time every single moment you glance at your wrist. No time machine needed.

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We live in a golden age of watchmaking. Smart watches, moon-phase watches, and cutting-edge designs are expected in 2022, and we’re naturally drawn in by the glitz and glamour of all the new releases. Who could blame us? The industry is only becoming more versatile and exciting year on year. You only have to take a look at this years’ Watches and Wonders event to grasp that.

But this isn’t to say there isn’t a space – and a large on at that – for vintage and retro inspired watches to thrive. Far from it.

Why would a retro watch appeal?

A retro watch can connect us with the past. Whether it’s a watch that reminds you of your grandfathers all those years ago. A classic watch which highlights the traditions of fine watchmaking without all the bells and whistles. A watch with a rich heritage; or a watch worn by iconic historical figures.

Retro watch designs hold a special power in the modern world; you can own a slice of history, whilst still reaping the benefits of modern technology and watchmaking.

Our guide to the best retro watches will help you take it back to classic.

TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf Special Edition

The TAG Monaco Gulf is traced back to the inaugural TAG Heuer Monaco of 1969, in which the Swiss watchmaking brand released a square case, water-resistant, self-winding chronograph watch for the very first time. They created a legend in doing so, and now, over 50 years later, one of the most awaited TAG Heuer watch is back. But it’s even better.

The Monaco Gulf's story begins with the passion for top-tier of motorsport. The Gulf brand became iconic in the world of racing thanks to its defining livery of vibrant blue and vivid orange which adorned the teams that it sponsored. In the golden era of racing spanning the 1960s and 1970s their main partner would be JW Automotive Engineering, a name that has left an indelible mark on the history of endurance racing. For the 2022 edition, TAG Heuer strikes once again with an even more stunning version of the Monaco Gulf Edition. More refined, with a beautiful design and the in-house Heuer 02 movement that is housed in the fine brushed and polished steel case, the TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf Special Edition is a true eye-catcher.

Oris Rectangular Bordeaux 25 X 30mm

It’s back, but it never really went away. The Oris Rectangular Bordeaux transports us to the 1920s Art Deco era with a peppy dial and a classic and dressy four-sided stainless steel case. Rail tracks run around both the outer edge of the dial and on an inner rectangle that reflects and complements the case silhouette. Numerals at 12, 9 and 3 play with symmetry and asymmetry, while sword-shaped hands and a date window at 6 o’clock complete the layout. Each reference is fitted with a quick change leather strap in either yellow, blue, anthracite or Bordeaux. Inside each is Oris Calibre 561, a Swiss Made automatic mechanical time-and-date movement, visible through a mineral glass case back.

The Oris Rectangular is proof that a watch doesn’t have to be round to find the right angle.

JAEGER-LECOULTRE Reverso Medium Classique

Originally designed to withstand the rigours of polo matches, the Reverso collection lives on over 90 years later and is heralded as a classic of 20th century design. Indeed, it’s one of the world’s most recognisable watches and had a plethora of famous wearers in it’s history – none least than names including Edward VIII, Amelia Earhart and Christian Bale.

Named ‘reverso’ due to it’s ability to reverse the face inward and thus leaving it ‘polo ready’, the collection today presents pronounced complexities and glistening jewels.

Presented on a smart black Alligator leather strap, this classic Reverso design is housed by a 43mm stainless steel case, which plays host to a silver-tone grey dial with a guilloché finish. Enhanced by bold black Arabic numerals, the dial is equipped with blue hands and a sub-dial at 6 o’clock and is protected by sapphire crystal glass.Offering a 45-hour power reserve, this highly reliable watch is water resistant up to 30 metres and driven by a manual-winding movement, calibre 822/2.

Longines La Grande Classique

Inspired by the Art Deco designs of the 1920s, the Longines La Grande Classique collection is timeless, showcasing ultra-slim designs and charming aesthetics.

Sitting confidently in a striking 33mm stainless steel case and protected by sapphire crystal glass, this Longines La Grande Classique watch showcases a crisp white dial equipped with black hands and Roman numeral hour markers.

Driven by a powerful Quartz movement and water resistant to 30 metres, this charming timepiece fastens securely with a two-tone stainless steel bracelet.

Patek Philippe Calatrava

Most certainly one of the most coveted Patek Philippe timepiece, the Calatrava – created in 1932 – signified what would be the brand’s design philosophy for years to come: simple elegance and class. This generation of Calatrava sees tradition meet innovation.

The Calatrava model features a guilloched hobnail pattern - also known as Clous de Paris - by treating it to a slightly larger diameter and a design reinterpreted in a contemporary spirit. The faceted applied rose gold hour-markers, combined with dauphine-style hours/minutes hands, create a sleek and timeless dial aesthetic. The elegantly refined rose gold case houses the new manually wound movement 30-255 PS with a 65-hour power reserve.

Explore more from your favourite brands here at Watches of Switzerland.

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