Five Modern Retro-Styled Watches From Jaeger-LeCoultre, Panerai, Breitling, Blancpain, And Seiko
The “good ol’ days” aren’t over yet – at least in the world of mechanical watches, where the appreciation of traditions and the creation of lasting values are as essential as the balance wheel and the escapement.
And, not surprisingly, the nature of these instruments haven’t changed much since the watch made its way onto the wrist about 100 years ago. Few other accessories keep the values of ancient craftsmanship alive as much as a mechanical watch.
Although small in size, a wristwatch conserves the design, colors, and lifestyles of past decades to accompany us on frequent trips down memory lane.
Here are five recent watches that effortlessly check all the boxes for a successful modern-day vintage-style timepiece.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Memovox: alarmingly beautiful
Launched in 1950, the Memovox was Jaeger-LeCoultre’s first alarm watch, and it is one of my all-time favorites because it is so full of history. It’s a ticking testimony to the creativity and diversity of the horological industry in the second half of the twentieth century. While today alarm watches are rare and, in my opinion, underrated, back then they represented the latest in watch technology, comparable to the introduction of the smartwatch today.
The Memovox’s ability to remind you of an appointment and wake you up in the morning made it the picture-perfect accessory for an era characterized by a booming economy and increased international business relations.
It was practically a must-have for the movers-and-shakers working in the corner offices of towering skyscrapers in the world’s capitals. Over time, Jaeger-LeCoultre also transformed the Memovox into a sporty diver’s model.
In 1959 the Memovox took to the waters as the first diver’s watch with an alarm function: it was able to remind its wearer acoustically when to resurface.
The Memovox Deep Sea paved the way for other cutting-edge divers, among them the 1968 Memovox Polaris. This offspring featured an increased water-resistance of 200 meters, a new case back design that improved the sound quality and volume under water, and, most notably, an internal rotating bezel operated by two pushers on the right side of the case that lent the watch its unmistakable look.
Unfortunately, the Memovox Deep Sea was only produced for a short time. In the wake of the retro wave that kicked in during the early 2000s, and to celebrate its 175th anniversary, Jaeger-LeCoultre issued a limited edition remake, the Memovox Tribute to Polaris.
A decade later, in 2018, Jaeger-LeCoultre again put its finger on the zeitgeist by launching the Polaris collection, a modern take that combined the athletic genes of the Polaris with a dressy look.
Polaris was one of the pioneering collections in a new trend focusing on luxury sports watches fitted with manufacture calibers in robust yet elegant stainless steel cases and featuring useful complications. The Polaris line presently offers a chronograph, a worldtimer, and an alarm watch.
The stainless steel case of the Polaris Mariner Memovox has a comfortable diameter of 42 mm and, despite the increased water resistance of 300 meters, a sapphire crystal case back. The latter reveals the manufacture’s automatic Caliber 956, which is a direct successor to the brand’s first automatic alarm movement. Thanks to a skeletonized rotor, the striking mechanism of the tiny hammer is on full view.
The dial is a real pleasure, featuring an intense blue gradient dial with the collection’s characteristic refinements, including a center decorated with brushed sunray finish, an hour and minute section adorned with a fine grained finish, and an inner bezel highlighted by an intense glossy finish.
For maximum legibility, all hands, markers, and numerals are coated with Super-LumiNova: the crucial alarm time is tipped with a vibrant orange lume, while the sweep second hand, markers, and hour hand glow with blue lume.
For more information, please visit www.jaeger-lecoultre.com/eu/en/watches/jaeger-lecoultre-plrs/jaeger-lecoultre-plrs-memovox.
Quick Facts Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Memovox
Case: 42 x 15.63 mm, stainless steel, crown-adjusted diving bezel
Movement: automatic Caliber 956AA, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 70-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, alarm
Remarks: exceeds ISO 6425 diver norms (tested to under 125 percent of the rated water pressure); up to eight-year warranty with Jaeger-LeCoultre Care Program
Panerai Radiomir Venti (PAM2020): celebrating 20 years of Paneristi
Panerai is a true phenomenon and not only in the world of watches: an early leader in historically charged timepieces, the Italian manufacturer was also a trailblazer for the vibrant online communities that began to characterize modern times at the turn of the millennium.
In 2020, the Paneristi.com community celebrated its twentieth anniversary and, as to be expected, the Richemont group brand had something special up its sleeve to commemorate the occasion: a magnificent special edition created in collaboration with these enthusiasts.
“Laboratorio di Idee,” Panerai’s technical and creative department, teamed with the Paneristi to fine tune the look and feel of this special timepiece, which is aptly called Venti (Italian for “20”). Paying homage to the first Radiomir that plunged into the water in the late 1930s, for some Paneristi it is the “one and only” Panerai model.
The commemorative model sports a bold cushion-shaped stainless steel case with a with a matte, sort of aged appeal, a brand-typical tasteful brown “sandwich” dial highlighted by a sunray finish and signature cutout numerals glowing in a matching beige Super-LumiNova hue. The golden sword-shaped hour and minute hands fit perfectly into the overall color scheme.
At the heart of the Venti is an old acquaintance: the in-house hand-wound Caliber P.6000 with a power reserve of 72 hours provided by only one spring barrel. Typical for Panerai, the Radiomir Venti is water resistant to 100 meters.
For more information, please visit www.panerai.com/en/collections/watch-collection/radiomir/pam02020-radiomir.
Quick Facts Panerai Radiomir Venti
Case: 45 x 14.5 mm, stainless steel
Movement: hand-wound Caliber P.6000, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, 3-day power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 1,020 pieces
Breitling Superocean Heritage ’57 Outerknown: 57 shades of gold and brown
Breitling’s latest addition to the historically-rooted Superocean collection has a color scheme similar to that of Panerai’s Radiomir Venti. Water resistant to 100 meters, it features a handsome bronze-colored sunray-brushed dial with an intense brown glow in the Superocean collection’s characteristic design. Its oversized markers and concave black ceramic bezel surrounded by red gold or stainless steel pay tribute to the 1957 original.
The Heritage ’57 Outerknown is the third watch model that Breitling has created in collaboration with Outerknown, a Californian eco-conscious apparel brand cofounded by legendary surfer Kelly Slater, which contributes the Econyl nylon NATO strap produced from recycled fish nets.
This strap is both sustainable and resilient and thanks to its color and texture vibes perfectly with the dial and golden-hued markers.
The Outerknown is nicely proportioned with a diameter of 38 mm and a height under 10 mm. Retaining the strong identity of the original, it looks exactly like a modern-day, vintage-styled timepiece should.
From a technological standpoint the Heritage ’57 Outerknown also meets the demands of a contemporary retro timepiece thanks to its automatic manufacture caliber, which is chronometer-certified as is de rigueur at Breitling.
In addition to the two-tone limited edition model sporting a red gold bezel, Breitling also offers an unlimited variation in stainless steel.
For more information, please visit www.breitling.com/us-en/watches/superocean-heritage/superocean-heritage-57.
Quick Facts Breitling Superocean Heritage ’57 Outerknown Limited Edition
Case: 42 x 9.9 mm, stainless steel/red gold or stainless steel
Movement: automatic Breitling Caliber 10, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 42-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Limitation: 500 pieces (two-tone)
Price: $4,380 (stainless steel unlimited); $5,225 (two-tone limited)
Seiko 140th Anniversary Limited Edition Re-Creation of King Seiko KSK: the return of 1960s royalty
Thanks to 140 years of history that have seen some of the greatest technological advancements in horology, almost every year this Japanese watch brand has a reason – or even two or three – for a celebration that includes tribute watch editions. In particular, the limited anniversary remakes of luxury sub-brand Grand Seiko are highly sought after by collectors.
Announcing its upcoming 140th anniversary year at the end of 2020, Seiko offered a remake of a vintage timepiece that takes the spotlight early in 2021: the aptly named King Seiko.
The King Seiko was first introduced as a high-end timepiece in 1961 and joined by a second model in 1965. Limited to 3,000 pieces, this year’s remake is inspired by the latter. It stays faithful to the original while beefing up with a modern automatic movement, the tried-and-tested 6L35.
The high level of the King Seiko KSK’s finishing quality and keen attention to detail is similar to that of the Grand Seiko tribute watches.
The stainless steel case and faceted lugs are treated with Seiko’s proprietary super-hard coating for improved scratch resistance and are polished according to the brand’s artisanal Zaratsu method, which makes for an intense shine and play of light and shadow.
The minimalistic white dial with a nicely executed, framed dial window at 3 o’clock features diamond-cut, faceted hour markers and hands that almost look like tiny sculptures, particularly the crosshatch-textured example at 12 o’clock. Two further elements from the 1960s original are a gold medallion with the King Seiko shield emblem inlaid into the case back and the original Seiko typeface on the buckle.
For more information, please visit www.seikowatches.com/us-en/special/kingseiko-recreation-2021.
Quick Facts Seiko 140th Anniversary Limited Edition Re-Creation of King Seiko KSK
Case: 38.1 x 11.4 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber 6L35, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 45-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Limitation: 3,000 pieces
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s: sooo seventies
When it comes to retro remakes, the 1970s are a particularly rich source of very cool designs – which shouldn’t be surprising as the ‘70s were characterized by bold, brave styles ranging from gaudy colors to eye-catching case shapes and flashy straps.
As in the prevailing styles of fashion, cars and product design, almost everything was allowed in this exciting era of disco, funk, and fancy. Many of today’s watch brands have dived deep into their 1970s archives, and I bet they have a blast with their findings.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date is a feast for the eyes. One of the most beloved diver’s watches of all time, the Fifty Fathoms was born in the 1950s. As is the case with most of the role models of this genre, it was originally designed for professional use by naval frogmen.
The Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date, a 500-piece limited edition, revives the style of some of Blancpain’s 1970s models, featuring a silvered dial ring with rectangular hour markers and Arabic numerals radially arranged every five minutes. This stylistic approach made for excellent legibility back then – and still does today.
Slightly redesigned for today, the time displays stand out against the graduated gray-brown dial, intensifying in color toward the periphery. As is crucial for a diver’s watch, the bold rectangular hour and minute hands, the round tip of the second hand, the tips of the hour markers, and the triangular marker at 12 o’clock are all treated with Super-LumiNova.
Typical of 1970s fashion, the date and weekday indications are at 3 o’clock. The white-on-black numerals have the allure of digital alarm clocks of that decade. The dial is framed by a unidirectionally rotating bezel made of black ceramic with markers and numerals filled with innovative Liquidmetal – a proprietary Swatch Group material– which is said to be very resistant to scratches and wear.
Water-resistant to 300 meters, the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s is equipped with automatic Caliber 1315DD, its three spring barrels providing 120 hours (five days) of power reserve. It is also notable that the movement, which is visible through the sapphire crystal case back, features a modern non-magnetic silicon balance.
For more information, please visit www.blancpain.com/en/news/fifty-fathoms-batyscaphe-day-date-70s.
Quick Facts Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s
Case: 43 x 14.25 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Blancpain Caliber 1315DD, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, silicon balance, 120-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, weekday
Limitation: 500 pieces
* This article was first published on March 3, 2021 at Five Modern Retro-Styled Watches From Jaeger-LeCoultre, Panerai, Breitling, Blancpain, And Seiko.