Iconic Watches – Recalling icons of the past1:31 pm
“Every project is an opportunity to learn, to figure out problems and challenges, to invent and reinvent.”
- David Rockwell, Designer & Architect.
The passion to create something new is always followed by the will to outdo yourself and make it better than before. With each attempt comes an idea that helps you improve your invention. And this indeed is the cycle of life. The same is true for watchmakers who brought to life time tellers with exceptional features centuries ago, ones that are till date being reinvented to become better it in terms of design and functionality. Every year, watchmakers offer eye-catching new timepieces that define the future of the industry. But some of the best styles (and Swiss horological values) come from watches whose designs are based solidly in the past and that have stood the test of time. Here are five iconic watches that pay homage to their predecessors through designs and functionality and offer timeless history, and a guarantee of satisfaction for years to come.
Omega Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial
Vintage inspired designs have been popular with Omega since the very beginning. The brand is quite apt at the art of reinventing some of the most iconic models in their history. And this was seen clearly at the 2014 Baselworld fair when Omega launched its most anticipated Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial. A deeper look at the watch takes you back to the family tree – all the way back to 1957 when the first Seamaster 300 was launched, which inspired this latest version.
The mid 50’s was a booming time for scuba divers and explorers and watch companies found great opportunity in crafting diving watches. Brands like Rolex crafted the Submariner and Blancpain crafted the Fifty Fathoms, both of which were a rage around 1953 thanks to their unique features like the screw in crown and elapsed time bezel. In 1957, Omega made a bold statement by rolling out its “Master” trio of sports watches – the Speedmaster, the Railmaster and the Seamaster 300, designed for race drivers, scientists, and divers respectively. The Seamaster 300 was a direct competition to the Rolex Submariner and enjoyed a seven-year run before it was replaced by a new generation.
The Speedmaster was reinvented in 2014 and was well appreciated by the industry and the public alike. Keeping the straight lugs, no crown guard and broad arrow hands intact, the new Omega Seamaster had some very intelligent changes over its predecessor. Instead of a 39mm case the reinvented version comes with a 42 mm stainless steel case which is perfect for a modern wrist watch. The bezel, of course, is not fragile acrylic but Omega’s LiquidMetal, an amorphous metal alloy with extreme corrosion and wear resistance. The crystal is naturally sapphire and domed like its ancestor. And the luminescence is provided by SuperLumiNova instead of tritium. The dial is a matte black with a bit of texture that one might interpret to be further faux aging but looks wonderful from an angle. The watch is powered with an 8400 calibre movement and has a clear back that shows off the beautiful mechanism. It has a solid link bracelet with a fold-over clasp. Thanks to the latest innovations and ground breaking technology that have gone into designing the watch, it is one of the finest creations around today.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
The first Rolex Oyster Perpetual Chronograph Daytona was launched in 1963. It was an efficient, legible and robust watch with a highly comfortable strap deemed to be an ultimate chronograph. Fifty years after its launch in 1963, Rolex reinvented the marvel that had long been an embodiment of perfection. Each inscription on the dial of a Rolex Daytona watch was a guarantee of performance and as the watch evolved so did the certifications on the dial. Solely “Cosmograph” at the outset, over the years “Oyster”, “Perpetual”, “Cosmograph”, “Daytona” and “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” were added, chronicling a legend in watchmaking.
The 1963 Cosmograph Daytona was launched with first of its kind screw-down chronograph pushers instead of the pump pushers. The screw-down pushers brought the finishing touch to the Oyster concept, and prevented the pushers from being manipulated accidentally. In testimony to its reinforced water resistance, the name “Oyster” was inscribed on all the dials in addition to “Cosmograph”. Another new feature came in the form of a black Plexiglas insert for the tachymetric bezel. The white graduation increased legibility.
In 2013, the Cosmograph evolved when the brand equipped it with a spectacular monobloc Cerachrom bezel, an exclusive Rolex innovation with exceptional resistance properties and incomparable aesthetics. The tachymeter scale on the bezel allows you to measure speed and enables precision timing to one eighth of a second. The watch is powered with a caliber 4130 mechanical chronograph movement. The 40mm dial has a black polish which makes the chronograph sub dials stand out. The watch is protected with a scratch resistant sapphire crystal and is molded in a stainless steel bracelet.
TAG Heuer Carrera Jack Heuer Special Edition
2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the Carrera watch, an exclusive time teller crafted under the vision and guidance of Chairman Jack Heuer. As a tribute to the spirit of the leader, two watches were launched under the Jack Heuer Special Edition which also marked his 80th birth anniversary. It was indeed appropriate that TAG Heuer chose the Carrera for this limited edition, as it was not only the model most closely linked with Jack, but also arguably the most enduring model in the TAG Heuer legacy. Introduced in 1964, the Carrera was discontinued in the mid-1980s before being brought back in 1996.
The Jack Heuer Carrera Chronograph has a metallic silver sun-burst pattern with applied hour-markers and simple silver hands, much like the original 2447S of the 1960s (see above). The watch has a traditional chronograph lay-out, which is a welcome change from the ubiquitous 1887 design. The sub-dials are dark Grey and have the same radial pattern as the vintage Carreras.
Contrasting the silver dial is the bright red “Heuer” logo, the red chronograph hand and the two red-tipped sub-dial hands. The red “80” on the tachy scale is symbolic of Jack Heuer’s 80th birthday. The Heuer Carrera Calibre 17 therefore, has retained the vintage vibe meant to highlight the design sensibilities that Jack Heuer himself pioneered. The watch includes a calfskin leather strap with the red backing. It is housed in a 42mm stainless steel case and is protected with a scratch resistant sapphire crystal. This watch is the product of a modern design and production sensibility with inputs from Jack Heuer himself on many aspects of its conception.
Alberto Santos Dumont was the first pilot to fly over two continents in a winged aircraft. He was a dear friend to Louis Cartier and as legend has it, one night shared his difficulty of checking his pocket watch while flying. He needed to keep his hands on the plane’s controls, but instead kept having to fumble for the pocket watch. Louis Cartier listened and an idea was born, which was to become the Santos-Dumont wristwatch – the first pilot watch.
Instead of a cumbersome pocket watch, Alberto wore a wristwatch affixed by a comfortable leather strap and secured with a small buckle. Though Patek Phillip invented the wristwatch, women mainly wore it until Santos made the wristwatch a man’s watch, achieving another first. And after years, the Santos was reinvented keeping the core of the original watch alive.
The modern day Santos 100 is a bold, strong and sturdy luxury watch that comes with a steel block and an enormous screwed-in bezel with luminous hands. It is evocative of the original model and looks like a more contemporary version of it. It is housed in a stainless steel case of 32mm and is protected with a scratch resistant sapphire crystal. The square case is trademark to the Santos watch. The watch is molded with a black alligator leather strap and is water resistant up to 100m. The dial has the signature Cartier Roman numeral which includes the watchmakers IIII at four o’clock. This is purposefully done to allow the markers on the right to match the ones on the left symmetrically.
A Deco-era classic, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, named for its reversible case, was originally developed for polo players to safeguard the watch face from damage. The original Reverso case was 38 mm long, 24 mm large and 6 mm high, the same size of today’s Reverso Classique. The dial of the original model featured only hours and minutes hands. It was only in 1948 that LeCoultre introduced a version with a small seconds counter at six o’clock.
Representing an elegant and sophisticated response to a technical challenge, the Reverso established itself as a great Art Deco classic constantly inspiring watchmakers, artists and inventors of the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre to reinterpret the back of the watch.
Extending the historic legacy of Reverso, the brand came out with the brilliant new Jaeger-LeCoultre Grande Reverso Ultra Thin 1948, a modern Reverso that took its design cues from a model from the late 40s. The upgraded 1948 version is the Reverso Grande, upsized for contemporary tastes, but with the same harmonious proportions and reversible case as the original. The Reverso Grande Taille comes in a 42mm stainless steel case with the trademark seconds counter at 6 o’ clock. The brown leather strap adds a touch of classic that is reminiscent of the original watch. The dial is protected with a scratch resistant sapphire crystal and has blue hands pointing at Arabic numerals. It is a true rendition of the original piece and proves the point that traditional designs always have an inspiring history.
By Disha Birdie
Sr. Features Writer, The Watch Guide
A budding writer and watch enthusiast with a passion for discovering Swiss watchmaking know-how.