As someone oft dismissed as a luddite (proud to say I do not Facebook or Instagram and have a pathological hatred of emojis), I take great solace in retro design trends and any sort of veneration of the past – you know, when things were less Trumpy and Brexity. Watch brands revel, some would say wallow, in the past, which can be to their detriment in attracting a new generation of customers. Every so often, however, some brands strike gold by mining their archives or find a theme that can make a tribute to the past something that’s entirely modern and on-trend.
Once derided as the decade that fashion forgot, the 1970s have been enjoying something of a revival in recent years. Yes, the '70s gave us flares and disco but it also gave us Chuck Norris’ action jeans, so it’s hit and miss. Watch design in the '70s was, for me at least, a sort of golden era, with wonderful, modernist pieces from a wide variety of Swiss brands that were experimenting with materials such as steel. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Memovox alarm-watch collection had already been around a fair few years but, in the '70s, the company released the Snowdrop model, which has become something of a classic and a favourite among collectors. The Snowdrop’s design was simple and very '70s, and now the company has paid tribute to that watch with the Master Memovox Boutique Edition. The echoes from the previous piece are the striking blues on the dial and the circular configuration, but the new version, which comes with a calfskin strap, has a new sunburst dial that catches the light beautifully. Inside the watch beats a 956 in-house movement that has 45 hours of power. Limited to 500 pieces, the Master Memovox Boutique Edition is priced at HK$87,000.
From the '70s we go way, way back with the Bell & Ross BR-01 Instrument de Marine, which is inspired by 17th-century marine clocks and steampunk. The marine-clock influence is obvious in the hands and dial design but the nifty trick here is that Bell & Ross has fashioned the dial out of thin sheets of wood and used bronze for the case, just as they did back in the Age of Discovery. The famed BR-01 chunky square case is sized at 46mm. Inside is a steady if unspectacular BR-Cal.203 movement with 56 hours of power reserve and the strap is brown alligator leather. The BR-01 Instrument de Marine is priced at HK$67,800.
Finally, we jump forward in time again to the 1930s and the Panerai Radiomir 3 Days Acciaio. The Paneristi, the name given to Panerai fan boys, who count Sylvester Stallone among their ranks, are going to love this piece, as it pays tribute to a Radiomir watch from the '30s that featured a 12-sided bezel inscribed with the words “Officine Panerai – Brevettato”. The 2016 version has a wonderfully machined, 12-sided fixed bezel and the same engraving in block letters. All the usual Panerai touches are present, including the sandwich dial, the large number configuration and the heavy-duty strap as well as the wire lugs found on the Radiomir line. Inside the watch is a P.3000 mechanical movement. The Radiomir 3 Days Acciaio comes in two versions, black or brown dial, and is priced at HK$75,600.