How would you characterize yourself as a watch enthusiast? One of the most common claims I’ve heard is, “I’m a vintage guy.” While I do not consider myself a “vintage guy,” I can relate to watch enthusiasts that go exclusively for vintage timepieces. I own several vintage watches myself, and each has an amazing story to tell. However, collecting vintage timepieces can be a very time-consuming hobby. After all, you can’t just buy a vintage watch and expect it to be in original or perfect condition. Vintage purchases require you to dive deep into the world of watches, which I am happy to do.
But what if you don’t have time to dive deep or you simply aren’t interested in vintage timepieces? Well, thankfully, there are other ways to enjoy the retro look. Over the last decade or so, many watch brands have released popular vintage-inspired models. There is something very appealing about vintage looks and a great backstory paired with modern technology.
With the holiday season in full swing, are you looking to invest your year-end bonus in a classic watch? If so, you’ll be faced with the dilemma of whether to buy a vintage reference of popular models like the Breitling Navitimer and Omega Speedmaster or their modern-day remakes. But can these contemporary watches truly live up to (or even surpass) the well-known icons?
Remakes: What’s the Charm?
In short, a remake takes a new look at an original watch from the past, often with some updates to technology and production standards. The amazing thing about many remakes is that they scratch an itch for both vintage enthusiasts as well as people interested in new watches, and they do so in various ways.
First off, remakes are often modern versions of a brand’s most iconic models. They tap straight into the heart and soul of a brand. There is nothing more appealing to the wider watch-buying audience than an iconic timepiece. After all, they aren’t icons for nothing, right? A remake, if done well, is often a guaranteed success for a brand. Why? They don’t have to worry about whether or not people will like the timepiece’s design because they already know that the original was a hit.
This brings us to the second reason remakes are so popular: Vintage watches have become more appealing over the last two decades due to their investment potential. As a result, we have seen massive price increases for iconic watches from big brands. Certain classics are now unobtainable except for the happy few, and that’s where remakes can play an important role. The ability for customers to buy into the legacy of an iconic timepiece can do wonders for a brand.
This also explains why vintage collectors are so interested in remakes. First of all, they like to see their favorite icons honored in a historically accurate way. Second, if the original vintage watch has become scarce or too expensive, it’s the next best option for obtaining a timepiece with the same level of prestige. Some companies have gone so far as to ask their collectors for help creating a watch that is true to the original. Let’s look at some of the best recent remakes and see what sets them apart from their iconic predecessors.
1. Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition
One remake that garnered a lot of praise for being faithful to the original is the 2019 Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition. This watch marked the 60th anniversary of Breitling’s Navitimer 806, one of the most iconic and prized models of all time. Breitling stayed true to the 1959 original in terms of case size, plexiglass crystal, dial details, and the small beaded bezel.
The main difference between the vintage and modern versions is the movement. The original 806 gets its power from either a Venus 178 or Valjoux 72, while the new watch uses the Breitling in-house Caliber B09. It’s a logical choice that enables the wearer to enjoy modern technology with historic looks. The Navitimer 806 1959 Re-Edition is one of the most faithful remakes ever created and had a limited run of 1,959 pieces. Although numbers are limited, you can still get your hands on one for a decent price on Chrono24.
2. Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Moonshine Gold
In 2019, Omega released the Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Moonshine Gold. Back in 1969, Omega produced 1,014 numbered editions of a gold Speedmaster in honor of the Apollo program and its astronauts following the successful Moon landing. The 2019 watch is a remake of the original yellow gold Apollo 11.
The Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Moonshine Gold Limited Edition stays very true to the original watch in terms of looks. It’s an amazing yellow gold timepiece with a burgundy bezel and black onyx hour markers; however, there are some significant differences as well. The biggest change is the use of Moonshine gold, which has a lighter hue than the yellow gold used for the 1969 original.
Another difference is the burgundy ceramic bezel in place of the original aluminum bezel. Likewise, as is the case with many remakes, Omega updated the watch’s movement to the modern Omega caliber 3861. The Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Moonshine Gold had a limited run of 1,014 pieces, which quickly sold out. This watch has since gained iconic status, just like the 1969 original.
3. Seiko Diver’s Watch 55th Anniversary Limited Editions
This year marks 55 years since Seiko’s first diving watch. In honor of the occasion, the company released three different remakes of their most iconic divers. The Seiko SLA037J1 is the remake of Seiko’s first 1965 diver, the 62MAS. Seiko remained faithful to the original watch in terms of overall looks, though they did change some key elements to bring it up to today’s standards.
First, they increased the case size from 37 mm to 39.9 mm. Second, the blue tone of the remake’s dial and rubber strap is inconsistent with the black original. Seiko also decided to upgrade the movement to their high-end Seiko caliber 8L55, one of their famous Hi-Beat movements. The Seiko SLA037J1 has a limited run of 1,100 pieces, and delivery started in July 2020. With any luck, you might be able to still find one.
4. Certina DS PH200M
For something that is not limited in number and also a lot more affordable, there is the Certina DS PH200M. This is a re-creation of the Certina PH200M from 1967. Next to its almost identical looks, both watches use Certina’s trademark Double Security (DS) system. The DS system is essentially a rubber seal surrounding the movement inside the case, which provides increased water resistance and shock absorption.
Certina increased the case diameter from 40 to 42.9 mm, even though the original size would still be suitable by today’s standards. Nevertheless, the larger size is more in line with many of its modern peers and provides enough space for the modern ETA Powermatic 80.111 movement. This caliber features an impressive 80-hour power reserve. Despite the differences, Certina stayed very true to the original design, making the DS PH200M an absolute joy to look at. Plus, as mentioned before, it’s not a limited edition, so you won’t have any trouble finding one, and its price (€677 or approx. $795) is unbeatable.