TOP 6: The most interesting retro watches

Tags: Selection of the best | Men's | Classic | Retro

14.6.2021 | 9 MIN

To create an interesting vintage-style watch, it is not enough to take a model from the past, whip it and want twice the real price for it. It must be done with feeling, reach for a suitable model and come up with an upgrade that will stand up to our century. In my opinion, today's selection of several recent pieces fulfills this more than convincingly.

TOP 6: Inexpensive retro watches that tell stories
TOP 6: Inexpensive retro watches that tell stories

(1) Certina DS Chronograph Automatic

I love the detail in sophisticated vintage style. Maybe it's because how overwhelmed we are with modern things. In the evening, you are watching a video where robots dance to the rhythm of Drity Dancing and terrifying images come to life in my head. And then suddenly you feel need  for a classic book with a real scent of paper instead of an e-book, or for a mechanical watch that radiates the soothing impression that everything is actually in perfect order, instead of smartwatches, according to which you sometimes have a heart attack.

But for the sake of security, you might not feel like buying a watch for two grand. Although, just the ordinary feeling will probably be the first impulse, and finally the last decisive argument in your decision making process. But at the same time you need to defend the purchase rationally. Fortunately, I don't think that's going to be so difficult with Certina DS Chronograph.

The model, which stood as a symbol, was produced by Certina from 1945 to 1950 (it had no name at that time, but it was almost identical in appearance, only a smaller model). The function of the chronograph, which was necessary for the use of telemetric and tachymetric scales, increased the height of the original movement, so it was necessary to "knock out" the dial and thus the slide. Today, this detail is used more to give a "retro" impression. And Certina took advantage of that. The sloping dial is also copied by blue plated hands and a glass.

Certina did not follow the example of its older model DS PH200M and avoided the plastic crystal. Certina put a bet on sapphire crystal (1.6 mm thick) with anti-reflection and its convexity will offer not only the historical effect, but also a nice spectacle from all angles.

I don't have to waste lines on the fact that this is a precisely processed model. Inside, a fairly clear choice was chosen in the form of ETA A05.H31, modified Valjoux 7753. It has 27 stone bearings, a frequency of 28,800 half-oscillations per hour and, thanks to modifications, a 60-hour power reserve. The balance spring is made of modern silicon material, supporting accuracy, better resistance to magnetic fields and temperature changes.

All these details that Certina cared about are among the reasons why I consider the DS Chronograph model to be a definitely successful vintage style piece. But the main reason is much simpler: they simply make me feel good. And that, as I find out, is a pretty strong argument these days.

(2) Citizen Bull Head

As a true movie fan, I couldn't miss Tarantino's film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. And as a true watch fan, I am often more interested in the characters' watches than dialogues. Anyone who has seen the film will remember a rather unmissable model on Brad Pitt's wrist. This is a gold Citizen Bullhead 8110 on a brown Red Monkey strap.

Although I'm somehow not convinced that the time when the plot of the film takes place with the year these watches were released, though no other would fit the Cliff Booth's antifragile character. There's something special about Bullheads, something ugly for someone, but I'd say almost always provocative. Although they got their nickname from the button "corners", for some individuals their design will look like a Toreado bull scarf. And that is their greatest advantage! This was the case in the 1970s and is still the case today.

It may be worth noting that the correct name is rather "Challenge Timer". The original version of the bullhead-style can be found in the Citizen Tsuno Chrono Challenge Timer, introduced in 1973. They were also nicknamed "Easter Rabbit" or "Mickey Mouse" for their typical appearance, but the name Bull Head was the most common. In the 1970s, Citizen put its 8110 mechanical caliber in them, which had a fly back function, a vertical clutch, a column wheel and ran at 4 Hz. If we take into account that the first automatic chronograph was only sold since 1969, it was an extraordinary caliber.

Bull Head také s modrým číselníkem a lehce odlišným designem.

Bull Head also with a blue dial and a slightly different design.

Citizen is not rushing rerelease of its historical models as its Japanese competitor, but it is good that it was Bull Head which was revived. It started inconspicuously with limited edition of 1973 pieces in 2018. A year later, Citizen added more to the company's anniversary. And finally, in 2020, it comes with regular production, moreover in the titanium version. The biggest change is the transition to Eco-Drive movement, which, however, corresponds to the current philosophy of the company.

I have added the Citizen Promaster Bull Head to the list after much deliberation. But for every item on today's list, I always have one main argument. And at Bull Heads, a colleague who reviewed them beautifully expressed it for me: it's good that such watches are on the market!

(3) Hamilton PSR Digital

Looking at the Hamilton American Classic PSR digital display, many so-called watch enthusiasts will tend to ask: so what can these do? Well, they can show the time!

Does it seem like that is not enough to you in comparison to the newest Garmins? Believe me, this is the coolest retro model on the list! The feeling when you press the "magic" button and the red LEDs light up is simply indescribable.

At first I thought that this will rather please the older generations. You know, witnesses who still managed to touch that era on their own wrists. But in fact, my generation were also over the moon, though our parents were just in the 1st or 2nd Grade at the time of the launch of the first Pulsar digital.

Hamilton used the PSR to recall a significant moment in 1970, when they introduced the world's first digital digital camera, the Hamilton Pulsar. I've mentioned everything important about them in an earlier article, but as long as you don't really have them in your hands, they're all just historical pleasures. The watch itself will convince you that this reminder of having a past at home is worthwhile.

They convinced me that it belongs, without debate, to the list of the most interesting retro pieces of 2020. And the main argument? It appears in the moment you press that magic button.

(4) Seiko Captain Willard

Selecting just a few models on any list is always a matter of compromise and trimming. For Seiko, it is almost a boring truth that every year they bring so many rereleases that they would made a separate list. The year 2020 was no different, but only a few catches were stuck in my net that would deserve their place here. So it was just a question of which one it would be.

Of course, the Seiko Prospex Land Alpinist is one of the options. An amazing affair, introduced last year. Prospex Sea Diver's 1968 Reinterpretation also got considerable applause from me. And of course Seiko Prospex Diver's Captain Willard.

From the title of the chapter, it is clear which made it through. Although I genuinely love the almond-green Alpinists, the forest green of the Willards won it for me. They remind me of everything Seiko has wrapped around my wrist in recent years.

When evaluating watches (but this will probably also apply to a number of consumer gadgets), you have several criteria at your disposal that can be assessed quite rationally. Craftsmanship, materials, movement… The subjective aspect is, of course, design. But the greater alchemy is the elusive aura that appears here and there in some models.

It was the Willards, that has experienced a real war in the past, the popularity of film celebrities, paved the way to the cruelest places on earth and hid the genetic basis for iconic turtle divers.

For some they will be small, for others large. For some the case does not fit and for some the retro whiff is an obstacle. But if you are interested, love will deepen with every detail. I've talked a lot about the Willards, so I'll just add why they're here: a legend that's still alive and finally available to the present.

(5) Orient Weekly Auto King Diver 70th Anniversary

You may be wondering how could I choose Orient Weekly Auto King from all the options here. Why not Tissot Heritage 1973?

In fact, it started with the Orient. When I reviewed them sometime in the autumn, the idea of choosing the top vintage-style models that appeared in our country began to grow in my head. The Orient is quiet water that will bring a small tsunami to the watch coast here and there.

I have long shared the view that the Orient is a little unjustly underestimated. But sometimes they stick out and send some proper model into the world. Well, maybe not everyone will be as excited about these super compressors as me, but neither the PRS nor the Willards might do the trick. But that's what it's about.

The Orient model recalled one of its historical treasures, the Orient Auto King from 1965. It was given a new look for the 70th birthday in 2020 and it was more of a gift for watch enthusiasts. Classic, good looking and as similar in design as possible to original.

Weekly King s červeným číselníkem.

Weekly King with red dial.

To become a modern retro, things needs to age well in the first place. When that happens, someone has to do it again just as well, if not better. The Orient convinced me that it is not so easy with its SK Super King models, where in my opinion it stepped aside. For Weekly King, it was better. And then all you have to do is not put a price tag with a surcharge on it for having "something that has already been here".

Zlaté Weekly King od Orientu v limitované edici.

Golden Weekly King from Orient in limited edition.

And this is a winning argument: I like Orienty Weekly King mainly with its performance for a given price. They prove that being retro does not mean being expensive or Casio.

(6) Seiko Prospex Sea Automatic Diver's SLA043J1 Seiko Diver's Watch 55th Anniversary

The last place in our selection originally belonged to cheap digitals from the 80's. But because the topic of cheaper retro watches was so interesting that we dedicated a separate article to them, there was one place left for watches, which are the exact opposite of the word cheap, but at the same time I think it is one of the most interesting things we saw in 2020 from Japanese production.

Seiko Prospex SLA043J1 were introduced in 2020 as part of the celebrations of the 55th anniversary of the first Japanese diving watch. Today, the legendary 6217-8000, to which no one calls anything other than 62MAS (acronym for autoMAtic Selfdater), has set not only an aesthetic model for future diving watches. They had a water resistance of 150M and were the first to exceed the water resistance limit of 50M according to the specifications for diving watches. The bezel rotated in both directions after one minute, the diameter of the case was 47 mm (at that time they were considered large). The year 1965, when the 62MAS was established, is generally considered to be a significant milestone in the history of Seiko and the development of diving watches.

Seiko has recalled this important model several times, but the Seiko Prospex SLA043J1 are new in several respects.

First we look at the Ever-Brilliant steel case. This is actually equivalent to the 904L steel used by Ball or Rolex. It is the most corrosion-resistant steel, which is suitable for the diving model. In addition, it has a unique look and Seiko has completely modified the surface into a brushed form, which further emphasized the sharp features of the watch.

The diameter also changed to 39.9 mm. Today, it may be surprisingly small, but thanks to that, it fits perfectly on the wrist and adds the necessary retro touch. On the case back we find a dolphin, which also appeared in the original model. The bezel is rotatable only in one direction, but a minute rotation remains.

But what I enjoy most is looking through a rounded sapphire crystal at the amazing blue hue of the dial combined with a blue second hand. The automatic movement inside is the equally famous 8L35 developed especially for diving watches assembled in the Japanese factory Shizukuishi Watch Studio. The entire production of SLA043 is 1700 pieces for the whole world.

The year 1965 was really important for Seiko. This marked the beginning of one of the most important chapters in its history. And what he has accomplished in the field of diving watches is significant. Exclusive comments on these events are always welcome.


Watches mentioned in the article