A static market for luxury timepieces has encouraged simpler, retro-influenced, elegant steel cases as a watch trend this year.
Europe’s watch fairs this year took place under the shadow of declining sales for luxury Swiss watchmakers — in the lead-up to Baselworld in March, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FHS) reported that sales slid 10 per cent over the previous year, to the tune of 1.5 billion Swiss Francs (more than A$2 million, if you don’t mind).
So how did the high-end manufacturers respond in the wake of their worst sales since the Global Financial Crisis in 2009? By refocusing on understated, utilitarian designs favouring functional materials like stainless steel over shiner alternatives — and with a strong vintage streak, a huge watch trend that’s not going anywhere.
Here are four of Men’s Style’s favourite vintage steel releases of 2017.
Rolex is toasting the Sea-Dweller’s 50th anniversary with this hotly anticipated re-release, featuring a larger 43mm stainless steel case. The signature Oyster case is crafted from a solid block of corrosion-resistant 904L steel, as is the piece’s bracelet.
Longines Heritage 1945
This re-issue increased the case size by 2mm to 40mm and subbed a manual movement for an automatic one, tapping into the vintage craze with an uncomplicated steel case, flat bezel, convex curved dial, and tan nubuck leather strap that you’d expect to see on a dapper chap’s wrist in the 1940s.
Tag Heuer Autavia
To mark this piece’s 55th anniversary, Tag Heuer asked fans to vote on 16 models — and the public gave the nod to this polished steel celebration of retro racing chronographs, a re-issue of the watch worn by German Formula One superstar Jochen Rindt, who posthumously won the 1970 F1 Championship.
Tudor Heritage Black Bay Steel
This new all-steel version Heritage Black Bay divers’ watch was not loved by everyone at Baselworld but Men’s Style thought it a stand-out. The bezel insert in brushed steel, circular satin-brushed for a matt appearance, along with the addition of a date window, makes for a fresh take for a brand with a storied 60-year history in dive watches. Behind the stark beauty of the exterior is the Manufacture Calibre MT5612, with a 70-hour power reserve and water resistance to 200 metres.