With WatchTime New York 2016 now wrapped up, and with plenty of American watch enthusiasts heading back to their homes invigorated from the long weekend of horology and camaraderie, I think back to many of the pieces we saw at the event. Over the course of the two days, several brands exhibited entirely new watches — from Blancpain’s Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph Ocean Commitment II to Nomos’ new neomatik nachtblau collection, the setting was ripe for exploration and conversation. Naturally, I was drawn to the vintage-inspired watches showcased by many of the brands, and spent much of my time over the two days carousing from booth to booth and going hands-on with as many as possible. Here are six that stood out the most to me:
Making my first trip through Gotham Hall, I couldn’t help but notice the large crowd beginning to gather around the Vacheron Constantin stand. Much of the audience seemed hungry to see the new watches in this year’s revitalized Overseas Collection — and while these are beautiful watches in their own right, what stood out to me was instead the Historiques Cornes De Vache 1955, a part of Vacheron’s Historiques Collection (WatchTime’s Mark Bernardo reviews it here). The modern piece, available in white or rose gold, is based on a small-production model from 1955, and is so named for its lugs, which resemble cow horns (or “cornes de vache” in French). It features a chronograph with a tachymetric scale and is operated via vintage-style pushers. It has gold and blue steel accents on the dial, giving the 38.5-mm watch additional historical flair.
The next stand I visited was Seiko’s — a personal favorite brand of mine — and after I was done bothering the watchmaker assembling and dissembling a Grand Seiko movement, I managed to get my hands on a watch released earlier this year, the Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 Day Power Reserve. While this platinum piece is by no means a direct historical recreation or homage, many of its design elements are inspired by the history of the Grand Seiko collections. Notice the style of the case, with its Zaratsu finishing, and the simple but elegant dial featuring Grand Seiko hands and applied hour markers — all features consistent with the historical lineage of this series. There are some obvious modern touches, such as larger proportions, the use of a modern eight-day-power-reserve movement, and the story told through the piece about Mt. Fuji and the city of Suwa at its base — but altogether this watch offers a very interesting combination of historical inspiration and modern distinction.
One of the best parts about WatchTime New York, besides being able to meet with other enthusiasts and seeing some very interesting watches, is being able to learn more about brands you might not know so much about. One of these brands was Jaquet Droz, a brand established in 1721 and bought by the Swatch group in 2000 — famous for featuring one of the most unique dial layouts in the world of haute horologie. The brand’s flagship series is the Grande Seconde Collection, which features a vertical dial layout with a smaller hour and minute subdial on the top, and a larger seconds subdial on the bottom. Each watch is available in a variety of different dial and case materials for individuality. This dial layout is directly inspired by the historic pocketwatches produced by the brand in the same style, and its watchmakers have even gone so far as to try to reproduce this style of pocketwatch in its Grande Seconde Collection with the La Montre de Poche Émail Ivoire.
Another brand I was able to explore a bit more closely was Tutima, a German manufacturer that specializes (among other things) in a steel pilots’ watches. What drew my interest immediately was the Grand Flieger Classic Chronograph 6402 — a watch I soon learned was based directly on the design codes of a 1941-produced chronograph, one which also happened to be the first German chronograph to feature a flyback mechanism. The watch has many distinct and historically inspired qualities, from its coin-edged rotating bezel, to its simple black-and-white dial for contrast and readability, to — most notably — its vintage-inspired hands, seen commonly in late 1930s and ’40s watches.
After visiting Tutima, I headed to the other side of the hall to the Bell & Ross booth, where I was greeted by the brand’s new Marine Instrument Collection. The collection, inspired heavily by 18th century marine clocks, features three new square watches with a unique look from other Bell & Ross pieces. What I spoke most about with the representative was the BR 01 Instrument de Marine, a time-only piece with a heavy historical influence. With a 46-mm case composed of bronze for the majority of the piece, and Indian rosewood for the siding; a white enamel dial with black Roman numerals and a small subdial for the seconds; and blued steel for the hour, minute, and seconds hands, the watch differentiates itself from other pieces in this popular brand’s collection. It will be produced in a limited edition of just 500 pieces, which should make it even more desirable to collectors.
One of the last stands I visited over the two days was that of the small American independent brand RGM Watch Co. What struck me — besides the extreme courtesy and kindness exhibited by the watchmakers as they showcased the pieces they themselves made — was the 801-COE “Corps of Engineers” watch. The piece, which quickly reminded me of the vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre I was wearing during the event, follows direct inspiration from the U.S. Corps of Engineers watches seen in the early 20th century. From the sturdy steel case, to the slight patina coloring on the vintage-style Arabic numerals, to the use of blued steel on a set of hands similar to those on the Tutima Grande Flieger which we looked at above, the watch announced itself at the event with its unique look and vintage styling. Overall, I found it to be one of the most interesting pieces on display at the event, and one I will remember as I plan my visit to the RGM factory in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania later this year.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first learning about horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field, and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers, alike. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.