Every year, watch brands release pieces that strike closer and closer to the essence of their original, iconic forebears. In the past, this has come in an array of forms, from Zenith’s El Primero Original 1969, to the Cartier Tank Louis Cartier collection, to the reference 15202 Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. This year is no different, with the release of TAG Heuer’s Monaco Caliber 11, Tudor’s Heritage Black Bay “Black,” Seiko’s Grand Seiko 62GS, and a new collection that has not gone unnoticed by many vintage-watch enthusiasts: the Glashütte Original Sixties Iconic collection.
Released earlier this year in October, the Sixties Iconic collection is based on a variety of 1960s design schemes by Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe (GUB) — the state-owned firm made up of nationalized watch, clock and instrument companies from in and around Glashütte (eventually privatized in 1994 to become today’s Glashütte Original company) — particularly the Spezimatic, released towards the middle of the decade. The Spezimatic was a watch that embodied funky ‘60s and ’70s trends, and while I don’t think the original version would necessarily be denoted a “classic” timepiece, Glashütte Original is certainly paying homage to this heritage with the modern Sixties Iconic Collection.
Available in five color schemes (red, gold, aqua, brown, and gray), all of the watches’ dials are meticulously painted to achieve the very interesting visual effects — from sunbursts, to black outer rings on many of the pieces, to the fascinating imprint on the gray-dial variation. The watch is housed within a 39-mm stainless steel case with a clear sapphire caseback, and powering it from within is the nicely decorated automatic Caliber 39-52 that has a stop (or hacking) seconds function. Other details to notice are the unique, milled quarter-hour markers, white-gold hands, and dial-specific alligator strap. The collection is priced at around $5,000 per watch.
Obviously, this watch is not for everyone. It has a very unique look to it that seems distant not only from modern watchmaking, but also from the usual designs put forth by Glashütte Original. While the brand has in recent years began producing a larger amount of “homage” series within its broader 20th Century Vintage umbrella, this watch is still somehow different from the square-cased and Senator-esque designs that accompany it. In my opinion, this is good; the Sixties Iconic collection was meant to be different, it was meant to stand out, and, most of all, it was meant to pay a tribute to the fascinating — and sometimes downright odd — designs that came out of Glashütte fifty years ago.
Some key similarities to note between the Iconic Sixties and actual ’60s models is the display of hours markers, shape of the case, and somewhat retro-looking leather strap variations available for each watch. However, there are also some key differences in the modern collection that remind one of the manufacturer behind the design: the clear caseback and beautifully skeletonized automatic movements, the attention to finishing and polishing throughout the watch, the sturdy-looking crown, and, most of all, the intricately designed and painted dial.
Brands today are becoming increasingly aware of the growing interest in the history of their watches, and there is a rising demand for modern pieces that can successfully embody that historical relevance. What all of the brands I mentioned earlier (Tudor, Seiko, Cartier, etc.) have in common is that they are actively making watches that cater to these desires. Glashütte Original is also now recognizing the substantial craving in the consumer market for these homage pieces. As I noted above, not every watch enthusiast is going to love the Iconic Sixties collection, but I’m pretty certain that the enthusiast who does is going to really, really love it. Glashütte Original has done a fantastic job on this collection, and this “Vintage Eye” looks on it approvingly.
For Part 16 of this series, in which I compare the vintage and modern Panerai Luminor, click here.
Caleb Anderson is the Director of Outreach at the online vintage watch boutique theoandharris.com. Since starting at Theo & Harris, he has garnered extensive knowledge on vintage watches, and spends much of his time sharing his opinions within the field. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on watches, and a casual runner.