Why You Should Be Buying Neo-Vintage Watches

Why You Should Be Buying Neo-Vintage Watches

| 05.11.23

Perhaps you’ve never heard the term “neo-vintage” before — this is understandable. Until recently, little distinction was made in the watch collecting world between different eras of, well, not brand new. Part of the reason for this was that until the last, say, 15 years, not as many people cared. 

However, with the explosion in popularity of wristwatches has come the need to delineate specific eras and their relationship to the current one. We could conceivably call anything that isn’t new in the box, with tags and stickers, “old,” but that doesn’t quite cut it. (We do have the term “pre-owned” for something that’s newish but has already been purchased and handled by someone.) 

What about something, like, really old? While all of this is subjective collector to collector, we generally use the term "antique" to denote timepieces produced before the second World War. And we use the term “vintage” for pieces made post-war, but not pre-owned. But in recent years there has been need to further quantify what constitutes as “vintage” vs. "pre-owned" with respect to time. For our purposes here at A:S, we make this cutoff at roughly the mid-1980s. 

Between the mid-80s and roughly the early 2000s, we enter into interesting territory. Here, we still see the prevalence of certain traits and characteristics that smack of vintage watches — traditional case sizes, the use of tritium lume, for example, which takes on patina over time. Occasionally we still see acrylic crystals in place of sapphire ones, and also, aluminum bezels rather than ceramic — both of which are imperfect materials that scratch and patinate. In short: these watches are somewhat “transitional,” bridging the gap between “vintage” and “new.” Hence the “neo-vintage” moniker!

And why are we advocating on behalf of these watches? Imagine for a moment that you like the idea of a vintage watch, but not the realities of sourcing parts for rare movements no longer in production when the watch is being serviced; or finicky, stretched bracelets; or the lack of serious water resistance. (For the record, we don’t personally mind these issues nearly as much as we love vintage watches, which is why we built an entire business around them. But we digress.) Imagine, for a moment, that you want some vintage characteristics, and some modern ones. Well, the good news is that you can have your cake and eat it, too! This is what neo-vintage is for.

Let us give you an example: Take the Tudor Submariner Reference 79090. This five-digit Sub was made by Rolex’s sister brand in the late ‘80s through the ‘90s. This means it features tritium lume, which patinates nicely, giving certain dials those cream-colored indices and hands. You also get drilled lugs on a traditionally sized 39mm case — another characteristic of vintage watches — for easy strap changes, an acrylic crystal, and a folded-link, steel Oyster bracelet. (These days, most steel bracelets feature solid links — but some folks still prefer the jangly lightness of older folded-link models.) However, these watches are contemporary enough to feature a quoted 200m of water resistance — pressure-test yours before going in the water, of course! — plus a tank of a movement in the form of an automatic calibre from ETA.

In short, you’re getting a watch modern enough to take on the world, but old enough to look like a watch that could’ve been made in the 1970s, or even the 1960s. Pretty darn cool, if you ask us.

How about another example, shall we? This time, let’s look to the Hamilton Chrono-Matic chronograph Reference 9367. This thing is kind of a “Goldilocks” watch: Made in the 1990s, it’s sized somewhere between that of a vintage and a contemporary chrono at 38mm — a perfect size, if you ask us. It’s got an acrylic crystal (vintage), an aluminum bezel (vintage), tritium lume (vintage), and sub-registers that have taken on a golden patina (vintage.) However, it’s powered by the famous Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movement, a caliber that powered many a watch in the 1980s and ‘90s. This is the movement that helped the modern automatic chronograph catch on following the release of the Calibre 11 and Seiko Calibre 6139 in 1969, meaning that this particular watch — to quote ourselves — “exists somewhere along the continuum of vintage and contemporary chronograph designs.” Perfect neo-vintage

Below, check out some selections from the Neo-Vintage section of Analog:Shift. We’re constantly adding new watches to our inventory, from divers to chronographs to dress watches and more, so be sure to check back often. And of course, if you have further questions about “neo-vintage” — or about anything else! — get in touch via our website and we’d be more than happy to help you. Happy hunting!

Tudor Submariner Reference 79090

Nothing encapsulates the neo-vintage spirit more than this most excellent Tudor Sub from the late 1980s/1990s. Beautifully sized at 39mm and chock full of vintage touches, it’s perched beautifully along the continuum from “classic” to “contemporary.” (And it comes in black or blue!)

Omega Speedmaster Reference 145.022

Did you think this Speedy was from the 1960s or 1970s? We wouldn’t blame you if you did, but this baby is all 1990s neo-vintage goodness, including that tritium lume we all know and love, but with a more modern bracelet and movement. 

Patek Philippe Retrograde Perpetual Calendar Reference 5050J

Yes, super complicated dress watches also went through a neo-vintage phase! Take this gorgeous retrograde QP from none other than Patek Philippe — while it looks like something from 1962, it features both a sapphire crystal and a sapphire caseback. 

IWC Porsche Design Ocean 2000

Designed in 1982, the Ocean 2000 stemmed from the mind of Ferdinand “Butzi” Porsche, the man behind the iconic 911. This example from the 1990s features a beautifully patinated tritium dial — which, when combined with its titanium case, makes for a hell of a neo-vintage stunner.

Gérald Genta Chronograph

Though he’s responsible for some of the most notable watch designs of the 1970s, Gérald Genta later set up his own business to produce some of his quirkier designs. This funky chronograph from the 1990s would later influence Bulgari’s watch design language.