4 Classic Watches With Subtle Updates To Whet The Appetite
We tend to accept classic cars and watches as a given, assuming at some point they just arrived as a certified classic from the get-go, I mean we hear it all the time when a popular model is upgraded to the cry of “modern classic”. But there has to be something more to it than this, no? There needs to be a time when our object of desire is just another new product fighting for the spotlight, and there needs to be a process of evolution that leaves room for change otherwise how can we know what’s classic and what’s just old?
The Car Analogy:
If I buy a 1968 Mustang I know for sure I’ve got a classic in every sense of the word, and if I buy a 2007 mustang the same logic applies, but….. if I buy a 1979 mustang I know for sure I’ve bought a lemon and no mistake.
1968 Mustang: Instant Classic
2007 Mustang: Modern Classic With Pedigree
1979 Mustang: Seriously, what happened here?
So, basically, we need to see a beginning, a middle, and an end in order to process the idea of a classic. In the example of the Mustang, we see that the designers got it right first off the blocks which left them in a tricky position. I mean how do you improve on perfection, right? Clearly, in this case, the designers couldn’t improve on perfection and created a something of lackluster, tired runaround, almost like they couldn’t be bothered. It wasn’t for another 30 years that someone got off their soft behinds and designed something worthy of the Mustang pedigree and the brand was reborn in 2007.
The first point is, without the 1979 model we wouldn’t know the difference and we’d just accept the Mustang as a classic without question. The second point is, looking at the design of the three mustangs it becomes clear how and why we see the 1968 and 2007 as classics. The ‘2007 Mustang’ can easily be seen as a direct descendant of the original which made the grade all those years ago, whereas the 1979 model bears no family resemblance. This was more a ‘brother from another mother’ affair.
Evolution Of A Classic Watch
With the car analogy in mind, I’d argue the same criteria applies to luxury watches and I have 3 example to try to prove my point
IWC Big Pilots
Did you know the IWC Swiss International Watch Company was one of only 5 companies supplying watches to both Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan as well as the Allied forces during WWII. Throughout this time IWC manufactured the B-Uhr (cal. 52T S.C.) for the Luftwaffe, the IWC Big Pilot being the direct descendant of this B-Uhr.
The two retain a remarkable similarity just as the Mustangs do, so you know you are buying into a family. During the bombing raids of all-out war little thought was put into scratchproof ceramic materials although it did have anti-magnetic protection that it retains today.
The design is progressive in that it has a direct visual lineage between the 1940s Big Pilot to today’s Pilot that has evolved it into a much more dynamic, sporting and luxurious product. The latest model of the Big Pilot is the ‘Top Gun’ fitted with IWC caliber 51111 with a Breguet spring, to become a sophisticated chronograph with 7 days (168 hours) of power reserve.
Interesting that commerce continued unabated throughout the war, but whatever your thoughts on the duality of this trade, one can quickly take from this just how well thought of and reliable these pieces were.
Patek Philippe Calatrava
The argument used to prove lineage from the first good design informs classic status down the line still holds water when we look at the Patek Philippe Calatrava. The initial release in 1932 the Calatrava was the epitome of elegance with its simple lines, large round case, plain white dial with Roman numerals and markers on a simple leather strap.
The basic premise has not changed and you can still see the same simple design lives on in today’s offer. Still, it’s charming and elegant reflecting the minimalism of the Bauhaus movement, offering a subtlety in classic design and understated branding and a beautiful subdial at 6 o’clock on a leather strap.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques Ultra Fine22
If you look closely you will only see the smallest of changes between those pieces, for example, the lugs on the original are curved giving a somewhat old-fashioned look, and the crown is waisted towards the case. That’s not a lot of difference is it, but more we see it, the more we understand that subtlety is the key to the evolution of a classic.
The character of this piece is unchanged with its large round gold case on a dark leather strap, and its raison d’etre of extreme thinness holds firm. If you didn’t already know, the Constantin Historiques is known for its thinnest mechanical movement at 1.6 mm thick making it a mechanical marvel. Its simple and effective design maintains the overall concept of refined subtlety with a couple of visual upgrades from the brand’s Maltese Cross being of a superior quality, and the 12 o’clock marker allowing a small amount of white dial to show between them.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak23
This one is something of a wildcard for me because there’s very little to tell these pieces apart. Sometimes inspiration is all you need and what you’re working on just comes easily. It sometimes, although not on any regular basis find myself trying to write as quickly as I can think, only to end up with a mess of mis-spelling and bad grammar. But what I get out of this is a nice piece hiding between the lines. It’s also true of recording artist and actors who often claim their best work was written drunk which leads me to the story of the Royal Oak.
The story goes that Gerald Genta designed the Royal Oak overnight to meet a deadline for the Basel Fair of 1972, although I am not suggesting he was drunk, it’s just the idea of inspiration I’m trying to get across.
Interestingly, this was the first luxury watch constructed from stainless steel rather than gold but this was far from its biggest divergence from the conservative path. The new octagonal bezel screwed onto the case with eight visible hexagonal screws was a design feature that became instantly recognizable and considered somewhat ugly by many commentators at the time.
This didn’t deter the fans of the design and since 1972 the Royal Oak has been adopted by watch enthusiasts and celebrities throughout the world. The complex mechanical process called guillochage created grande tapisserie patterns on their dials to give weaving, geometric, square or lozenge patterns to create the Audemars Piguet look and feel.
Today, the design has little change as the signature octagonal bezel has not changed, but a variety of colors are now available, and modern times sometimes means modern complications, meaning there is a version with a perpetual calendar for the Far East market.
Looking at the ‘Then and Now’ it’s clear to see the family has stuck together to retain all the sort after elements. This is why I call it my ‘wild card’ because nothing has really changed but there are a variety of colors to have.
The Take Away
In the final analysis, the point remains when we talk about a classic we are talking about a collection that was created perfectly the first time around and its successors have only taken the perfection, and refined it to give an additional polish to perfectly fit the modern day.
So, if you’re looking for the perfect Watch at the perfect price, from a trusted source, you know it can be a stressful experience, with the right help and advice, you too can find your dream timepiece. As I’m considered an expert in my field and I write for other publications like Wrist Review I know you’ll benefit from my experience and avoid the pitfalls.
If you are considering buying online you may be interested in reading the “How to choose a watch for your wrist size” article here.
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