There’s a tendency in the watch market (especially when it comes to dive watches) to pick a popular, important or attractive watch from a brand’s design portfolio, recreate it with modern sensibilities and bring it back from the dead. Such reissues capitalize on our nostalgia for the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, and our ever-increasing desire for vintage watches. We won’t complain. Some of our favorite modern watches are these reissues, like the Oris Divers Sixty-Five, Tudor Black Bay and Zodiac Sea Wolf.
But sometimes the formula feels too familiar: take an iconic sports watch from a big brand, give it the colorway of a classic reference and call it a day. There’s something to be said about the oddball reissue. Maybe it’s a reimagining of a ridiculous design, maybe it’s revisiting a less celebrated timepiece or maybe it simply hails from an overlooked or forgotten brand. They’re the less obvious option. If you really want to make a statement on your wrist, or simply flaunt your watch nerd cred — any one of these seven are perfect.
LIP General de Gaulle 35mm Classic
In 1952, long before Bulova’s electric tuning fork movement or the quartz watch, French watchmaker LIP was one of the first companies to create (but not sell) an electronic watch that used a battery and diode to move a balance wheel. Dubbed the l’Electronique, it was famously worn by French President Charles de Gaulle and American President Dwight D. Eisenhower. LIP tanked due to economic and social turmoil in the ’70s, but the brand was reestablished in 1990 and today sells a re-creation of the original l’Electronic, now featuring a quartz movement. The loss of the original movement may irk hardcore watch historians, but the spot-on mid-century case shape and dial more than pay tribute to a forgotten name in watchmaking.
Though many still scoff at the Chinese watchmaking industry, it has a decades-old history. In 1966, it had its first big moment: Sea-Gull (then Dong Feng), created the ST5, a 19-jewel, manual-wound movement, China’s first fully homegrown movement. The new Sea-Gull DongFeng reissue captures the look of the late ’60s, early ’70s DongFeng watches that utilized the ST5 movement, adopting a cushion case design and throwback DongFeng and Tianjin-branded dial, but now uses an automatic Sea-Gull ST2130.
Seiko X Giugiaro Design Spirit Smart
The Seiko Giugiaro 7A28-7000 is best known as Sigourney Weaver’s watch in Aliens, but the unique quartz chronograph was also the first watch designed by Italian car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, whose design portfolio includes wedge-tastic supercars like the BMW M1 and De Tomaso Mangusta. Its big, unorthodox case design proved to be a perfect fit for the grungy, futuristic set of Aliens. Thirty years later, in the form of the faithful Spirit Smart reissue, it still maintains its sci-fi edge.
The enduring Speedmaster has more or less become the face of the Space Watch, but the Russian Strela chronograph hit a serious milestone in space horology when Russian cosmonaut Alexey Leonov wore his during the completion of his first space walk in 1965. The Strela’s origins go back to 1959, when the First Moscow Watch Factory (its real name) created the cal 3017 (based on the Venus 150), and issued it to Russian pilots and cosmonauts. Today, you can buy a re-creation of the original Strela that uses the Poljot cal 3133, the 3017’s successor, and features a dial design almost identical to the original.
Though LIP (and Elgin) beat them to creating an electric watch, Hamilton was the first to actually sell one — the Hamilton Electric 500, in 1957. To signal the arrival of “the future,” Hamilton offered the electric movement in a variety of avant-garde case styles, most iconically the triangular Ventura, made famous in part by Elvis Presley wearing one in 1961’s Blue Hawaii. The watch wasn’t a commercial success (the battery life proved to be too short to make it an appealing alternative to mechanical watches), but the design penned by Richard Arbib has remained a hit, warranting a reissue using a more reliable modern quartz movement.
TAG Heuer Monza
The Autavia, Carrera and Monaco are responsible for TAG Heuer’s mid-century racing image, and the Monaco and Carrera have been reissued to this day — an Autavia reissue is on its way as well. But the short-lived Monza is another racing chronograph the brand created that’s worthy of revival. Released in 1976, the Monza was a gift to Heuer’s then-partner, Ferrari F1, after it won the 1971 World Championship, thanks to Niki Lauda’s championship-sealing win at the Italian Gran Prix.
The watch was distinguishable from other chronographs of the era by its PVD case and all-black design, and it was only sold until ’78 (though it was revived briefly in the ’80s) — but it will be re-launched in 2016, using titanium carbide in place of PVD to achieve the black-on-black look.
Vulcain Nautical Heritage
Swiss watchmaker Vulcain introduced the first wristwatch with an alarm complication in 1947. Come the late ’50s, early ’60s the complication became utilized in dive watches. Released in 1961, the Nautical wasn’t the first alarm diver (that’d be the Jaeger-LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm from 1959), but it did utilize the original alarm clock watch complication. The Vulcain name disappeared from the watch industry following the quartz crisis, but was revived in 1990. In 2011, the brand released an incredibly faithful re-creation of the original 1961 Nautical Cricket, right down to the decompression charts on the dial.