Phat! Cowabunga! Get jiggy with it! Yes, the ’90s were quite the time to be alive, even if you were a luxury watchmaker. Around the mid- to late ’80s, mechanical watchmakers that managed to survive the quartz crisis were able to recover by positioning their timepieces as upmarket luxury goods steeped in history and tradition. The good times continued into the ’90s, where legacy brands continued to further experiment with engineering and design, and even some German watchmakers were brought into the fold following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
That is to say, the ’90s were a bit of a precursor to the modern watch industry (which admittedly isn’t doing so hot). New life was breathed into the industry. So there are plenty of wonderful pieces from the decade to be snatched up. And while current tastes show a lot more demand for watches from the ’60s and ’70s, and because people might be reluctant to consider a watch from the ’90s “vintage,” you’ll generally find that you can get a good amount of watch for your money. Here are three great examples that are all that and a bag of chips.
What we like: Nomos sprung up following the reunification of Germany in the early ’90s with a portfolio of four watches: the Tangente, Tetra, Orion and Ludwig. All pieces used the same Peseux 7001 automatic movement (Nomos now does its own in-house movements) and all had beautiful, minimalist Bauhaus-inspired designs that were especially unique at the time. I’m fudging a bit here, as this Ludwig is actually from 2000, but it’s essentially the same as the early Ludwig that helped turn the German brand into the powerhouse it is today.
Omega Speedmaster Reduced ‘Schumacher’
What we like: Though the Speedmaster Professional hasn’t changed much over its decades-long lifespan, it has spawned a number of offshoots like the Speedmaster Reduced. Conceived in the mid-’90s, it was a smaller alternative for those who didn’t want to wear the larger 42mm Professional. Also significant was the switch to an automatic movement. Though the Reduced took on the same look as the Professional, there is one version that sticks out: the Schumacher, a special edition celebrating then-brand ambassador and Formula 1 hotshot Michael Schumacher.
Panerai Luminor Submersible ‘Sly Tech’
What we like: Panerai began selling its watches on the civilian market back in the ’90s to little success until action flick icon Sylvester Stalone saw one in a storefront in Rome and picked one up to wear in the 1996 film Daylight. Sly has been a Panerai fan since, helping cement the brand as one of the most recognizable luxury brands of the era. He loved the watch so much, in fact, that he commissioned a limited run of 95 “Sly Tech” Panerais, with an additional 12 prototypes being made; this is, supposedly, one of the latter. It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s one hell of a piece of modern watch history.