Nostalgia has taken over the watch industry in recent years. That means increasing popularity and prices for actual vintage watches, as well as reissues that offer vintage models executed with modern materials, construction and movements. Then, of course, there are the many homages to famous watches. But some watchmakers have taken a different approach: rather than simply recycling old ideas, they offer retro looks in fresh designs.
Not reissues or homages, we'll simply call them "retro watches." This can be a tough balance to strike, as lines can be blurred, terms can be debated and almost everything can seem derivative of something else if you look hard enough — but here are the recent watches that we feel do the retro look best while offering novelty and creativity at the same time.
Movement: Soprod Newton automatic
The vintage vibes are strong with any of Serica's watches, but you won't find they look quite like anything else you've seen. Their 5303 dive watch collection is quirky enough that you'd think it was made in the 1960s, but this type of design is exactly what the French microbrand has been doing better than almost anybody for years.
Baltic Aquascaphe Dual-Crown
Movement: Miyota 9039 automatic
The Baltic Aquascaphe has a certain familiarity but steers clear of directly homaging classic dive watches. The Dual-Crown within the Aquascaphe collection nods to the look of Super Compressor watches, but none in particular. Baltic gets this balance right across its collections, and it's one of the brands that inspired this article.
Movement: Seiko meca-quartz
Just about all of New York-based Brew's watches qualify as retro and yet original. The Method is simply the latest, and it combines a cushion-like case with some funky '60s-looking hands — as well as scales around the edge that, instead of tachymeters or telemeters or the like, serve the much more practical purpose of timing whatever type of coffee you prefer to brew.
Hamilton Khaki Field Murph 38
Movement: Hamilton (ETA) H-10 automatic
The Hamilton "Murph" has an interesting story: it was originally made as a movie prop for the 2014 film Interstellar. It was made to look classic, like an old hand-me-down watch, but it wasn't a model that existed in the Hamilton catalog. The brand produced one in response to a cry from enthusiasts, and the recent version in 38mm is even better. There are a lot of microbrands on this list, but the Murph shows big brands can nail the retro watch, too.
Ollech & Wajs P-104
Movement: ETA 2824 automatic
Time seems to have stood still for Ollech & Wajs, even more than your average watch brand. The modern company seems like it's actually making tool watches in the 1960s or '70s. Seriously, the company's watches have the feel of watches from another era, despite that models like the P-104 pilot's watch are current designs.
Farer Field Automatic
Movement: Sellita SW221 automatic
Some colorful highlights betray this field watch's modernity, you can almost imagine that this is what a vintage watch might've looked like new. British watchmaker Farer does an excellent job of making a familiar watch style fresh and interesting — while the classic military look lends a retro vibe.
Doxa Sub 600T
Movement: Sellita SW200 automatic
Doxa these days is primarily in the business of reissuing its famous dive watches from back in the day and iterating upon them. That's why we were surprised when the brand launched something entirely novel — and yet wholly in harmony with its 1960s-'70s persona. The Sub 600T is a great example of a watch brand that uses its heritage DNA to create something that stands out as unique.