The popular face of the wristwatch is constantly changing. Digital displays, which were once all the rage, fell out of favor long ago; oversized watches boomed and now seem to be over the hump; and gold has come and gone a few times over. But the greatest and perhaps most viable of today’s trends might be the resurrection of the vintage watch trade — new timepieces that pay homage to their roots and celebrate the ever-changing face of an industry from the 1950s through the 1990s.
Daring design for (kind of) modest means
Avant-garde watch design is best designed by what isn’t, rather than what it is: Understand classics like dress, dive, and aviator watches and you’ll know avant-garde when you see it. The problem with breaking the mold is that these watches often come with an equally unbelievable and impressive price tags, leaving mere mortals’ bank accounts wanting. But more recently, a handful of watchmakers have taken a shot at inspired and unique design, without the insane price tags. These are our favorites that at least won’t bankrupt you.
Playing the field
Field watches tend to be ignored among the tool watch set, mostly because their definition is a bit less clear than divers’ or pilots’ watches. In fact, a field watch’s rugged build and clear dial markings makes it the perfect candidate for all sorts of expeditions. These five are particularly excellent candidates for bumps and bruises, be they from scree-scrambling, brush-clearing or desk-bumping.
The thrill of the hunt
What self-respecting watch nerd hasn’t spent countless hours trolling eBay for that elusive vintage treasure that no one has discovered? The Pre-Moon Omega Speedmaster, the MilSub, the Cosmonaute — the names alone are enough to get palms sweating and the heart racing. While the thrill of watch collecting is in the hunt, enough foiled plans and missed auctions will make anyone gun shy. We feel your pain. The best salve is this guide to vintage watches on eBay, featuring a strong mix of underdogs — those timepieces that fly under a lot of collectors’ radars. Not only do you stand a better chance of scoring one of these collectible tickers, once you do make the final bid, you’ll end up with a legitimate piece of horological history.
Special Watches Under $1000
It’s easy to become numb to the incredible prices of fine watches. But being a watch enthusiast doesn’t mean choosing between a good watch and a decent used car. By looking in the right places, you can avoid bland fashion watches in favor of well-made, unique timepieces that scratch the watch nerd itch while protecting your post-college pledge to never subsist on ramen noodles again. Here are a few examples of what can be found for less than $1,000.
If you’re like us, you have a long list of watches you’d love to own. But reality (almost) always steps in, and your desires remain unfulfilled. Gear Patrol’s series Want This, Get This presents a lust-worthy timepiece along with a more affordable alternative that scratches the same itch. Today we present two vintage style, military-inspired chronographs, one that gets it right and the other that goes one better — for one tenth the price.
Lewis Hine Visits Lancaster, Pennsylvania circa 1936
Today, the once great Hamilton Watch Company factory in Lancaster, Pennsylvania is an apartment complex. But these photos from Depression-era photographer Lewis Hine show the halcyon days at Hamilton, when even during our nation’s lowest days, American watchmaking kept people working and a country on time.
The clock is ticking
In staff meetings, he’s the one who always volunteers to be the timekeeper. On road trips, he insists on navigating with a sextant and chronometer. He wears a watch to bed and wakes his wife up at 2 a.m. to show off the SuperLuminova. You know this guy. He’s got a different watch for every day of the week. What could you possibly get him that he doesn’t already have? We’ve got you covered with the 12 gifts for the horologist in your life.
10 Top-Notch Watches that Won't Break the Bank
When building anything, one must begin with strong foundation. A watch collection is no different. While anyone, given the choice, would undoubtedly begin and end with only finest examples of haute horological hardware, we can’t all justify blowing junior’s college and post-grad funds on something small and shiny. A conservative budget should not dissuade wide-eyed complication connoisseurs however: there are many excellent mechanical options available for the budding collector. We’ve selected ten rock solid options, both vintage and new, that would proudly produce any one-percenter’s tan line. So get started. Junior will thank you — it’s his heirloom, anyhow.
Dr. Jekyll's timepiece
Just in case your budget is a bit thin for a pair of new timepieces or your multiple personalities can’t agree on which watch to wear, Hamilton has just the answer. One side of the new Jazzmaster Face 2 Face ($6,195) is a chronograph to match your high-performing, detail-oriented style while the reverse is an elegant time-only timepiece suitable for more understated affairs.
Size doesn't matter
Big watches still rule the timepiece landscape, but, like dinosaurs and SUVs, their days may be numbered. Much to the relief of small arms (and those who don’t need to compensate with their wristwear), a growing crop of reasonably sized watches are popping up. While 40mm would have been considered gargantuan 40 years ago, nowadays it suits most wrists well and looks appropriate with a variety of apparel. Here are our favorite six watches with diameters at or below 40 millimeters. Big watches, watch out.
Classified Moto Honda CB “SuperStrada” This custom job by Classified Moto involved a donor 1980 Honda CB750F Super Sport, a front end from a Yamaha YZF-R6 sportbike, some nice Ducati bits and more than two years of work. The result? A jaw-dropping dream on two wheels. classifiedmoto.com (★) Hamilton Short Sleeve Sport Shirts Hamilton’s summer-spec…
To the casual observer, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, with its tidy towns and the waft of manure from plowed fields on the spring breeze, is a far cry from the vaunted watchmaking regions of Europe. But there are similarities between this rolling farmland and the mountain valleys of Switzerland and Germany: a history of rural isolation, strong Puritan work ethic, cold winters, and a history of fine timepieces. Lancaster was home to the Hamilton Watch Company from 1892 until the mid-1980s and was, at one time, producer of some of the finest timepieces in the world. Today it is still a treasure trove of American watchmaking.
From the deck to the desk
The history of maritime exploration and discovery would read a lot differently without the advent of the marine chronometer. Prior to its development, ships hung close to familiar coastlines; when they ventured further out to sea, sailors had to rely on celestial navigation and plain dumb luck to get where they wanted without crashing on…
The sky's the limit
Just in time for their 120th anniversary, Hamilton has added a new flagship to the Aviation line of Khaki watches, the X-Patrol, and it represents a terrific value in fully-featured mechanical pilot’s watches. To this end, the X-Patrol features a functional computational bezel that allows would-be Lindberghs to calculate on-the-fly metric conversions for miles to…
The right stuff
Reaching down to deploy the cupholder, you glance through your aviators at the chunky pilot’s watch on your wrist. You’re good for an on-time arrival. Suddenly, you spy a minivan bearing down on you at four o’clock so you quickly disable cruise control and switch into manual mode as you approach your exit. This is…
Complications? Yes. Complicated? Let's discuss.
The follow-up to our last Timekeeping feature (The Dive Watch, Deconstructed), Jason Heaton delves into the hallowed world of the Chronograph. There is no other type of watch that requires as much interaction from its wearer as the chronograph. Even at rest a chronograph dutifully waits, its sweep hand standing still, alert and vertical, inviting…
American roots, Swiss guts
Sometimes retro goes bad. Like Hasselhoff. Then there’s just plain classic. Case in point, the Hamilton Pan-Europ tribute watch. Based on the original watch from 1971, this reiteration carries forward the classic blue chronograph dial and position six date window, and it just plain looks good. Founded in 1892 in Pennsylvania, this now Swiss brand…
Southern Pocket Flair
The dapper gent behind Sartorially Inclined has brought to our attention Hamilton’s decision to release a collection of 1883 pockets squares. Cut from their high quality made to order material, the unique styles are priced between $35-$45. Unfortunately they aren’t up for sale just yet via their online store, but if the sight of a…
By Brian Huang and Gear Patrol Reader Ty Alley: We at Gear Patrol love watches. There’s no doubt that we have a fascination with timepieces here. While we enjoy talking about and introducing you to all manner of watches, we realize that not everyone understands the terminology involved. Similar to how we introduced you to…
American Design. Swiss Engineering. Killer Price. The Hamilton Jazzmaster Power Reserve, as shown here on my desk at the GP office. Between the double-digit crew here at Gear Patrol, there are tens of thousands of dollars worth of time pieces between us. Yet, lately I find myself appreciating well-priced goods and gear out there. You…