No Batteries, No Notifications
Four Mechanical Alternatives to the Apple Watch
Here are four watches, three of them vintage, priced roughly at each of Apple Watch’s announced prices — tiers dictated long ago by the watch industry itself. Their downsides and upsides are obvious: They won’t check email, send Instagram notifications, run apps or store music; but they’re time-proven, won’t barrage you with notifications, and you can buy them all right now.
For more inspiration, peruse our vintage watch buying guide.
Additional contribution by J.W. Sotak.
Seiko is an horological powerhouse. Despite its pedestrian reputation, the Japanese manufacture has been producing excellent timepieces since the late 1960s. Always a challenger of the Swiss model, Seiko has been able to keep pace while taking in stride the ever-changing market.
Today, a fully mechanical automatic dive watch from Seiko will run you no more than $200. With a sturdy stainless steel case and a 200-meter depth rating, the SKX007 is a great option for everything from everyday wear to field exercises.
Heuer was the most important producer of high-grade sports chronographs in the 1960s, and in addition to their own line of Carrera chronographs, they produced watches branded with the names of other companies, including Zodiac.
This piece is based on an infinitely wearable 36mm steel case with sharp, flat lugs, a thin steel bezel and pump pushers, and it’s powered by the tried-and-true Valjoux 7730 manual winding chronograph movement, a staple of 1960s and ’70s sports watches.
In 1953, Pan-Am approached Rolex looking for a watch specially designed for their pilots. Five decades later, the GMT-Master and its “Pepsi” bezel have become true icons of the watch world. Instantly recognizable and eternally stylish, the watch represents vintage Rolex at its best.
The GMT-Master’s 24-hour hand works in conjunction with the rotating bezel to make tracking a second time zone incredibly simple. When the bezel’s triangle is aligned to 12 o’clock, the red arrow hand points to the time on a 24-hour military scale, which in itself is valuable as a day/night indicator. The usefulness of the complication really shines when the wearer rotates the bezel so that the numbers around the bezel correspond to a second time zone (such as Greenwich Mean Time), allowing the watch to track any two time zones in the world at once.
These modern Ingenieurs are the cousins, or perhaps grandchildren, of the original timepieces that helped IWC become the brand they are today. While in their modern permutation they lack the anti-magnetism with which they were originally designed, the spartan dial and simple configuration speak to the line’s roots, and one peek at the display back will convince anyone that the 44-jewel self-winding movement is work of art. With a formidable 7-day power reserve and wrapped up in a lovely 45.5mm rose gold case, this is not your grandfather’s IWC.
Most significantly, these pieces carry an obvious Gerald Genta-ness in their design — the strong angles and integrated bracelet design — that reminds us of the mark he left on IWC, as well as other auspicious pieces like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Nautilus by Patek Philippe.