Inspired by the classics, these five watches are our new faves
Your watch says a lot about you, your personality, and your lifestyle, but your wrist game can also express your allegiance to movements of social and environmental change through what you choose to wear.
Watches, particularly mechanical ones, are made to last and can be passed on for many generations, which is why the right choice can also act as a worthy investment. But the choices are numerous so, to get you started, we highlight a few “new” favourites that won’t necessarily break the bank.
Swatch, the brand associated with fun plastic watches, relaunched its original collection from 1983 last year, this time replacing all parts with bio-sourced materials. This indicates a huge shift for the brand that gets its name from the contraction of “second watch”, with those original playful timepieces intended as casual, disposable accessories.
For many people though, a Swatch is their first watch and holds great sentimental value, which means fewer might have ended up on a dumpsite anyway. The new 47mm Swatch Big Bold in Bioceramic further highlights the company’s commitment to more sustainable manufacturing. Made from two-thirds ceramic and one-third bio-sourced plastic, Bioceramic is both resilient and resistant with a silk-like touch. Available in five colours, R2 170.
Much like the Olympics and the nation’s classic cars, Japan’s most respected watch company, Seiko, is also getting a lot of attention. This is particularly true for its premium Grand Seiko collections, with vintage and more contemporary pieces outperforming some top Swiss brands. The more accessibly priced Seiko brand, praised for outstanding quality, performance, durability and reliability, includes icons such as the Prospex SKX007 diver’s watch — which was recently discontinued, but the Seiko 5 Sports range, reborn in 2019 after 50 years in existence, with a new design, is the likely contender to fill the SKX007’s shoes, priced from R4 600 to R5 600. This year’s limited-edition Seiko 140th Anniversary model in silver and blue, R 6 799, is particularly handsome and is bound to become more collectable over time.
Longines is highly respected for its pioneering chronographs developed mainly for pioneering adventurers of the skies. In 1913 Longines produced the Calibre 13.33Z, the first chronograph mechanism for a wristwatch. It was also the first with a flyback. In 1936, came the Calibre 13ZN, one of the most exquisite movements and most technically advanced for that time. While you’ll pay upwards of R1 400 000 for these early chronographs on the secondary market, a new Longines Avigation BigEye is priced from around R40 000. This bold Longines chronograph is a modern interpretation of one of its most renowned aviation models from the 1930s. The BigEye is updated with an ETA-based automatic Calibre L688 column-wheel chronograph movement.
“All-terrain” tool watches and luxury sports watches are becoming more elegant in design for everyday use and to accompany any attire. They are also more practical, with technical updates such as extended power reserves, anti-magnetism, improved precision, and interchangeable straps to suit mood changes or new adventures. Many watches this year are also inspired by collections from the 1970s, refreshed for a new audience and brought up to date with modern movements inside. These include the stainless-steel Baume & Mercier Riviera, with its 12-sided bezel and unique ripple-pattern dial, powered by a Sellita SW200 automatic movement, retailing for around R40 950 or the Baumatic Riviera with smoky, decorated sapphire dial, featuring an in-house calibre with a five-day power reserve, a daily precision of -4s/+6s, and a magnetic resistance of 1 500 Gauss.
The new, refined Tag Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 takes many of its design cues from the “Ref 844”, Heuer’s first diver's watch of the 1970s.
The Aquaracer features a new bezel, thinner case, and new bracelet, while the Cosc-certified Calibre 5 is carried over from the previous model with the date window shifting from 3 to 6 o’clock.
Hitting stores in September, the lineup will include 36mm and 43mm models, starting at around R42 000.
This article first appeared in the May/June 2021 print edition of S Mag.