Bigger is better?
Bigger is better. That seems to have been the overarching trend in watchmaking over the past decade or so. When you see a model with an oversized case, it is safe to say that it is relatively new. At the same time, there is a growing interest in vintage models or reissues. In both vintage and vintage revival pieces, we see more modest sizing and timeless design. As these historically rooted models evolve into their own collections, the lines start to blur. They are no longer just reimagined versions of models past but instead contemporary mainstays.
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight
A perfect example is Tudor’s Black Bay collection. When they first debuted the line in 2012, Tudor positioned it as historically inspired but with modern proportions and design elements. In 2018, the brand released a new addition to the collection: the Black Bay Fifty-Eight. With this model, Tudor created a “vintaged” version of the original vintage-inspired Black Bay. One of the most notable characteristics – you guessed it – is a more modest size, measuring 39mm as opposed to the original 41mm. With the smaller case size comes smaller proportions across the board, like a notably slimmer profile. In addition, the Fifty-Eight features an “aged” dial and “gilt” bezel design. The overwhelmingly positive response to the Black Bay Fifty-Eight proves there is a lot of interest in sub-40mm divers watches. Here, we look at four other models that demonstrate smaller watches can be equally mighty.
Blancpain Bathyscaphe 38mm
Blancpain followed a similar path to Tudor’s with their Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe. They released the first edition in 2013. Like the original Black Bay, the Bathyscaphe was vintage inspired in its design yet featured a modern, oversized 43mm case. The model was a hit. However, the biggest complaint was the size. Four years later in 2017, they answered the call with the release of the Bathyscaphe 38mm. Similar to the Fifty-Eight, the smaller proportions translate into the rest of the design, with a reduced thickness from 13.4mm to 10.77mm. An interesting feature to note is the style of the stainless steel case. The Bathyscaphe 38mm showcases a brushed finish as opposed to polished, which actually gives the watch a bit more of a robust appearance.
Rado Hyperchrome Captain Cook
Another example is Rado’s reimagined Hyperchrome Captain Cook, the 37mm Reference R32500305. The brand released the model in 2017 as a vintage replica of the original 1960s models, which also measured 37mm. At a glance, it is tough to distinguish the difference between the 1960s and 2017 versions. However, the re-issue features fully modern materials and construction. It comes equipped with a polished stainless steel case, inward-sloping ceramic bezel, and bold, highly legible hands and hour markers treated with lume. Despite the contemporary touches, the overall look and feel of the 2017 Captain Cook is unmistakably retro.
Longines Legend Diver (36mm)
On the other hand, Longines took a slightly different approach to incorporate a modestly sized dive watch into their offerings. The brand dedicated their Heritage collection to just that: celebrating their famous models from the past. The Legend Diver is one example. Longines introduced a 42mm version of this mid-century-inspired dive watch in 2016. Two years later, they unveiled a smaller, 36mm variation. The brand initially marketed the model as a women’s watch. However, it serves equally well as a unisex piece with truer vintage proportions than its predecessor. Other than the size, the 36mm Legend Diver is almost identical to the 42mm.
Oris Divers Sixty-Five Bronze Bezel
Last but not least, there is the Oris Divers Sixty-Five Bronze Bezel. The brand first launched the Divers Sixty-Five in 2015 with a 40mm case. The model was well received and thus Oris continued to introduce new variations. One of the most recent is the 2018 Bronze Bezel. This iteration is available in both 40mm and 36mm options. Other than the size, the differences between the two models are subtle. One of the most notable is the position of the date window. In the 36mm, it is situated prominently in the classic three-o’clock position. However, in the 40mm version, it is positioned more subtly at six-o’clock.
The use of modern materials to create a vintage aesthetic creates the perfect blend of past and present. These design elements have been time-tested and will undoubtedly make these watches, and those like them, withstand the test of time. In an age where much of our technology is fleeting and quickly replaced with the next, latest, and greatest innovation, it is reassuring to feel grounded in our past. Watches are one of few objects still passed down from generation to generation. Any and all of these heritage models are worthy of becoming a part of a family’s heritage.