Twenties Era Watches Make a Comeback
by roberta naas
Maybe it’s the prices that antique watches bring at auction. Perhaps it’s the Downton Abbey effect. But as the interest in classic styles spikes, luxury watch brands are looking back as they look forward. A variety of companies, leveraging the richness of their heritages, have been searching their archives and mining the past for design inspiration.
Not surprisingly, watch companies, when researching the past, have turned their attention to the post–World War I era. It was then, during the 1920s, that wristwatches for men became popular. Doughboys recently returned from the front had become used to having a watch on their wrist rather than in their pocket. The choice of timepiece in the trenches could also be a matter of life and death—soldiers couldn’t pull out a shiny pocket watch to check the time and risk giving away their location to enemy combatants.
Watches produced following the war often referenced the Art Deco style popular at the time, with rectangular, square, and tonneau case shapes. Today’s vintage-inspired watches are being crafted accordingly.
1. This Baume & Mercier steel Hampton watch ($4,700) draws its inspiration from a timepiece made in the 1940s. The rectangular chronograph houses an automatic movement featuring small seconds and the date.
2. From Hamilton, this gently curved rectangular Boulton watch ($625) is crafted in steel with a white dial and gold vintage-inspired numerals. It houses a Swiss quartz movement.
3. Inspired by 1920s-era design, this Links of London Driver watch ($495) with open-worked lugs is crafted in a stainless-steel square case and fitted with a quartz movement. The dial features an outer minutes track and a date indication.
4. This Frédérique Constant Carree watch ($1,950) houses an automatic FC -315 movement with a “heartbeat” aperture at 12 that allows the caliber to be viewed.
5. The Works of Plato, 1st edition ($8,000), are courtesy of The Manhattan Rare Book Company, at 1stdibs.com.
photography by jeff crawford; styling by Terry Lewis