Nostalgia Isn’t What It Used To Be might be the title of a book and the name of a song, but it also applies rather neatly to the world of replica watches. How so? When brands aren’t looking to the future and trying to guess what next will persuade us to buy yet another time-teller, they’ve a tendency to look back, delving into the archives to pull out designs that worked way back when – and might just work again. Well, not just work again, but sell again.
There are two potential audiences for older designs: those who liked it the first time around but were in no position to buy; and later generations who have never had the opportunity to buy, but love the old designs, case shapes and sizes. Luckily for all, this appreciation of nostalgia only goes so far, for often forgotten is how un-finessed some early swiss replica watches were. Performance could be erratic, shock-resistance poor, waterproofing barely there and finishing rudimentary.
The crystals, for example, were no such thing; rather than sapphire they were plastic or Plexiglas and easily scratched, while finding fluff and debris between glass and dial wasn’t uncommon, nor was discovering traces of spotting on the face and rust on the hands. Viewing your watch through a loupe was courting bad news. Watch brands – being the closet essayists they are – have found a wonderful way of describing the most common ageing or decay, renaming it rather more positively as “patina”. Patina commonly sees white hands yellowing, pale dials darkening and cases acquiring a burnished appearance.
Believing their own publicity, brands have gone so far as to replicate patina on recent watches, current examples being creamy or salmon-coloured hands on numerous Panerai Replica models, ditto for Replica Omega’s Seamaster 300 or Jaeger-LeCoultre Replica models, including the Reverso and Geophysic. It’s a look enthusiasts new and old seem to love. Jaeger has taken to taking things even further, with regular offerings of the Reverso featuring “period” dials; given the model debuted in the 1930s, they’ve some beauties to choose from. These boutique-only limited editions invariably sell out.
That said, look deeper and you’ll find all prove the point that nostalgia isn’t what it was. For behind that patina-ed Panerai or art-deco-dialled Reverso lies a sophisticated compress of cogs – not to mention cleverly crafted casework and sophisticated finishing, a package approaching perfection to which the original versions of these fake watches couldn’t aspire. For this you can thank the advent of computer-aided graphics and CNC (computer numerical control) technology that captures a look and perfects its manufacture.
Today’s take on yesterday’s timepieces also reflects a change in our view as to what a watch should be, not to mention our expectations. Back in the day, the challenge for most brands was to tell the time accurately first and attractively second. Today, a watch has to be a lot more “special” to win a place on our wrist. Vintage looks are one thing, but along with them we want to know the allure is more than skin deep.
On this score brands at all levels seem determined not to disappoint. If you want the best of both worlds – past and present – you need venture no further than the aforementioned prestige posse, or take a look at “heritage” models from Tudor or Longines, “vintage” pieces from Oris or TAG Heuer, or – at the extreme – Omega’s half-century-old Speedmaster which now comes rendered in black ceramic with a massively upgraded movement inside. Nostalgia? When it comes to replica watches uk, fondness for the past appears to have a great future ahead of it.
One replica watch, 100 returns
Since 1931, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso model has consistently reinvented itself, while staying true to its original and recognisable identity. The icon has been reimagined in classic, sporting, “grande complication” and jewellery versions and has given a home to more than 50 in-house calibres. Most noticeably the Reverso has sported several hundred dial variations over the years and re-releases of early coloured dials are now extremely popular with collectors.
In the 1930s, while the majority of buyers opted for white, cream-coloured, black or gold-toned dials, the company offered a broad palette of dial colours for those wanting to express themselves “with originality”. During this period, referred to in French as the “Années Folles” (crazy years), adding a colourful dial required a distinctly non-conformist attitude. According to Jaeger-LeCoultre, a small number of people chose chestnut brown or blue, but the more adventurous – many of them artists and intellectuals embracing dandyism – apparently went for red. The modern version, the Grande Reverso 1931 Rouge released in 2012, was an immediate sellout. Aficionados subsequently queued for later versions with blue and chocolate dials.