For the best part of a decade now, product development teams of watch companies have rummaged through their design archives for inspiration. The neo-vintage movement sweeping the industry was a much need respite for those of us who’ve tired of seeing dinner plate-sized accoutrements on men’s wrists.
For this list, we’ve picked five unconventional timepieces that are low-key but are brimming with character. None of them are from mainstream brands that you’ll see on celebrities making red carpet appearances. However, all of them have an interesting provenance and street cred, two things that any watch enthusiast worth his Instagram handle would appreciate. This is proof that you don’t need to break the bank to wear a stylish watch with an interesting back story.
Bulova Oceanographer Devil Diver
The Bulova Oceanographer Devil Diver is a 44 mm cushion-cased watch inspired by a timepiece the American brand made in the 1972. The original watch was nicknamed "Devil Diver" because the depth-rating on the dial was marked 666-ft (as opposed to 200 meters).
The re-edition has a matte-black dial, sword hands and vintage-style lume. The first 15 minutes of the rotatable bezel are in red (to remind divers of how long they can stay underwater). The case is fitted with a box-shaped sapphire crystal just like the plexiglass box of the original. This watch’s vintage styling is on point.
Stowa Antea Back to Bauhaus
Stowa is a German brand that has been making watches in the Germany's Black Forest region since 1927. Best known for their Pilot’s Watches, it’s a brand that often flies under the radar but is known in the watch collecting circles for the value propositions they offer. The Antea is inspired by a watch it made in 1938 and is influenced by the influential Bauhaus design movement.
But while the original had an austere white dial with linear Arabic numerals, the Back to Bauhaus editions are available in pastel colors and feature the 1925 ‘Bauhaus STD’ font. The modern edition is the handiwork of famed German industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger. The watch has a 35.5 mm steel case and is powered by a top-grade hand-winding ETA Peseux 7001 movement. And thanks to the case size and color schemes, this is a fairly unisex option.
Doxa Sub 200
Originally launched in 1967, Doxa’s SUB concept is considered by many as the first truly purpose-designed diving watch for the general public. Consequently, Doxa acquired a cult status among diving aficionados in the 1970s. This year Doxa reissued the SUB 200, a three-handed diver's watch with a case made of 316L stainless steel. The case is 42-mm-wide and 14-mm-thin, and is topped by a domed sapphire crystal.
Water-resistant to 200 meters, it has a unidirectional rotating sapphire bezel, a velvet black dial with baton-type hands, applied indexes. The use of beige “Light Old Radium” Super-LumiNova accentuates the vintage design cues. This watch has been nominated in the 'Challenge category' of the GPHG Awards this year.
Junghaans Meister Driver Handaufzug
This German brand has a history that dates back over 155 years. Though Junghaans is best known for their minimalist designs and their Max Bill range, the one we picked for this list is a hand-cranked timepiece called the Meister Driver Handaufzug (Handaufzug is German for hand-winding).
The retro-styled watch takes its design inspiration from the dashboard clocks and speedometer gauges of classic cars. This particular model, ref. 3607 has a lacquered black dial contrasted with cream-colored hour markers, hands, and concave sub-dial. It is encased in a slim 37.7 mm steel case that’s just 7.3 mm thin and is powered by Caliber J815.1, which is based on the Peseux 7001.
Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical
This is a dashing reissue of a vintage military watch called the W10 that Hamilton made for the British Air Force during the 1970s. Hamilton has a history of making watches for the military and the reissue is already among the most interesting watch releases of the year.
It has a brushed stainless steel case (33 mm x 36 mm) and is powered by a manual-winding movement with a power reserve of 80 hours. This is a well-made wristwatch from a bonafide brand with a strong history of making watches for the military.
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