Art Deco, as a descriptor, has become a little overused in the luxe-focused world of watch marketing. Too often, in the absence of a better term, the style is used as a catch-all word for any blend of geometric forms and vintage air. While the verbiage has no doubt worn away its welcome for many, it still maintains a larger-than-life presence in the worlds of art, design, and architecture. In watch design, the term – as buzzy as it may be – lends itself to the bold usage of atypical dial layouts with chunky numerals and faded hues. When used correctly, it can bring a dash of artistic and aesthetic merit to the wrist, but when used incorrectly, its significance melts away. Here, we’ve collected a number of recent watch releases that approach the usage of Art Deco styling with a great deal of respect and end up creating some very attractive timepieces.
Panerai PAM 00791 and PAM00790
As avid Paneristi are aware, today’s powerhouse Panerai watch brand had its humble beginnings in a retail watch store in Florence, founded by the Panerai family in 1860. As inspiration for the latest version of its Radiomir 1940 3 Days Acciaio – 47mm, the company reached back to that historical early era, in which the family-owned Orologerie Suizzera (precursor to the modern Officine Panerai) sold not only wristwatches and pocket watches but also table clocks and pendulum clocks.
It is a particular example of this last item that provided the template for the Art Deco dials of the two watches released last fall. The dial of a pendulum clock displayed on the first floor of Panerai’s Florentine shop on the Piazza San Giovanni is re-created in two distinct dial versions, both in 47-mm cases made of polished stainless steel – ivory (Ref. PAM00791) and black (PAM00790). Both retro-look dials are notable for their large, Art Deco hour numerals; peripheral railway minute track and additional interior ring; and lacquered, spear-shaped hour and minute hands, a style used for the first time on a Panerai wristwatch. Price: $9,200
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Small Seconds
The Reverso is Jaeger-LeCoultre’s most recognized and historically significant watch. Its Art Deco case style is mirrored in one of the greatest achievements of that period’s architecture as well: William Van Alen’s Chrysler Building in Manhattan. The timepiece and skyscraper share the same geometric forms and modernist ideals that the Art Deco movement is known for. For example, take a look at the horizontal protruding lines of the Reverso’s case and compare them with the ornate and multi-part dome and spire of the Chrysler Building.
In 2019, Jaeger-LeCoultre has released a new Reverso Tribute Small Seconds that is a direct reference to the first Reverso watches that appeared in 1931 on the wrists of polo players. The model comes in stainless steel and features an attractive burgundy-red dial that comes with a matching leather strap from Casa Fagliano. Price: $7,900.
Bulova Joseph Bulova
At Baselworld 2019, Bulova made the surprise move of launching an entirely new collection filled to the brim with limited-edition models that echo the brand’s New York City heritage. The new Joseph Bulova Collection contains 16 different timepieces in a variety of case styles like tank, tonneau, and round that are borrowed from some of the brand’s most memorable introductions from the 1920s to the 1940s such as the Commodore, Banker and Breton.
Now owned by Japan’s Citizen Group, it would be easy to expect the presence of one of the conglomerate’s automatic Miyota calibers inside these cases; instead, Bulova has opted to go the Swiss route by using a Sellita SW200 movement that is visible through an exhibition caseback. Each of the 16 new watches is limited to 350 total pieces with prices ranging from $995 to $1,495.
David Rutten Streamline Meteorite
Streamline Metorite is an aperture watch, a design that was popular in the 1930s. The design of the case is inspired by Streamlining, a style that grew out of the Art-Deco movement and dominated American design from the 1930s to 50s. The case, made of meteorite, has a fluted surface and apertures for the jumping hours and minutes indication.
The caseback is made from titanium and the watch is run by a movement sourced from British watchmaker Christopher Ward. You can read more about this watch and its creator here.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques 1921 American
Vacheron Constantin released a mid-size version of its fan-favorite Historiques 1921 American collection in 2017. First added to the contemporary lineup in 2008, the Historiques 1921 American has become one of the brand’s most popular designs across social media and online forums. The original watch that the Historiques 1921 American is based on was released in 1921 and produced in limited quantities for American motorists, with its dial rotated 45 degrees for easier viewing while driving. Only 12 pieces of the vintage watch were produced from 1921 to 1931. The newest version of the watch (Ref. 1100S/000R-B430) in 36.5 mm, like the 40-mm version before it, is a faithful homage to the original that keeps much of the vintage elements intact while further developing the modern luxury elements associated with Vacheron Constantin today.
With its straight, wire-inspired lugs and an upper corner crown adding to the case, the watch hosts a distinguished border on its rose-gold, cushion-shaped case. Its grained metal dial is angled to the right for a left-handed wearer, using an outer black railroad minutes track, printed “Breguet” Arabic numerals and subtle corporate script with an applied gold VC logo toward the 12 o’clock position. At the 3 o’clock mark is the running seconds subdial, conspicuously non-angled like the rest of the face, while two black pomme-style hands sweep over the whole dial. Inside is the Geneva Seal-certified, manufacture Caliber 4400 AS manually wound movement with a 65-hour power reserve. Price: $28,600.