Looking back at the pre-pandemic world of horology, we’re well into the vintage reissue trend. Despite running at full capacity for nearly five years, this phase seemed never-ending. Brands are also digging through their back catalog and buying original examples on the open market if they don’t already exist in the archives. Intentions are always pure. Some aim to be almost one-to-one re-releases, trying to do the original justice, while others breathe new life into the most popular models of their past. Meanwhile, regular consumers and enthusiasts alike were eating up reissues like an all-you-can-eat buffet, and brands doubled down on production.
In the blink of an eye, a large part of the community was sick of it, and the comment sections were filled with standard complaints about the useless tan-colored loom, faded faux dials, and size — as expected. Naturally, there is a lag between consumer preferences and the final product due to the complexity of manufacturing watches. The watch industry is struggling to see the news and release cycles that modern technology has made other industries unsustainable. “Is anyone listening?” In the previous edition we discussed this huge hurdle. But this lag from production to release is only one aspect.
Many brands have pivoted on the multi-color bandwagon and always seem to have green at the forefront of a press release. This results in a wide spectrum of modern watches with a variant affectionately known as “heritage” or indicating the year or decade the model is based on. The only real difference is an aged looking loom or some sort of “fauxtina”, which is a deal breaker for many – especially when reissues are multiples of what one would buy an original example on the forums for. The argument between buying vintage or reissue is certainly a subjective one, but it’s often debated on the release of vintage-inspired watches.
Now, this is not an argument against reissues. As someone who buys watches to wear, enjoy, and not “baby”, I’m a big fan of reissues. Vintage-inspired reissues allow wearers to enjoy their Grail watch without risking losing thousands of dollars in value if they clap too hard, loosen the fragile lume or accidentally scuff the bezel. For years I’ve been seeing in the comment sections that enthusiasts have been disappointed with the black dial option, which is a potential sell-out, getting the vintage treatment and completely changing the character. If brands want to make vintage-style watches, don’t hide behind the safety net of making the same item in popular colors — go all out, embrace your heritage and make it. Brands have enjoyed roaring success with reissues almost unrecognizable from their predecessors, and yet, many still try to play it safe. The addition of the perfunctory Heritage variant looks like the brand is trying harder to stay vintage.
I’d like to take a moment to commend one brand in particular for playing every aspect of the vintage trend well. Longines has created uniquely age- and vintage-inspired pieces while warmly embracing the second coming of its most popular models. Although Longines hides behind the aforementioned so-called safety net, it has done very little. Each end of the vintage reissue spectrum is so heavily executed that the safe options don’t even register.
Ultimately, vintage reissues aren’t going away — nor should they be. They are undeniably successful products in the watch industry, giving fans access to favorite designs that may not be readily available or too delicate to own and wear regularly. But every release doesn’t need to be a fake wannabe vintage SKU. Every time a new watch is created, the notion of having a well-thought-out design is lost with the lazy application of faux aging. Whether it’s marketing or reaching a different audience, to include so-called “tropical” features, “I was inspired by this old model!” You don’t need a watch to shout and wave the flag. Simply put, if you’re going to incorporate an aged style variant, do it wholeheartedly and stop pretending it’s a vintage reissue; And if you want a vintage reissue, we really question whether it’s new or old. Brands forget that sometimes, the best way to make a great watch is to make it — not to make a version for everyone — and certainly not to make the most desirable options into limited editions. I’m sure we know how everyone feels about the limited-edition trend as of late, but we can cover that at a later date.