Good design lasts forever. But great designs can lay the groundwork for a bevy of future reinterpretations—a handful of modifications here and there and you end up with a fresher take on the fundamentals. It’s no secret that this is a favorite formula of many current luxury watch brands; take a solid watch design from the past and update it for today’s audience. And when done right, like these four vintage sports watches dug up from the archives, you’ve got a winning combination of old and new.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic
In 1968, Jaeger-LeCoultre debuted the now-iconic Polaris Memovox, which was a dive watch equipped with an audible alarm to signal when it was time to swim to the surface. And to mark the model’s 50th anniversary in 2018, Jaeger-LeCoultre did not just re-issue one commemorative model but instead, unveiled an entirely new Polaris collection with over a dozen new sports watches inspired by the vintage alarm diver. The simplest modern reinterpretation is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic with a 41mm stainless steel case, a black dial with the characteristic Arabic numerals at each quarter, an automatic movement inside, and a light brown calfskin strap. While this version does not have an alarm, there are two crowns on the case where the top one serves to rotate the internal timing bezel similar to the original Polaris watches.
Omega Seamaster 1948 Small Seconds
While the original Omega Seamasters may not look like sports watches by today’s standards, in 1948 the company’s new watch model (inspired by the pieces it supplied to the British Ministry of Defense during WWII) was built to be waterproof, dustproof, shockproof, and antimagnetic. As one vintage ad put it, the Seamaster is “rugged for your roughest, toughest days…” To celebrate the Seamaster’s 70th anniversary in 2018, Omega introduced a limited-edition capsule collection inspired by the original Seamaster references, including this Omega Seamaster 1948 Small Seconds. The external design of the watch is all vintage, from the 38mm steel case to the stepped-out lugs to the running seconds display on the opaline silvery dial. Beneath the sapphire caseback, however, is Omega’s latest Master Chronometer Calibre 8804 automatic movement, antimagnetic to 15,000 gauss.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms made its debut in 1953 as the world’s first modern dive watch, sporting a straightforward steel and black design to get the job done. However, like most products of the era, the 1970s saw some funkier versions of the Fifty Fathoms appear; some with bolder dial designs, some with colorful hands, some with unconventional case shapes, and some with all of the above. In 2018, Blancpain released the limited-edition Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s model, which takes some of those seventies-inspired dials elements like the gray gradient colorway, silver ringed minute track, and chunky hour markers, and houses them in a contemporary case. The watch features a 43mm stainless steel case topped with a ceramic dive bezel and inside is the in-house made 1315 DD automatic movement to power the time, day, and date.
Zenith El Primero A386 Revival
1969 ushered in the automatic chronograph and Zenith was a pioneer in the genre when it launched the El Primero caliber that year debuting in the A386 watch. To celebrate the groundbreaking watch’s 50th anniversary this year, Zenith unleashed the El Primero A386 Revival collection— a faithful reissue of the one that started it all. Available in white gold, rose gold, or yellow gold and limited to just 50 pieces each, the Zenith El Primero A386 Revival includes a period-correct 38mm case, the signature vibrant dial with three different colored registers, and the high-beat Caliber El Primero 499 blazing away at 36,000 beats per hour.