Historical watches rebooted for the modern day collector
Heritage haute horlogerie
If you devour texts on luxury watchmaking the way obsessed fans read Harry Potter books, then you know you've got haute horlogerie fever in your blood and a taste for the finer things in life. Of course, it goes without saying that short of a trust fund, winning the lottery or being a super famous celebrity, it's a tad difficult to purchase every piece of horology that's caught your fancy. But that doesn't mean that without piles of money to burn you can't indulge in your love for calibres and complications. Us mere mortals simply have to exercise a bit of rationing and put our dough where it's worth — classic timepieces that come from a longstanding brand with a storied legacy that weigh more than its physical value.
Indeed, we're talking historical watches that have been reimagined for today's collectors. Closely resembling their much older twin in appearance but calibrated with modern movements, these heritage timepieces are the watches to tote around to induce double takes and curious glances. So while you wait on your enrollment letter to the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, take a gander at these maisons and models for a watch to pencil onto your wishlist:
IWC Big Pilot's Heritage Watch
Modelled after the aviator watches issued to German pilots during World War II, IWC Schaffhausen re-launched their Big Pilot watches to much fanfare during SIHH earlier in the year. Remade in a lighter, modern titanium case, the maison unveiled this iconic timepiece in a pair with a 48 and 55 — the numbers referencing the diametres of the watches. The larger of the two is historically accurate when lined up with its predecessor but the new smaller version wears a bit more practically since a 55mm dial can be a little on the side of clunky for those with slimmer wrists. Finished via a sandblasting process to achieve a grained, matte gray veneer to mimic the original chrome-plated brass casing, a Big Pilot's Heritage Watch is a pivotal piece of history captured in haute horlogerie form perfect for those who are horophiles and world history enthusiasts rolled in one.
For what it's worth, the original could certainly still give its contemporary sibling a run for its money. Closely resembling each other, the new RailRoad re-issue takes after the characteristics of this 1960s' precision instrument. Long applauded as a manufacture of quality railroad watches, this Longines signature proliferated the mid 20th century as railway employees spanning the United States all the way to China wore it during their tenure. And those with a discerning eye will spot that the indexes start with a zero instead of the traditional 12 — a requirement of the rail trade to clearly discern between twelve midnight and twelve noon. Stamped with the letters 'RR', a trait that carried over, the modern RailRoad model is equipped with a Calibre L888 instead of the older 280 and its dial is painted off-white for better visibility. Engraved with a train upon the caseback which was inspired by vintage railway pocket watches, the Longines RailRoad is every horology traditionalist's dream.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921
Here's a conversation piece that'll get the ball rolling with fellow horophiles you happen to bump into on the train or in a plane. Besides its immediate eye-catching cushion shape, the Historiques American 1921 is an ingeniously designed timepiece at a closer look, sporting a diagonally skewed read-off that the non-horology savvy crowd would coo at. Crafted by the maison during the Roaring Twenties that typified radical innovation, the ball-shaped crown uniquely located on a corner of the cambered case was designed for a driver's ease of use during the era's automobile industry boom. Now updated with Breguet-type hands and a Vacheron Constantin manual-winding Caliber 4400 AS, the contemporary counterpart is outfitted in an elegant dark blue and bears refined Arabic numerals upon its dial, as well as a shift in its small seconds indicator to three o'clock. We say this is unspoiled classism at its finest.