Then & Now: 10 Iconic Watches From The '70s
While the 1970s are not fondly remembered in Swiss watchmaking circles because of the quartz crisis—when the industry virtually collapsed as quartz technology challenged mechanical movements—the decade ushered in a number of memorable watch designs distinguished by daring case shapes and the use of unconventional materials.
Here are 10 of the most iconic models that endure to this day:
Chopard Happy Diamonds
The first Happy Diamonds watch was created in 1976 for men and came with a cushion-shaped case and a black dial to highlight the moving diamonds. Later iterations were made with a round case, but when the model turned 40 last year, Chopard revisited its original case shape and matched it with a mother-of-pearl dial.
Take a peek inside the Chopard Space Party at Cannes.
Corum Feather Watch
The Corum Feather Watch was introduced in 1970 with a beautifully engraved rectangular case in yellow gold. Corum paid tribute to the vintage piece in 2015 by releasing three Feather Watches in 39mm round cases with dials decorated with blue jay feathers, all of which belong to the brand’s Heritage collection.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
In 1972, Audemars Piguet introduced a revolutionary Gérald Genta-designed luxury sports watch in stainless steel with an integrated bracelet that caused some controversy. After much scrutiny at its launch, the watch, which we now know as the Royal Oak, enjoyed huge international success and has become one of the most iconic timepieces of all time.
See also: Serena Williams For Audemars Piguet
IWC Da Vinci
When it debuted in 1970, the IWC Da Vinci watch was equipped with the first Swiss-manufactured quartz movement and a hexagonal case. The movements were so expensive at the time that the Da Vinci was made only in gold and platinum. The model has since seen numerous iterations and while arguably not as popular as the Portugieser or the Big Pilot, it is an important part of IWC Schaffhausen’s watchmaking legacy.
Also read: How to shop your first IWC Schaffhausen
Piaget Polo S
Last year, Piaget re-introduced with much fanfare the Polo watch, its classic sports watch from the 1970s, which was then equipped with a quartz movement and made in solid gold. The model was re-launched as Polo S, this time made in stainless steel and positioned as Piaget’s entry-level watch. While today’s iteration bears little resemblance to the original, it still has that chic, sporty appeal collectors loved about the retro classic.
Also see: Piaget's list of Game Changers
Omega Seamaster Ploprof
Acknowledged as Omega’s ultimate diver’s watch, the Ploprof arrived in 1970 and soon earned ocean explorers’ seal of approval for its exceptional water resistance. The model has been produced in vibrant colours and lightweight materials this year, refreshing its appearance.
See also: How x-ray scanning revived a piece of Omega's horological history
Patek Philippe Nautilus
Patek Philippe called on the brilliant Gérald Genta in 1976 to design its first sports watch. Genta created a piece that defied the fashion for slender, gold-crafted watches favoured at the time, delivering a rather hefty timepiece in stainless steel. The Nautilus has seen very few changes over the ensuing four decades and remains one of the most sought-after sports watches today.
Vacheron Constantin 1972
Vacheron Constantin designed a watch with an asymmetrical tonneau case in 1972 and named it after the year it was made. The innovative watch was created to mark the official presentation of the coveted Prestige de la France award to Vacheron Constantin in recognition of its expertise in design and craftsmanship. Rightly, the 1972 line endures to this day.
Created in 1978 by Henri d’Origny, Hermès artistic director and the man behind the French brand’s first tie, the Arceau is a sophisticated timepiece distinguished for its stylish fonts, textured dial and asymmetrical lugs. The line endures to this day, its latest models featuring either a blue lacquered or hazelnut brown dial, and beating inside is an in-house manufactured automatic movement.
Longines Heritage Diver
Resurrecting a Longines model made in the 1970s, the Longines Heritage Diver maintains the original’s cushion-shaped case and 43mm diameter. A legitimate dive watch, the Heritage Diver is water resistant up to 300 metres, and uses Superluminova on its indices to ensure legibility. The piece features a black, satin-finish dial, where it combines red highlights and details coated with Superluminova, recalling the design of the 1970s piece.