How to get the 1970s look in six classic watches review
There are many ways in which to express an appreciation of 1970s style – driving around in a mustard-coloured Jensen Interceptor, for example, making like Demis Roussos by wearing a leather headband and flowing kimono, or elevating oneself with a pair of Cuban-heeled boots. But the more reserved could demonstrate a love for the decade that taste (sometimes) forgot simply by bagging one of the many fabulously cool watches that emerged from the era.
Regular readers of GQ’s watch writings will be well aware that the 1970s is synonymous with milestone designs such as the Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, both of which were penned by the celebrated Gerald Genta, but now that the best examples of their ilk have become the preserve of wealthier collectors, savvy buyers are looking to other equally worthy, considerably more affordable designs.
And a good place to start is the Watches Of Knightsbridge sale happening on 28 March, a 230-lot affair that’s replete with both emerging and established 1970s classics watches. Here are six offerings that are simply too groovy to miss,
Easing us into the decade is this truly superb 1969 Seiko Professional 300M dive watch featuring the ultra-accurate “Hi Beat” automatic movement. The precursor to the highly collectable “Tuna Can” diver of 1975, the reference 6159-7001 offers a businesslike, 44mm “monobloc” case with screw-down winding crown at four o’clock, a delicious, glossy black dial and bold, luminous hour markers. The orange rubber strap is certainly not original, but it sets the watch off a treat. Estimate ￡4,000-5,000.
Moving on to the 1970s proper, feel free to ogle this superb “reverse panda” Zenith Reference A278 chronograph. These days, all eyes might be on El Primero-powered chronographs, and there’s a beauty in this sale at ￡10,000-12,000. But this A278 with its hand-wound 146-DP movement is a decidedly worthy alternative and is tipped to fetch a fraction of the value. The only downer is that there’s no Gay Frères bracelet of the type originally offered with the model. Estimate ￡2,000-2,500.
Do 1970s timepieces come much more, er, 1970s than this? It’s a late example of the Universal Polerouter, the original, 1950s version of which was the first commercially successful design to have been created by Gerald Genta. Originally called the “Polarouter”, it was made on behalf of Scandi airline SAS to mark the first flights from Copenhagen to Los Angeles via the North Pole. Measuring a purposeful 39mm across, this imposing hunk of stainless steel appears barely worn. Estimate ￡1,000-1,400.
While Rolex remains the most successful luxury watch brand there is, back in the 1970s it was more or less the only one that every man in the street had heard of. So when a fellow got lucky and won the football pools or pulled off a decent bank job, he was more or less obliged to buy a precious-metal “Roley” – such as this quintessential, 1972 example of the Costa del Crime-dweller’s favourite. The blue mosaic dial looks fabulous against the yellow-gold case and matching Jubilee bracelet. Estimate ￡6,000-8,000.
Long overlooked but now coming into its own, Omega’s Flightmaster was one of the most technically impressive chronographs of its era. The last Omega to feature a mechanical movement designed specifically for aviators, more than 37,000 were produced from 1969-1973. Aimed especially for long-haul pilots, it was available with orange hands for amateur fliers and frequent travellers, while professionals were offered cadmium-coated yellow hands that glowed under ultra-violet cockpit lights (as on this example). Estimate ￡2,000-3,000.
Fans of vintage Breitlings are spoiled for choice in this sale, with ten really interesting examples to choose from. We’ve selected this unusual “Referee Soccer Timer” both for its exceptional condition (it’s new-old stock) and for its unusual Valjoux hand-wound movement that features a slow-moving chronograph hand that records in 45-minute intervals to time the two halves of a football match. At 41mm and with its original and immaculate bracelet, it could almost have been made yesterday. Estimate ￡1,800-2,400.