Contemplating Design and the new Vintage

By no means am I prepared to write a fully academic article on culture of this scale, but I do have some thoughts and some background knowledge from a bigger project I am currently working on. For a while, or at least as long as I have been into watchmaking culture, vintage watches have been in style, the Tudor Blackbay 58, micro-brands like Baltic 1, the list goes on and I haven’t even really started. This trend can very easily be used to argue that watch companies are getting lazy right now, however I don’t see it that way. Modern culture is looking back, absolutely, and we are currently looking back with an intensity not really before seen, but that still isn’t the whole picture.

First let’s have an unprepared history lesson, Europe’s history is far from sunshine and rainbows, but it is history nonetheless and we need to get some things right. Fashion first truly began with Louis XIV, or The Sun King. The details aren’t really important but King Louis XIV was a big fan of the arts he was a dancer himself and eventually through royal decrees created the idea of fashion, which has now snowballed into the wastefulness of fast fashion that brands like H&M or Primark or Shein currently rest in. The other historical context on fashion has to do with colonization and ancient Greece. Ancient Greek art was beautiful and colorful, but so much of that original art has been whitewashed, all of the color stripped away, today it’s unfortunately all to popular that Greek art was “pure” and white natural marble 2. This idea has been perpetuated largely because of colonization. When European countries started colonizing African countries, they found lots of color in these cultures art, colors that European countries have gotten tired of. Therefore in the eyes of colonizers and white supremacists, they were more advanced and civilized than any African country. If you haven’t picked up on this, these ideas are extremely racist, and even if you want to ignore history, everything is about race.

Watches weren’t the center of that paragraph for good reason, much to the dismay of every hardcore enthusiast, their hobby isn’t the center of everything, their hobby revolves around the center of everything this includes watch enthusiasts. I see many commenters complaining about faux patina, whether it be the lume, or the dials, on top of that many commenters don’t like smaller watches. To give those folks the benefit of the doubt, some people genuinely prefer larger watches, and many watch brands are reinterpreting old designs instead of creating new watches, that’s not the case across the board. Look at the micro-brands like Baltic, they make vintage inspired watches but these designs are far from a simple reissue. Their latest release, the Prismic is incredible, and looks like nothing else on the modern market.

Okay finally after some background information and important historical context, let’s get to the actual point. watchmaking is always sort of looking back, but what if that’s not the whole story. Brown is just a little out of style right now but a few years ago it was THE color, and now purple is slowly coming back into style. What if watch brands aren’t being only lazy, after all there are more brands doing unique interesting stuff than their are surviving solely off of old designs. While yes, currently we are looking back in time, vinyl record and tape players are making a comeback, vintage stores are more popular than ever, but there is plenty off new in the world, especially where it counts 3. The reason I got into watches was because I am tired of the constant consumer culture surrounding technology, phones that only last a few years and such. Yes many enthusiasts do have a point, complaining about reissues instead of new ideas, but I think they are missing an important perspective, culture is moving forward in ways that don’t need new watches, but new watches do persist, just take the Formex Essence, which I like to think of as the most modern mechanical watch. Maybe, just maybe watches are looking to the future, the future is just more boring than some want. Vintage is in style today, but more than that color is in style, some people don’t like those colors and that’s okay, but that doesn’t mean designers are lazy or we are slowing down.

  1. Mon amour ↩︎
  2. Alt-Right Twitter debate-bros ↩︎
  3. 15 minute cities, not whatever the hell Apple is doing ↩︎