Vintage Watch Wednesday: A Movement Towards Minimalism

Mar 17, 2014


Something big is happening in the luxury watch industry. Or rather … small.

They say all trends are cyclical, and we may be witnessing one of the greatest reversions in the history of wristwatches unfolding before our very eyes. For the past decade and a half or so, large steel wristwatches have reigned supreme on the wrists of enthusiast collectors everywhere. Much like the original Sports Watch evolution of the 1960s and 70s, massive tool watches have been en vogue, whether or not the wearer would ever likely use them for their original purpose.

But now we’re seeing smaller, slimmer, more elegant timepieces utilizing precious metals that were originally popular in the first half of the 20th Century making a return to the spotlight. Déjà vu – all over again. And we couldn’t be happier. Don’t get us wrong – we love large vintage sporting watches and will defend the awesomeness of iconic divers and chronographs ‘til our dying breaths.  But evolution (revolution?) is the key to survival, and quite frankly, we’re ready to see something different.

The beauty here is two-fold.  Firstly, it is simply fantastic to see dressier wristwatches making a return on the modern side of things. Not only are the new designs sophisticated and elegant, but using smaller cases also pushes manufacturers to develop new high-end movements to fit them. Secondly, embracing dressier modern wristwatches also means a reinvigorated appreciation for their vintage counterparts. Which is worth smiling about.

Over the past several decades, an incalculable number of early American and Swiss timepieces have been sold for scrap, or melted down for their gold content, destroying much of a beautiful bygone era populated by The Greatest Generation. It’s the same old story we’ve heard over and over. Out with the old, in with the new – all in the name of progress.

With this rejuvenated appreciation for timeless elegance comes an enhanced desire among collectors to seek out and preserve the remaining examples of these amazing timepieces. Over the past couple of years, we’ve started to see a few long-forgotten examples of truly excellent early to mid-century timepiece design come out of hiding. One such example that we recently stumbled upon is the incredibly rare Hamilton Otis Reversible plated (shown at the top)  in 14K yellow gold.

Bearing an uncanny resemblance to the iconic Reverso by Jaeger LeCoultre (shown immediately above), the Otis was manufactured for a very short time in the 1950s before a copyright infringement suit killed off the model.  Guess who filed it? Very few good examples of the Otis still exist – far fewer than the famous original by LeCoultre. And the best part is that it is now totally, completely, and utterly cool to wear again.

Thank you, Sterling Cooper Draper Price.  We owe you one.

This exceptional Hamilton Otis is now available in Our Shop, along with a number of other exceptional wristwatches – Father’s Day is Sunday, June 16th!

Words by: James Lamdin - A vintage watch connoisseur and founder of analog/shift, an online boutique for a curated selection of exceptional wristwatches.

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