Retro is easily one of the more popular styles that watchmakers go to when looking to make a stand out piece, which makes sense because of the endless stream of history that we have access to. What you will mostly find with these watches though is that they come in at fairly high price points because of their craftsmanship and novel value. Today we are going to have a look at some retro timepieces that come in below $500 so you won’t have to put yourself out of pocket to own one!
This Seiko Recraft, with its emerald green dial and gold accents, is a perfect picture of vintage. The dial has a sunburst look to it which, with the green and gold contrasting so beautifully, stands out so well in the light. Unfortunately nothing on dial has any lume so it is best suited for daytime wearing or wearing in well-lit rooms. The watch hands are gold skeletal hands so they get a bit lost in low light situations with a bright orange second hand doing the rounds. There is a day (in red) and date window at 3 o’clock and, keeping it old school with the chapter ring, has the minutes increasing in 5’s around the edge in Arabic numerals. At 43.5mm this case is a big one and is going to be causing you discomfort if you have a small wrist but this pieces were designed to stand out and encourage a bit of showmanship. The large case with the stainless steel band make this timepiece heavy but you could always switch the chain link out for a nice leather strap and you wouldn’t be worse off.
The case is square with a round hardlex crystal protecting the dial which gives the look a pleasant little pop. It has an exhibition caseback where we get a peek at the 7S26 calibre automatic movement which carries more than its share of weight at this price. All things considered a Seiko for this much is always going to be a good addition to your collection and the only real point of departure for people would probably be on the size.
The dial on the Seiko Presage is a thing of wonder. The light blue colour with the sunburst ridged effect makes this piece one of the better looking dress watches on this list. Everything about the dial just looks precision cut, from the dauphine hands to the spear-like indexes. The light blue colour, silver polished indexes and watch hands give it a serious luxury retro glow. The chapter ring sports black indexes including the sub-second markings. There is a nice big, but not overpowering date window showing just the date number at 3 o’clock. There is a fairly standard sized domed screw crown with a brushed top and big Seiko ‘S’ stamped on the top. The case is a cool polished 40mm stainless steel case. The polished finish and hardlex crystal gives the timepiece its reflective look.
The engine inside this well dressed piece is a reliable, albeit not top of the range, 4R35 with hacking and hand wind. It ticks along at 21, 600 BPH, has 23 jewels and a 41 hour power reserve. The strap is calfskin but has a faux leather look to it which I think was intentional – I think a more genuine look would’ve been better suited. The blue needlework on the band is a nice touch although I think it could’ve been a bit lighter to go with the dial. The double fold-over clasp with release button appealed to me but I would still possibly recommend a change of strap to a black genuine leather. The Seiko Presage is a great dress watch and due to its size could also moonlight as a daily companion but you are fairly likely to pick up little nicks and scratches on the way.
When I first looked at this piece I immediately had the soundtrack to The A-Team and a vision of Mad Dog Murdock taking names running through my head. If that isn’t retro then what is? The case is a staggering 49mm including the crown which is already set for a select group of people. This unashamedly rugged timepiece has a perforated brown leather band with some white stitching down the sides which has a close resemblance to rope as opposed to your more common thin needlework. The bezel is a black blasted stainless steel and features the tachymeter. The pushers for the chronograph are polished and with their collars resemble your vintage stopwatch pushers. The crown is bulky and has no fine finishes on it as you would expect. The crown isn’t a screw crown but the piece can still take you down to 10 bar with no worries.
The dial is white and all the indexes are in quite a bold black. The Arabic numerals are a bit against the grain in that they have decided to go with the minute numerals instead of the hour numerals. The chronograph times up to 60 minutes so I assume this is why. There are 3 sub-dials of which the 12 o’clock sub-dial and the 6 o’clock sub-dial relate to the tachymeter and chronograph and the 9 o’clock sub-dial indicates the 12 or 24 hour format. The watch hands are black with a big lume in the middle and the bright orange second hand is only functional for the chronograph. The colour choice with the date window was a bit strange and can be tough to see at times. I am a big fan of the Eco-Drive light powered functionality that runs in a lot of Citizen watches and other than the possible problem with size you will find a great quality timepiece in this retro Citizen.
The Spinnaker Hull is a truly vintage piece. It borrowed some of its style on the classic Panerai watches and adds some unique finishes of its own. The best way to describe the way this piece feels on your arm is that it is a tough earthy looking watch. The fumee dial starts a bit lighter in the middle and gets darker as you move out. The dial is textured in a manner that gives it the rough earthy look. The indexes are indented which gives the dial a three dimensional look. The sword watch hands are polished silver with a sizeable lume in the middle. The second hand is a creative lollipop hand which matches the round indexes.
The brushed bezel projects itself quite boldly from the rest of the case and the crystal even more so. The polished mid-case is square and gives the piece a layered effect which is heightened by the caseback being another separate layer. There is an exhibition caseback with a crystal that is mostly covered with the Spinnaker artwork. There is a 24 jewel Seiko NH35 automatic mechanism with hacking that you can expect a 20-40 second increase from per day. The genuine leather strap looks like it was kept from the 70s to only be used now and the stitching near the lugs looks old school. The buckle clasp is brushed and has the Spinnaker name stamped on it. At 42mm in size and 12mm in thickness it is not too big but the short lugs make it adjustable to most wrists.
The Tissot Heritage is on the upper end in terms of price on our list but it is no less worth its weight in gold. The dial is a pearl white with polished silver characterising the rest of the timepiece. There are baton shaped silver indices and sharp dauphine style watch hands also in silver. The dial isn’t elaborately decorated and makes for a classic dress watch. There is a sapphire crystal protecting the dial and it is coated with an anti-reflective layer so that there is always a clear view. At 3 o’clock is a day and date window. The case is stainless steel and is polished to perfection. The exhibition caseback gives us a stunning view of the Swiss made ETA Caliber 2836-2 movement that so carefully keeps this piece moving. At 40mm in size and 11.6mm thick the case is easy to wear as your daily piece or as your evening dress piece. There is a simple, flat pull/push crown with the Tissot logo on the top. It has a fairly unspectacular 30m water resistance rating and shouldn’t spend too much time under water. The strap is an alligator embossed with a deployant clasp which I think looks just a touch tacky for this piece but it does still seem to be popular amongst dress watches.
There is a not so obvious lume coating on the watch hands and the hour markers which is great because it would like out of place on the refined surface of this timepiece. At under $500 having access to a luxury classic Tissot with the ever reliable Swiss movement truly is a steal.