AS THE watch world grapples with the slowing economy and pressure to lower prices, some brands, including the big names, are looking inwards for ideas instead of experimenting with untested new ones. One of the more ingenious ways has been to rework and update previous popular models that have sold well and put them back on the market. As a result, many iconic timepieces were revived and reintroduced this year. Those who missed acquiring some of these classic creations earlier now have a chance to add them to their collections.
Big Pilot's Heritage 55 and 48 Limited Editions
The pair pay homage to the biggest watch IWC ever made – the Big Pilot – which boasts a 55mm case. While Heritage 55 matches the size of the original, made for German pilots in 1940, it is thinner and lighter. The 1940 model has a steel case, while the updated version is made of titanium. Also, instead of the earlier centre second, the reissue has a sub-second at six o'clock. Still, the new Big Pilot is very much a chip off the old block. The "9" numeral on the dial of the original watch, removed from IWC Pilot models since 2002, makes a comeback in Heritage 55. The distinctive triangle marker at 12 o'clock is lowered to more closely resemble the original. Heritage 48 is a downsized model of Heritage 55, with a 48mm case. It's also powered by a movement with eight days' power reserve, against two days for Heritage 55. Heritage 48 is limited to 1,000 pieces and priced at US$13,400 apiece. Heritage 55, limited to 100 pieces, is retailed at US$14,800.
Royal Oak Chronograph
The Royal Oak was the first luxury watch to break with the gold standard and go stainless steel in its 1972 launch – a game-changing triumph for its maker, Audemars Piguet. Forty years on, the brand is again defying convention by going back to yellow gold when rose gold is still in vogue. Among the timepieces in Audemars Piguet's new yellow gold collection is the Royal Oak Chronograph. An older version of this chronograph first appeared in 2012 in a smaller, 39mm case. The updated model has not only a larger 41mm case, but it also sits more comfortably on the wrist. And with a bigger case comes a bigger dial – blue or white – and clearer display.
Historiques Ultra-fine 1955
This rare timepiece has stood the test of time, well, almost. Apart from it now being encased in platinum, which at S$59,300 is priced some S$10,000 over the present pink gold version, the watch is unchanged from the gold model launched in 2010 – right down to the small 36mm case. And it's still driven by the same hand-wound movement first rolled out in 1995 to celebrate Vacheron's 200th anniversary – except that the movement, like the one in its 2010 and 2015 predecessor, is made of solid gold. When the watch appeared six years ago to mark the 55th anniversary of the 1955 model, it was the world's thinnest mechanical timepiece – just 4.1mm thick. A fitting homage to the original, which not only had the slimmest case but also the flattest movement then – the 1.46mm caliber 1003. Thinner watches have hit the market in recent years, but the 1955 remains a classic. Now clad in the noblest of metals, it's even classier.
World Time Chronograph Ref 5930
On its own, Patek Philippe's existing chronograph or world time is a much sought-after timepiece. When the two complications are put together as a single watch, there is greater appeal – especially when buying it (S$97,100) is cheaper than if you buy the chronograph and world time watch separately. What's more, the Ref 5930 is a first for Patek Philippe timepiece. There was an earlier world time chronograph model, but that's a one-of-a-kind piece you can only now see in the Patek Philippe Museum in Switzerland.
Presage Automatic Chronograph Enamel Dial
The chronograph is shortlisted in the "great but affordable" category in this year's Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève, the luxury watch industry's equivalent of the Oscars. Indeed, this limited-edition watch is priced at an accessible S$3,892 and is modelled on Seiko's and Japan's first-ever wrist watch, the Laurel, released in 1913. And it is spearheading the Japanese brand's big push into the global market for mechanical timepieces. The enamel dial, housed in a 42mm stainless steel case, is the work of skilled craftsmen led by Mitsuru Yokozawa, a master of the craft.