What is it with retro and vintage designs? I was born in 1979 and grew up in the eighties, yet I’ve always been fond of design from the sixties. While my interests, taste and preferences shifted when transitioning from a teenager into a young adult by the end of the nineties, my admiration for watches, cars, furniture and music from the sixties didn’t fade a bit. I thought this might very well pass with time, yet we’re now well into the 2010’s and I’m still a fan. Why is that?
You will probably have noticed that vintage and retro are booming - whether talking fashion, furniture, watches or basically any other field of interest. By now it’s hardly something new, as it seems this trend has been going steady for at least 10 years. While there doesn’t seem to be a proper definition of the term ‘vintage’, to me it represents objects of at least 25 years old. Retro to me is the modern counterpart: classic designs, modern production. Are you counting with me? This means that objects from my youth are now considered vintage and retro. I must be getting old!
Why is vintage so popular? I thought about this and discussed it with my friends. Let’s stay with watches. I think the following factors play a part;
- There will never be more watches from one certain year. It’s even more likely there will be less in time, as pieces will get irreparably damaged, lost, et cetera. Vintage watches will become more rare as time passes, even more so when factoring in the growing demand.
- Buying vintage watches demands a fair bit of knowledge and a good eye. Finding the right model in the right configuration and right condition, can be a challenging hunt. The watch as a coveted trophy.
- Every vintage watch is unique. They all carry a history, that they show to varying extent through scratches, discoloration, and other types of patina. The watches allow us to dream about times gone by.
- In a broader sense it is often said that in times of crisis and turmoil people tend to prefer more traditional and subtle looks and virtues.
- Lastly people loving buying stuff that they couldn’t afford back when they were younger. And how cool is it to own a birth year watch?
Retro is just as popular as vintage. Why? Again I think there are multiple forces at play;
- The manufacturers have noticed the huge popularity of vintage watches. It’s easy for them to jump aboard this train by bringing back some of their best designs as retros.
- Vintage watches have gotten terribly expensive in some cases. Also, not all old watches are that suitable to be worn on a daily basis. In both cases, a modern watch with a vintage look presents a good alternative, which we call retro watches.
- As touched upon in the above, buying vintage watches can be quite challenging. How do you know it’s all original and correct? It’s nearly impossible. Unless you buy a new watch at your local authorized dealer.
I want to close this column with a sharp note: maybe vintage and retro are popular because there are very little good new designs? Maybe today’s design just isn’t cutting edge anymore? I really had to dig in order to come up with well-designed objects from the past three decades with the potential to become collectors’ items. May I suggest the Aston Martin DB9 (2004), iPhone 5 (2012) and the Nike Free Flyknit (2012). And of course I have to finish with a watch: the Urwerk UR-103 (2003).
What are my favorite vintage objects? I’ve compiled a small, non-exhaustive list below. Please let me know which designs and objects you consider to be icons!
- Breitling Navitimer (1952): A calculator for the pilot’s wrist. The best is the 1969 version.
- Omega Speedmaster (1957): Arguably the best chronograph ever. Of course the whole Moonwatch thing doesn’t hurt either!
- Heuer Carrera (1963): This watch just oozes motorsports, and is so well-balanced in terms of design.
- Heuer Monaco (1969): The first square chronograph and truly cutting edge design.
- Omega PloProf (1970): Form-follows-function in its truest form.
- Casio G-Shock (1983): As robust as digital watches come.
- Swatch (1983): No explanation needed as far as I’m concerned!
- Land Rover Defender (1948): The PloProf of cars. Form Follows Function;
- Ford Mustang (1964): Oozes the true ‘American Spirit’;
- Lancia Flaminia Zagato Super Sport (1964): Arguablye one of the most beautiful sports cars ever;
- Aston Martin DB4/GT Zagato (1964): Another beauty – and legendary as Sean Connery’s Bond car;
- Lancia Delta (1979): Dressed up as HF Integrale it’s a rally monster for public roads;
- BMW E30 3-serie (1982): My childhood favorite.
It might surprise you that I don’t have such a list of favorite vintage iconic jewelry pieces. I think it’s because my father is a goldsmith who designed and fabricated everything by himself. When talking jewelry, I am biased and prefer unique hand-made pieces over big name icons.
- Eames Plastic Chair (1950): Dining room chairs of unrivalled beauty. I can personally attest to the fact that they work very well in living rooms too;
- Eames Lounge Chair (1957): Timeless lounge chair – and very comfortable;
- Achille Castiglioni Arco Floor Lamp (1962). Simply perfect;
- Tapio Wirkkala Bolle glassware (1966): Finish design in its truest form.
- Chuck Taylor’s All Stars (1917): over a 100 years old, but still exceedingly popular.
- Clarks Desert Boot (1950): the best suede shoes;
- Nike Air Jordan 1 (1983): the best sneaker ever. I collect these with much passion;
- Nike Air Max 1 (1987): The first shoe with the see-through ‘Air’ cushion that’s so iconic now;
- Nike Air Max 97 (1997): With the ‘Air’ cushion running along the full length of the shoe, it is truly ‘Air Max’.
Would love to hear what your favorite design objects are? And, if there is a particular era that stands out for you.