Remember the old aphorism about statistics: “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” It was supposed to put you in mind of the fact that a good statistician can make the numbers say almost anything he wants them to. Implying, of course, that most “facts” based on statistics are lies.
I kind of feel that way about homage watches. There seem to be several “grades” or levels of watches we could call homages. And of course, Rolex is the most popular brand to base them on.
Lets explore those various levels.
First, lets take a step back and survey the landscape here. You’ve currently got several brands making what amounts to homages of watches they produced years – or decades – ago. Two come quickly to mind.
One is Omega, with its series of Speedmaster reproductions/ updates, the Mark II and the ’57. Omega’s also come out with modern versions of the Ploprof and, just last year, the Seamaster 300. All nice watches in their own right. And fairly faithful to the pieces to which they pay tribute.
The other is Tudor, interestingly, Rolex’s little brother who’s now gone off on his own – style and design-wise at least. Tudor’s homages / reproductions include two pieces in its Heritage series, the Chrono Blue and the new Ranger, just released at Baselworld last year. Frankly, I need to look really closely at the Chrono Blue to distinguish it from the Monte Carlo, which Tudor produced in the 1970s. The sharp-eyed will note the minute and running seconds sub-dials are reversed on the current watch. It takes even sharper eyes to see other, more subtle differences.
And in this category, I think you need to include the wonderfully executed, well thought out homages of MK II. Originally a company that served the Seiko modding community, MK II’s mission evolved into one of imagining iconic watches of yesteryear as though they never went out of production. Their Paradive is a nod to the Benrus Type 1 military issue updated to today’s standard.
And MK II has also done some terrific work extrapolating Rolex watches of old. The Fulcrum, another current MK II production model, tips its hat to the Rolex and Tudor military watches of the 1960s and 1970s, complete with domed crystal.
Steinhart is another brand whose stock in trade is the homage watch. They’ve honored the venerable 6538, the original watch of the movie James Bond. And you can strap on a fair facsimile of the GMT-Master II – your choice of Coke or Pepsi – if you’ve a mind to. They also do a tricky – and fair – rendition of the Tudor Heritage Chrono Blue (an homage of an homage?), if you like the look but don’t have the Benjamins.
The Hobby Homages
Then there are the one-off homages, images of which turn up on Instagram and other places. Some guys are just damn good amateur craftsmen. They’re making their own homages, wearing them as their everyday pieces, and posting the occasional photo on social media.
Some of these watches are not replicas. Instead, they’re the brainchild and creation of their makers. Watches these guys wish the brands had made. For instance, this one.
These pieces are frankenwatched together with parts from old scrap watches, Chinese cases, custom-created dials, and Swiss movements – or movements from old pocket watches (if one is doing up a PAM-inspired piece).
Add in a heavy dose of case grinding to get a unique shape, and airbrushing the dial for a true tropic look, and you’ve got a great “vintage” piece – maybe even with a “proper” logo, if you’re good enough – and a watch that never saw the inside of a brand factory.
We can only hope these guys have the ethics to never represent their one-off creations as genuine. A LOT of amateurs with money to spare and googly eyes for rare vintage timepieces would easily be duped into spending thousands for a piece that cost hundreds – and a little sweat & skill – to produce.
Next post I’ll get into the homages that aren’t quite so honorable, but still not despicable enough to be called fake.