10 best retro-looking watches that are actually brand new

Update your grail list with these future classics from the biggies like Omega and Rolex
10 best retro watches that are actually brand new

Anyone who follows the high-end watch auctions – because ultimately, they like retro watches –will know that some vintage pieces can fetch a fortune. And it’s true to say that anyone who has bought ‘right’ within the past 15 years will likely realise a handsome profit if they decide to sell.

If you happen to like the look of older watches but don't fancy dealing with the downsides of owning them (they can be fragile, expensive to service and maintain, and not always especially suited to regular use), there has never been a better time to buy a modern-day look-a-like.

Here are 10 retro watches we rate highly.

Longines Spirit Zulu Time 39mm

Longines has such a rich back catalogue that it doesn’t need to work too hard to come up with endless designs steeped in retro cool. Renowned for its early pilot watches, the brand last year launched the 42mm Spirit Zulu Time inspired by a 1925 model with a Zulu flag on its dial – and now there’s this new smaller version for an even more authentic vintage vibe. From £2,800. At longines.com

Girard-Perregaux Saint Laurent Casquette

Fashion house Saint Laurent has got together with Girard-Perregaux to create a new take on the groovy Casquette LED watch, around 8,000 of which were made between 1976 and 1978. The Casquette was forgotten until 2021 when G-P partnered with Bamford Watch Department to make a one-off for charity – and now Saint Laurent designer Anthony Vaccarello has re-imagined the original in black ceramic and titanium. Just 100 will be made. £5,105. At girard-perregaux.com

Patek Philippe Ref. 5531-G

Patek Philippe has been making world-time wrist watches for the best part of a century, and vintage examples with cloisonee enamel dials invariably fetch a fortune at auction – in 2021, a '50s model with a dial decorated with a map of Eurasia sold for $7.8m at Phillips. Which makes the new Reference 5531 World Time with minute repeater seem like a bargain at only around a mill. POA. At patek.com

Cartier Tank Normale

Cartier's ‘Prive’ collection brings back historic models in small numbers – and there’s no other watch that makes us long for the good old days more than the new Tank Normale. Based closely on the original 1917 design, it measures just 32.6mm by 25.7mm and contains a tiny, hand-wound movement. Platinum or yellow gold versions are available, both with a choice of leather straps or matching bracelets. From £25,000. At cartier.com

IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40

IWC introduced the Ingenieur back in the '50s for lab workers and engineers, giving it a specially-developed ‘Pellaton’ automatic movement encased in a Farady cage to combat magnetism. Designer Gerald Genta freshened it up in 1976 to create the ‘Ingenieur S/L’, which IWC revisits with the new Ingenieur Automatic 40. It keeps the S/L’s screw-down bezel, grid pattern dial and integrated bracelet but gets crown guards and the new Calibre 32111 movement. From £10,300. At IWC.com

Bremont Broadsword Recon

The boys at British brand Bremont have added to its ‘Armed Forces’ collection with this limited edition take on the so-called ‘Dirty Dozen’ watches produced to a standard MoD spec by 12 different makers towards the end of WW2. The ‘Broadsword Recon’ (for ‘reconnaissance’) is a rugged, 40mm steel watch with a two-part ‘sandwich’ dial designed to glow bright in the dark during those tricky night ops. £3,195. At bremont.com

Omega Speedmaster 57

Speedmasters from the first batch made from 1957 – 1958 are as rare as hen’s teeth, somewhat fragile and cost a fortune. So it makes sense to buy one of the new ‘57’ models which gets a broad arrow hour hand and a tactile, manual-wind movement just like the original – but with the benefit of better fit and finish, Master Chronometer certification and a far smaller price tag – aka one of our fave reto watches. £8,700. At omegawatches.com

Panerai Radiomir California

The ‘California’ dial configuration that combines Roman and Arabic numerals was used on the very earliest wartime Radiomirs, even before the development of the ‘sandwich’ construction that enabled Panerai watches to glow in the dark. This 45mm Radiomir California could almost be a vintage piece thanks to its recycled ‘Brunito eSteel’ case and randomly buff markings which create a unique, distressed look. £10,600. At panerai.com

Rolex Explorer 40

Bar the appearance of knocks and scratches picked-up during acts of derring do, most people would be hard-pressed to tell a true ‘vintage’ Explorer from a new one, because the basic appearance of the watch has hardly changed since its introduction 70 years ago to mark the ascent of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. This year, however, the Explorer becomes available in a new, 40mm case. £6,450. At rolex.com

Wes Lang X Bamford TAG Heuer Carrera

The Heuer Carrera chronograph became so closely associated with motorsport back in the '60s that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway commissioned a batch with dials stamped with its ‘winged wheel’ logo. American artist Wes Lang has used his own version of the design – topped with a flaming skull – to create this cool-looking, limited edition Carrera in partnership with Bamford Watch Department. The gold case means a premium price but, with just 15 being made, it could be a smart investment. £19,000. At bamfordwatchdepartment.com