In the first part of this two-part post, I talked about my simultaneous fondness for and wariness of my vintage watches. On the one hand they possess a charm and originality not found in most modern watches, and in the case of military-issued watches one has to wonder what story they would tell if they could talk. Counterbalancing this is servicing and related costs, and, let's be honest here, most of these watches were simply built to a different standard. They can be in perfectly original condition and still be less-than-stellar time keepers. They generally have iffy water resistance and many possess dials painted with gamma emitters.
The answer for some is a tasteful tribute to or reissue of a classic watch. Still others feel that well executed homage watches democratize our access to classic designs. I think that the difference between a tribute or reissue and an homage is in the eye of the beholder. To me, a tribute or reissue is a watch produced by the original manufacturer, regardless of whether that company is the same company it was 50 years ago. And to split the hair even finer, a tribute watch is one inspired by the original, but not a carbon copy of it, whereas a reissue is a near-carbon copy of the original, more similar in dimension and presentation than not. An homage is a watch built to honor a classic design by a company that was not originally responsible for that design.
And why not? A new collector might have the good taste enough to appreciate the timeless perfection of the IWC Mk 11 issued by Her Majesty's government in 1948, but few of us can afford one. However, most of us can afford a tasteful and high quality watch made of modern materials that makes deference to it. In this way, a good homage watch can become a gateway drug, a safe way of dipping a toe into the waters of watch collecting. On to some watches, then...
The first brand I'd like to talk about is Precista, a name used by the Southerns Company in the UK for watches they produced to a specification for issue to Her Majesty's military forces. Southerns went bust in the late 1990's and their assets were bought by the Apollo Strap company, which didn't continue to manufacture Precista watches. Eddie Platts of Time Factors registered the name in 2003, and went on to use the name to reissue some original Precista watches (such as the PRS-5 chronograph I wrote about in part one of this post) and also to produce some homages to other classic British military watches. One of the first homage watches produced under the Precista name was the PRS-53, a tasteful and well executed homage to the Omega 53 Fat Arrow.
Here is an Omega 53 Fat Arrow I used to own. The watch needed servicing and had some aesthetic issues, so when I received a trade offer for it, I was happy to pass it along to a more sympathetic (capable?) owner. Someday I'd like to own another one of these Omegas. They're a great size for everyday wear and have a solid quality to them. They utilize the bullet proof caliber 283 movement that is also quite beautiful to examine. The nickname "Fat Arrow" refers to the wider pheon on the dial, which the MoD applied when the original radium dialed watches (told by their thin arrows) were re-dialed with tritium dials.
And here is my Precista PRS-53. Like the original watch it pays homage to, it utilizes fixed strap bars and a fat, chunky crown. There are numerous and obvious differences between the two watches' dials and handsets, of course, and ticking away under the caseback is an ETA 2801. If you like the dimensions and style of the Omega 53 Fat Arrow but can't afford $2500 for a good example, you might try looking for a good PRS-53, which you could probably pick up for one-tenth that amount. I believe the PRS-53 was made for Time Factors by the Zeno Company in Switzerland.
Another Precista that I really enjoy and wear often is the PRS-82. Unlike the PRS-53, which pays homage to a classic watch from a different brand, the PRS-82 is a reissue of a classic Precista dive watch issued in 1982. The original watch has the distinction of being the last mechanical watch issued to the Royal Navy. Since then they have all been quartz models. What's so interesting about the PRS-82 is the movement, which is the same caliber used in the original watch. Time Factors located a batch of new old stock ETA 2783 movements, serviced them, and put them in these extremely well made watches. The bezel action, lume, crown function, and overall assembly, fit, and finish on these watches is typical of watches costing five times as much. The PRS-82 is up-spec'ed from the original with a sapphire crystal, better caseback sealing technology, modern lume, and numerous other thoughtful details.
Here is an original 1982 Precista dive watch issued to the Royal Navy.
And here is my PRS-82.
Switching brands but staying with the excellent watches from Time Factors, another favorite watch of mine is the PRS-29B, an up-spec'ed tribute to the famous Smiths W10 military watch from the late 1960's and early 1970's. The original Smiths watch has the distinction of being the last mechanical watch fully produced in Great Britain. They have very nice hacking movements and beautifully printed dials. Here's a picture of one I used to own.
When Eddie Platts set out to reissue this watch, he produced two versions, the PRS-29A and the PRS-29B. The former watch is dimensionally identical to the original and uses a plastic crystal just like the original. It is quite simply the closest you can come to traveling back in time to 1970 and obtaining a brand new original Smiths W10. The 29B, on the other hand, is a thoughtfully reconsidered tribute to the original watch. It is a slightly larger case at 39 mm and utilizes a sapphire crystal. The early 29B's had beautifully domed sapphire crystals, but I understand that a flatter crystal is used now. Here's my PRS-29B.
Sticking with the Smiths brand, but shifting gears to non-military watches, have a look at this beautiful gentleman's dress watch Smiths produced in the 1960's.
And this one:
Smiths made some really lovely gentleman's watches before closing its doors in the wake of the quartz crisis. Eddie Platts now owns the brand name, and thank goodness he does because he is now turning out beautiful pieces like this PRS-36.
Hey, I'm a tool watch kind of guy but sometimes you want something a little more sophisticated, a little more svelte, a little more elegant. This watch fills the bill and doesn't break the bank. It's unusual, extremely well made (in Germany), and uses an uncommon and interesting movement, the Peseux 7040. You could do a lot worse if you're looking for a dress/casual watch for under $700.
In the next installment of Tributes, Reissues, & Homages, I'll be writing about the Omega Seamaster 300 MCA, the Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope, and the Mk II Quad 10. Thanks for reading!