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Travel Back in Time: Horology Continues Its Love Affair with Retro Designs

Cortina Watch Singer Reimagined Feature

It seems that the fascination with the 1910s, all the way to the 60s, is not going away. This year sees watchmakers continuing with reissues of retro models.

When you think of horology, the word “innovation” often comes to mind. Yet in the race for creating the most advanced and technologically impressive timepieces, watchmakers have never let go of nostalgia.

Again and again, retro models are seen inspiring modern reissues – this year not being any different.

Singer Reimagined released the 1969 Timer, which features a sporty tonneau case. The helmet-like shape has always been associated with the late 1960s watchmaking era.

There is also Cartier’s new Tank Normale models in celebration of the 1917 original, as well as Blancpain’s Ladybird Colors that earmarks a pioneering 1956 design.

See it as this – the retro resurgence is not about mere mimicry, but rather an homage to different significant periods of advancement in timekeeping.

Each vintage-inspired creation that you see today irrevocably bears the imprint of the past, but at the same time, carries a modern twist, a harmonious marriage of nostalgia and innovation.

Ode To A Legendary Year

In pop culture, 1969 would probably be remembered for events such as Woodstock or the Beatles recording their final album together. For the horological world however, it is the unforgettable year when automatic chronographs and quartz watches were introduced.

As such, 1969 is very important in the timeline of watchmaking history.

Singer Reimagined’s 1969 collection is an ode to the year. With a retro feel to it, the Timer looks like as if conceived and released in the period.

The sporty tonneau case made popular in the 1960s is a variation of the classic tonneau of the 1920s: a helmet silhouette versus a plain barrel. Hence, the 1969 Timer is aptly named.

The clean face and simple dial (with just one push button) are simply classic in looks. Stainless steel – making up both the case and strap – also confers a timeless feel to the watch.

Executed in a very deep and precious piano-black lacquer finish, the dial is further enriched with an applied signature golden crown ring. It is reminiscent of the understated watches of past decades.


Singer Reimagined’s 1969 Timer represents the ultimate example of complexity distilled to its purest form.

If Singer Reimagined’s creations have always carried a retro air about them, then the 1969 collection can only be seen as a way to double down on the theme. The watchmaker acknowledges this.

Singer Reimagined timepieces are by definition a love letter to the vintage design of iconic 60s and 70s watches,” reads the 1969 Timer’s description.

It goes on to say that 1969 is a collection to pay tribute to the style of that era even further.

Preserving An Era Of Femininity

If not exactly remembering a year, how about watches that mark the continuation of a tradition?

The new Ladybird Colors Small Seconds and Moon Phase models underscore Blancpain’s pioneering role in the history of feminine watches.

In 1930, the watchmaker created the world’s first automatic wristwatch for ladies under the name of Rolls. It later unveiled the women’s Ladybird model in 1956, which was equipped with the smallest round movement of the time.

This year, Blancpain is bolstering its feminine watchmaking heritage with two models. The Ladybird Colors timepieces return with small seconds and moon phase complications, and encrusted in diamonds.


Blancpain’s elegant and colourful Ladybird timepieces return with a moon phase complication.

Both these glittering creations are sights to behold – timelessly feminine in aesthetic. Radiant and colourful, they are also a true reminder of the magic that watchmaking can often bring to life.

It is worth mentioning that the Ladybird series is the flagship women’s collection of Blancpain. So, the new models are a proud reminder of heritage.

At Blancpain, Betty Fiechter broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first woman CEO and owner of a Swiss watchmaking company in 1933. She is said to pave the way for the creation of jewellery watches at the maison – which has led to the wondrous horological designs of the current day.

Another easter egg to look out for that highlights Blancpain’s history in celebrating women?

Since 2006, all the ladies’ moon phase models feature a female face adorned with a star-shaped beauty mark.

A Historic, Not-So-Normal Design

In terms of making history, all the models in the Cartier Prive collection have a mythical story to tell.

This year sees the addition of the Tank Normale, the Tank watch that is said to have started it all. It is the very first, and as such, paved the way for all other Tank models that came after it.

The original Tank was designed by Louis Cartier in 1917 and released in 1919 as the Tank Normale. It took cues from a combat vehicle – specifically, it is inspired by the bird’s eye view of the Renault tanks turning the tides of World War I trench warfare.

Fast forward to 2023, the Prive Tank Normale preserves numerous iconic features of the original.


Having revived various models for the Prive collection, Cartier now turns to the first-ever Tank with the Prive Tank Normale.

It has equal proportions. Other same design elements include the bevelled sapphire crystal, a beautiful Roman numeral dial with inner railroad track and the 1917 date hidden in the VII numeral.

Of course, the satin-brushed case and “brancards” have been retained too.

So, what is different? The size: it has grown as a watch from the original 27mm x 19mm to a 32.6mm x 25.7mm.

The Tank itself is an icon – loved by celebrities like Princess Diana to Yves Saint Laurent and Andy Warhol.

As it is, Warhol is known to have praised it: “I don’t wear a Tank to tell the time. In fact, I never wind it. I wear a Tank because it’s the watch to wear.”

Truer words have never been spoken, illustrating how some retro watches are indeed worthy of a modern reissue.

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