The 1970s was a very challenging time for the mechanical watch industry. Dubbed the “quartz crisis”, watch companies experienced economic upheavals with the advent of quartz movements. Quartz watches were a threat for two reasons – they provided more accurate chronometric performance and it was possible to mass produce them.
The Swiss watch industry almost crumbled, but brands persisted with daring designs and case shapes, as well as materials that have never been used at that point. The era ushered in a number of memorable designs that are not just iconic but also enduring, as they continue to be produced today.
Here are some watches launched in the 1970s, that will turn 50 in this decade.
Developed in the late 1960s with none other than legendary diver Jacques Cousteau, the Omega PloProf was an extremely advanced diver in the 1970s. Along with Rolex, Omega was one of the lead innovators that provided professional divers with watches — ones that can remain underwater for very long periods of time.
What makes the PloProf (from the French “Plongeur Professionel” or professional diver) one of a kind, is its massive 55 x 48 mm case and left hand crown. It also has a depth rating of up to 1200 m.
In 2009, Omega released an updated version of the PloProf under the Seamaster family with a modernized design and movement.
Faced with competition from quartz watches, Audemars Piguet knew that they had to make a disruptive change in the industry. They asked renowned watch designer Gerald Genta to create a unique and unprecedented timepiece. In 24 hours, he designed the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.
The Royal Oak made some pioneering moves: the use of finished stainless steel, instead of the usual gold or platinum, the octagonal bezel design and the integrated bracelet that eschewed the usual lug-and-spring. It also defined a whole new category of watches – the stainless steel luxury sports watch – which inspired the countless sports watches that followed.
Closely linked to the Royal Oak is the Gerald Genta-designed Patek Philippe Nautilus. Following the success of the Royal Oak, Patek Philippe, which was known for making traditional dress watches, decided that it was time to create an exclusive sport watch.
The design of the Nautilus was inspired by the shape of a porthole, like ones found on transatlantic liners back in the day. The dial, meanwhile, has horizontal embossed bars; while an integrated bracelet completes the personality of the watch. Today, the Nautilus is the world’s most desirable and valuable steel sports watch, with an average waiting time of 8 years.
Tag Heuer is best known for the Carrera and Monaco lines, but in 1976, they launched another important watch with racing heritage – the Tag Heuer Monza. It was introduced to mark Ferrari’s 1975 Formula 1 World Championship and was meant to be a limited edition watch, but has since seen multiple re-releases.
The original Heuer Monza came in an oval cas; and was one of the first PVD-coated watches. It returned in the late 1990s in stainless steel form with a rounded square case, which is the case shape being produced today.
While it may have been considered faddish at the time, the Chopard Happy Diamonds, whose dial has diamonds dancing free, became one of the classics for the Chopard brand.
The signature floating stones were designed by Ronald Kurowski, a theatrical set designer. While hiking in the Black Forest, he was enthralled by the sight of sunbeams glistening on a waterfall. He decided to design a watch whose diamonds are free to “dance” along the dial.
Chopard has launched many editions of the Happy Diamonds – like 1993’s Happy Sport – the first ever steel watch with diamonds; and their new collections continue to be inspired by the playfulness of the original design.
Which watch is your favorite from this list? We’d love to hear from you!
SEE MORE OF THE WATCHES IN OUR VIDEO:
PHOTO CREDITS: all vintage photos from Christies ; vintage Chopard Happy Diamonds from WatchProSite