Fed up with vintage? The best modern antidotes for under $10K from Zenith to Hublot Fed up with vintage? The best modern antidotes for under $10K from Zenith to Hublot

Fed up with vintage? The best modern antidotes for under $10K from Zenith to Hublot

Thor Svaboe

I have asked this question before, and I’m still asking it while wearing a creamy-lumed, vintage-looking diver’s watch. When do we reach peak vintage, and do we really want to? I love the time-travelling feeling, but I would also go mental if my entire collection consisted of 38mm vintage skindivers. If you’ve already hit saturation point, here’s a blast of modernity for your watch box with some razor-sharp and resolutely contemporary wristwatches.

Zenith DEFY El Primero 21

Vintage antidote

Zenith has double my love. I seriously lust after the period perfect 37mm of the A384/385 El Primero on the quirky, airy ladder bracelet. At the same time, unlike many other big brands, they do future-proofing of mechanical watches just as well, with the insanely buzzing seconds hand of the twin escapement DEFY series in a bold 44mm case. Like my favourite A384, the DEFY has a cushion-shaped case, but is impossibly sharp of facet and looks like some kind of alien stealth craft. I find a particular charm to the tank-like chunks of metal linked together into what constitutes one of the toughest looking bracelets in the game. Push the chronograph into action and widen your eyes as the 1/100th of a second hand whizzes frantically around a skeletonized dial inhabited by small clues of its 1960s inspiration. There’s just enough in the blue and grey chrono chapter rings and just enough small pops of red in power reserve and pointer tips to instigate joy into a monochrome world of the micro machine. Comfortable beyond its tough looks and unfeasibly light, Zenith shows masterful skill in the striations and polish of titanium, a challenging metal made precious in their LeLocle ateliers. Now apologies, I admit that at $13,500USD I’ve gone over my own budget on the very first watch, but search and you’ll find it for less, and I promise it won’t happen again.

Hublot Classic Fusion Racing Grey Titanium 42mm

Well, Hublot’s inception came through an early version of the Classic Fusion, but I’m refusing to describe the end of the eighties as vintage as I’d feel immensely old. The Classic Fusion series is nothing but clean, balanced modernity and a great choice for a sporty everyday watch without a hint of fauxtina. A Classic Fusion is just dressy enough to work a charm with that suit, and great value for a Hublot. Go over the $10,000 budget and you’ll find a plethora of mad colours and angular shapes in ceramic candy colours, but we’re not all that bold are we? Subdued in its grey sun-ray dial, polished indexes giving you that delicious pop of reflection. My favourite detail would be the whimsical Hublot H as the seconds hand counterweight, giving a flourish of pizzazz to an otherwise subdued dial scene. On a tough yet super soft striated rubber grey strap, its wrist presence is as strong as it is light with the low weight of titanium. The elegance of a grey dial is well protected by a sapphire crystal, and within the polished and brushed titanium tool-elegance case lies the trusty HUB1110 self-winding 42 hour caliber. If you’re planning that big anniversary, this comes in four sizes, so might just be the perfect his and hers wristwear duo. Think about it… Price: CHF6900

Citizen Caliber 0200

Vintage antidote
picture courtesy of

Another razor-sharp, mini tank-like lugless cushion case, and a beautiful marriage of cultures. Intrigued? While a Citizen to you might mean a well-built affordable $200 diver’s watch or your first digital taste of coolness back in the eighties (I’m old, shut up), but at $6,000? The intensely bevelled, angular case corners here are proper Grand Seiko territory, while the circular-brushed broad bezel frames a world of textured graininess and a strangely Germanic looking eagle. Swathes of polished chamfer adorn the muscular case sides, but the dial is magic. Rough, granular black surface makes the delicate indexes stand out, accompanied by sword hands and a snailed small seconds register. This is strangely old fashioned in concept, but of such sharp execution that it simply works in the futuristic context of the 0200. The bracelet looks indestructible, and offers soft-wearing comfort befitting the ergonomic 40mm x 47 lug to lug case. But the star of the show is the Caliber 0200, produced by the Citizen-owned La Joux-Perret. This classic Swiss self-winding movement boasts a free sprung balance and a -3 sec/+5 sec tested average accuracy surpassing COSC standards. And it’s a looker. Bridges adorned with satinage, a hairline infused brush-matte finish, and very much in keeping with the exquisite tool nature of the watch. To me, this spells a quantum leap for my own old-world perceptions of Citizen. Price: $6,000USD

Oris Aquis Date Caliber 400

Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400 41.5mm

A pure modernist diver’s watch with one of the best movement debuts of 2021, anyone? Yes, this is the Oris Aquis Caliber 400, where Oris shifts into overdrive without the vintage baggage. Refreshing, while being a tour de force within the Hölstein catalogue, the Aquis Date Caliber 400 gets an in-house caliber with a 10-year warranty. Ten. Add a 120-hour, five-day power reserve, COSC-tolerance accuracy at $3,500USD on a bracelet, and value gets a new Swiss name. The Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400 41.5mm can be purchased on either a stainless-steel bracelet or black rubber strap, both outfitted with “Quick Strap Change” technology that allows you to quickly swap between the pair by simply depressing the underside trigger to detach it.. Take your pick from fumè-ish sunray dials, ranging from monochromatic but still lush anthracite, rich blue and the couleur du jour, green. Ceramic bezel inserts and a fat sapphire crystal ensure that with its medium size of 41.5mm and ergonomic bracelet, this is pretty much a 300m depth rated one-for all. As a debut purchase from the world of Swiss mechanical wristwear, this is a safe, cool and bullet-proof bet. Price: $3,500USD

Linde Werdelin Spidolite Nord

Ah, for the love of my native North. In the world of haute horlogerie we have plenty of big bruiser sports watches from the likes of Hublot and Zenith with their DEFY Extreme line. But the hewn-from-granite feel of the  Danish toolmeisters is different with a capital D. Brutish charm would be a good term, and one of the latest iterations, the Linde Werdelin Nord Spidolite is, as the headline then said, loaded with arctic cool. Nothing says “tool” like the Spidolite case, ruthlessly chopped and drilled for lightness to deliver form over function on a rubber strap. Resembling something out of a NASA Mars lab, it has the merits of looking like nothing else, being rather large, but still comfortable through the magic of ergonomics and broad rubber. The gradient abyss-like dial is framed by sandblasted grade 2 titanium, lending a silky tactility to the strong-arm looks and removing all unnecessary weight. It’s a BIG 44mm x 15mm thickness, but a resolutely goldilocks 46mm lug to lug, while the customized Dubois Dépraz 14580 calibre ensures accuracy with a cheeky double date window at 12 o’clock and a 44 hour power reserve. For me, it’s pure desire at $11,731USD, and come on, surely worth going a tad over budget for.