The 15 Best Vintage Reissue Watches to Buy in 2021

Oct 14, 2021

Category: Style

Over the past handful of years, a major trend has emerged within the watch industry that shows no signs of abating. Watch brands, from the expensive luxury side of the spectrum to affordable budget options, are combing their back-catalogs in search of old references that are deserving of a comeback. A good many of these old timepieces are being resurrected as vintage reissue watches — and it’s having a massive impact on the industry. With consumers in the mood for all things classic, prices have soared on legitimate vintage watches, while more and more new watches look like they could’ve been released 60 years ago. So with so many to choose from in this hot market, which are the best reissued vintage watches to buy in 2021?

To determine the best vintage reissue watches currently on the market, we took a look at pretty much everything that was out there. We looked at what luxury legacy brands like Zenith and Blancpain were doing, we had a peek at the offerings from traditionally affordable heritage brands like Timex and Bulova, and we examined the state of once-proud companies like Nivada-Grenchen and Benrus that died off during the Quartz Crisis (the period in the 1970s and ’80s when the rise of inexpensive quartz watches decimated the mechanical watch industry) and have recently been brought back to renewed prominence. In total, we’ve come up with 15 dynamite vintage reissue watches at a wide range of price points, so have a look below and find some old-school style for your wrist.

Timex Q Timex Reissue

Although most watch brands focus on reissuing mid-century references from the pre-Quartz Crisis Golden Age of watchmaking, Timex has taken a different approach. The Q Timex Reissue recreates a quartz diver from 1979, right down to the coin-operated battery hatch on the caseback. The sub-$200 watch has loads of panache, and it’s quickly become a modern classic for Timex, helping to rehabilitate the brand’s image as a serious arbiter of style.

Case Size: 38mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Quartz

Purchase: $179

Hamilton PSR Digital Quartz

Like Timex, Hamilton has gone back to the early age of quartz with this release. Released in 1970, the Hamilton Pulsar was the world’s first digital electronic watch and the first to incorporate an LED display. Originally released in solid gold, it was one of the priciest watches of its time period and was a favorite of countless celebrities in the ‘70s. A more affordable stainless steel version soon followed (which James Bond wore in Live and Let Die), and that’s the version that Hamilton has accurately recreated here, going so far as to incorporate the button-activated red time display.

Case Size: 40.8 x 34.7mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Quartz

Purchase: $745

Bulova Mil Ships

Bulova is another affordable American heritage brand that has recently taken to plumbing the depths of their archives and fishing out worthy watches from the past to recreate. But they’re not just remaking popular consumer watches, they’re going for some deep cuts. The Mil Ships was a prototype that Bulova made for the U.S. Navy in the 1950s that never saw production — until now, that is. The new version of the military diver, like the original, includes a unique paper strip on the dial that indicates if moisture has entered the watch.

Case Size: 41mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $895

Yema Superman Heritage

French watchmaker Yema didn’t technically die during the Quartz Crisis, but the brand certainly laid low for a few decades following their 1970s heyday. But the days of Yema flying under the radar are over, as recent years have seen the resurgent brand completely overhaul its lineup on the way to becoming an enthusiast-favorite. Leading the way is the heritage edition of their flagship Superman diver, a model that dates back to the ‘60s and features Yema’s trademark bezel lock mechanism.

Case Size: 39mm
Water Resistance: 300m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $999+

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf ‘53

It’s a little-known fact that Zodiac’s Sea Wolf debuted at the same trade show as the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms in 1953, even though the latter gets all of the credit for being the first professional dive watch. But with an influx of cash thanks to newish corporate owner Fossil and an eye toward their fascinating past, Zodiac is starting to get a lot more recognition in the Swiss watch industry. And one of their more intriguing recent re-releases is this faithful (yet updated) recreation of one of the first dedicated dive watches ever made.

Case Size: 39.5mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $1,095

Mido Ocean Star Decompression Timer 1961

As a member of the behemoth Swatch Group and a Swiss brand with over a century of history, Mido has a back-catalog filled with interesting watches. But arguably none are cooler than the rainbow-colored Decompression Timer dive watch from 1961. The short-lived reference got a reboot in 2020 that sold out as soon as Mido released it, and now the brand is bringing the colorful diver back again for a new limited edition featuring even brighter colors than before. Expect the same fast-selling fate when it hits stores in November.

Case Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $1,250

Benrus Type I Reissue

Benrus was a proud American watchmaker throughout the mid-century, known for their rugged military offerings (actor Steve McQueen was known to be a fan). But the brand fell on hard times during the Quartz Crisis, going through numerous bankruptcies and changing hands many times. Now, Benrus is back on its feet and doing what it does best: putting out some of the toughest utilitarian watches around. The Type I is an upgraded version of the iconic diver/field watch hybrid that Benrus equipped the U.S. Military with during the Vietnam War.

Case Size: 42.5mm
Water Resistance: 300m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $1,695

Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver

One of the best things about the halcyon days of mid-century watch design was how willing companies were to take risks. The attitude of the era yielded a number of delightfully bizarre timepieces that would never be produced in today’s largely homogeneous industry. Unless, of course, they were a reissue. And that’s what we have from reborn brand Nivada Grenchen. The Swiss brand was a casualty of the Quartz Crisis in the early ‘80s but recently returned, bringing with it a faithful remake of the Chronomaster, the brand’s unique flagship diving/aviation chronograph from the 1960s.

Case Size: 38mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic or Manual-Wind Chronograph

Purchase: $1,731+

Rado Captain Cook

Few vintage reissues have had as big of an effect on a brand like this one has. Rado, while a relatively successful and storied Swiss brand, was largely ignored by enthusiasts and collectors in modern times because the brand’s trademark ceramic dress watches didn’t appeal very much to said communities. But that all changed with the re-release of this formerly-obscure ‘60s diver, with its convex ceramic bezel and fun rotating anchor on the dial. Now Rado is arguably one of the hottest brands in the industry, with an entire robust line of different Captain Cook models powering their resurgence.

Case Size: 37mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $2,100

Seiko 1959 Alpinist Re-creation

With the obvious and notable exception of the Rolex Explorer, there is perhaps no name more venerated among mountaineering watches than the Seiko Alpinist. Seiko has made a number of Alpinist watches over the years, including the extremely popular green-dial SARB017, but the very first arrived on the scene in 1959. For 2021, Seiko has recreated the Alpinist that started it all in the form of a bund-strapped luxury watch that apes the style of the original while adding upgrades like an AR-coated box sapphire crystal and an anti-scratch-treated stainless steel case.

Case Size: 36.6mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $2,900

Longines Heritage Classic Chronograph

With a history that stretches back to 1832 and their current standing as one of the top five best-selling Swiss watch brands, Longines has plenty of references in their past on which to draw inspiration. And they do so often through their excellent Heritage Collection, which features a number of watches that are worthy of inclusion in this guide. But since vintage Longines is more associated with chronographs than anything else, we’ve chosen to go with this striking reissue of the brand’s mid-century tuxedo chronograph.

Case Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 30m
Movement: Automatic Chronograph

Purchase: $3,000

Tudor Heritage Chrono

Just before the Quartz Crisis, the watch industry arguably went through its most fun and carefree period in the 1970s. That’s the decade when funky and colorful motorsports chronographs were popping up at racetracks around the world, including the cult-classic Tudor “Monte Carlo” from 1971. The Heritage Chrono lovingly recreates that watch through the lens of modern Tudor’s unmatched flair for using 21st-century watchmaking techniques to tap into 20th-century nostalgia.

Case Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 150m
Movement: Automatic Chronograph

Purchase: $4,200+

Breitling Superocean Heritage ‘57

Breitling may be regarded for their aviation watches, namely their flagship Navitimer chronograph, but the brand knows their way around a dive watch, too. In fact, they’ve been making their Superocean divers since 1957, making it one of the oldest extant dive watches one can buy. As you’ve probably guessed, the Heritage ‘57 version recreates the very first Superocean, incorporating cool and quirky elements like the concave bidirectional bezel and mesh bracelet.

Case Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $4,835+

Zenith Chronomaster Original

Zenith’s El Primero movement was one of the first automatic chronograph movements to market, first appearing in a handful of the Swiss brand’s watches in 1969 — including the iconic A386 with its trademark tri-color chronograph registers. Countless El Primero chronographs have been released by Zenith since then, but this year’s Chronomaster Original is the closest the brand has ever come to recreating the legendary A386. Zenith dug up the OG’s blueprints to accurately recreate the case for the new watch, getting not only the dimensions right but the finishing, too. The movement is far from vintage, however, as the watch houses the latest evolution of the El Primero featuring a 1/10th-second chronograph.

Case Size: 38mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Automatic Chronograph

Purchase: $8,400+

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms No Rad

From the early part of the 20th century up until around the 1960s, watches used radium for their luminous material. But by the mid-century, concern over radium’s radioactive nature — and its potential to cause major health problems — made consumers leery over watches containing the material. In response, Blancpain released a version of their flagship Fifty Fathoms diver in the 1960s with a big crossed-out radioactive symbol on the dial along with the text “No Radiations” to reassure buyers that the watch was safe. The rare “No Rad,” as it came to be known, went on to become a highly sought-after collector’s item, and this year, Blancpain brought the No Rad back with this limited-edition modern luxury diver that just oozes ‘60s cool.

Case Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 300m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $14,100

The 15 Modern Watches That Will Become Future Classics

Judging from their tremendous popularity, we’d have to say that the majority of watch collectors are fans of vintage watches and vintage watch reissues. But we also know that the style isn’t for everyone. So if you’re the type who prefers more contemporary styling when it comes to your wristwear, then have a look at our guide to the best modern watches that will become future classics.

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