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Blasts from the Past: Four Watches with Historical Roots

Watch brands are proud of their heritage, and what better way to showcase that by creating new timepieces that take literal inspiration from history?

IWC Tribute to Pallweber Edition ‘150 Years’ historical watches

IWC Tribute to Pallweber Edition ‘150 Years’

Named after Austrian watchmaker Josef Pallweber, who licensed his patented invention to IWC, this is one of the most iconic pocket watches the brand has ever produced. Although other Swiss manufacturers have the license to the invention, it is IWC’s take on it that is the most widely known.

For its 150th anniversary, IWC has revived the Pallweber pocket watch in the form of a wrist watch. The 45mm case, similar in size to its predecessor, caters to the modern appeal of large watches. Its most noticeable feature is the iconic digital display, whose jumping numerals’ smooth movements are made possible by the in-house caliber 94200.

Longines Legend Diver historical watches

Longines Legend Diver

The name says it all: The Longines Legend Diver is regarded as Longines’ best-selling heritage model, and for good reason. Based on the Longines Nautilus Skin Diver from the 1950s, both sport the iconic Super Compressor which features two crowns on the right side of the case, reminiscent of early divers’ watches.

Other familiar features include an internal bezel, and elongated minute and hour markers on the dial for increased legibility. Longines went as far as to put a faux patina on the luminous markers to recreate the look of a vintage Skin Diver. Not every feature was an aesthetic consideration, however; it now boasts of improved water resistance, rated up to 300 meters, and features a date window is added for functionality.

Panerai Radiomir PAM00687 historical watches

Panerai Radiomir PAM00687

With the yellow to orange gradient on the dial, the first impression of this watch is usually a reaction to Panerai’s unusual choice of colors. Looking back at this history of this design, however, reveals a much more serious, somewhat dark subject: the use of radium in watches in the 1920s. A highly radioactive and toxic material that can be fatal to whoever comes in contact with it, it was embedded into now-defunct Panerai-patented luminous paint, which was subsequently applied onto the original Radiomir dials by so-called Radium Girls. After the discovery of the element’s effects on health, Panerai stopped the use of radium.

The current iteration of the Radiomir replicates the aesthetic qualities provided by radium—such as the gradual discoloration caused by radiation on the originally black dial—albeit in a much safer way.

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special historical watches

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special

Zenith has nearly a century of experience making pilot’s watches—the first in 1909—and clearly has a firm grasp of what they should be, even manufacturing one for Louis Bleriot when he became the first man to fly across the English Channel. The idea of the pilot’s watch as we know it today, in fact, draws much of its looks and functions from Zenith’s original iterations.

The oversized case and dial, bold Arabic numerals, cathedral hands, and onion crown were all featured in the watch created for Bleriot, inspired by the onboard instruments also manufactured by Zenith. The current Extra Special is an ode to this iconic design that started it all.

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