The Watch Column - 70s Style

In his debut column, our time lord, James Gurney, celebrates the return of the Seventies.

Like it or not, the Seventies are making a comeback. But how to redeem the decade that, in many eyes, style forgot? Aside from a spat of good tailors and some iconic music, there was one area in which the Seventies excelled - watch design.

Sixties restraint disappeared with the snap of a stacked heel, thanks in no small part to designer Gérald Genta’s iconic designs for Audemars Piguet (the Royal Oak watch), IWC (the Ingenieur SL), Patek Philippe (the Nautilus) and Bulgari, all of which have now been reinterpreted for today’s watch-buyer.

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Others from Breitling, Tag Heuer, Piaget, Zenith and Hamilton have also reappeared in more or less original form, in a trend beginning to take shape in the Swiss valleys. Here are four surviving Genta originals.

01
In modern form, it owes less to the original Genta design than the others here, but the IWC Ingenieur SL was initially conceived to compete with the Nautilus and Royal Oak, and Genta was happy to provide a yet further evolution of the design. £9,950 IWC.com

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02
Bulgari introduced a Genta detail which became standard for watch designers: using the bezel for branding rather than timing. The brand was initially reluctant to go with the design, but it soon became a modern icon. £3,410 bulgari.com

03
The Royal Oak was the first of Genta’s designs to really break the mould. A luxury steel watch with a case so complex it cost more than many gold watches, its hexagonal bezel and port-hole screws have been copied ever since. £11,110 audemarspiguet.com

04
Patek Philippe’s Nautilus, one of the first luxury sports watches, was the definitive Seventies timepiece; note the smoky dials, the integration of case and bracelet and the organic nature of the whole design. £34,460 patek.com

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