While visiting the 2017 Basel fair three weeks ago I saw clear indications of what I came to define as Newstalgia. Better described as “the love of old things from the past revived in what designers call ‘the contemorary classic'”, Newstalgia has been present in fashion and interior design for quite some time now. More than vaguely reminisce of vintage products, the trend consists in faithfully emulating the days of yore by using materials that take a patina.
According to my research, Newstalgia is poised to overtake the “minimalist” trend that has mushroomed in the watch market for the last five years. Brands like Oxygen (www.oxygen-watch.com) and Festina were showcasing new products in Basel as evidence that they have clearly negotiated the turn.
The Newstalgia trend can be traced back to homage micro-brand, which from the early 2000’s until this day have been digging in the well of aesthetic cues left by discontinued watches from iconic brands such as Rolex, Tudor, Officine Panerai, and Omega. Modern brands like Crepas, Halios and t·a·c·t·i·c·o have raised the attention to detail to new levels, and as a consequence some of the established brands eventually decided to respond to this rising demand by releasing re-editions of models from their own history: Longines Legend Diver, Tudor Black Bay, Ball Skindiver II, Oris Sixty-Five, Squale.
It works because a brand points back to its own heritage and plays on the promise that because the design has successfully travelled across decades, the current re-edition can be expected to do the same. But what do you do when you are a newly founded brand without history?
You could create an epic story about the inception of your brand, which the consumer may or may not buy into, but by doing so you would placing yourself in a spot where all that competition needs to catch up with you is the pen.
Or instead, you could focus on differentiating yourself through design and by emulating commonplace cues found in old records. Newstalgia is to watchmaking what cover songs are to music: the consumer is already familiar with the cues, and all you have to do as a brand is to capitalise on that familiarity. The 1950’s and 1960’s saw a boom in creativity in watchmaking, and there are hundreds of different designs, so there is plenty to drink and eat for everybody.
Where Newstalgia breaks with the decade of homage watches that preceded it is that instead of focusing on sports watches, it embraces all styles. Over the last five years, brands like Andersmann, Clairette, Corniche, Dan Henry, Evant and Orlo watches have been walking off the beaten path to venture on this upcoming trend. The Kickstarter watch brand Clairette exceeded its goal of SEK 150,000 on February 7th, 2017, with about 100 backers. Their campaign was based on two watch sizes (34 mm and 38 mm) with a design inspired by the 1950’s. The case is reminiscent of the Patek Philippe 3970, and the dial and hands bear resemblance to the Patek Philippe 2526. While they might not have come up with a completely novel product, Clairette successfully adds to the growing list of micro-brands that capitalise on this “Newstalgia” wave.
The trend is further confirmed by the growing popularity of vintage watches at auctions. As independent watchmaking journalist Gregory Pons puts it: “customers no longer want today’s watches from yesterday’s brands. They want yesterday’s watches from today’s brand.”. Old is becoming the new “new”.