You Don’t Get Much Defense Of The 70’s In Here But This Is An Argument For.

Editor’s Note:  I am right there with you, but Charles Bellinger makes a point.  Like almost everything, the 70’s weren’t all bad, and he has made a case here.  – JB

 

If aesthetics must be judged within the context of their time, then the watch world of the 60s and 70s was a lot like the sexual revolution that was happening concurrently.  If the 60s were all about pushing toward the limits of what was there, then the 70s were about throwing all that out and getting weird.  Hear me out, the 70s was bad for a lot of things but there was some genuinely brilliant style moves occurring at the time.  For watches, long time makers were letting loose, dropping pretense, and doing some pretty awesome stuff.

Its fair to say that a lot of things weren’t that great about the era.  The automotive world was in a period called the Malaise era.  Toward the end of the 70s Cadillac would offer a 7-liter V8 engine with a whopping 180 horsepower.   To put that in perspective its comparable to the output of the inline 4-cylinder engine currently found in the Mazda Miata.  There was also Stagflation in the states, economic decline in Britain (which would usher in Thatcherite reforms for good and bad) and the slow crawl of a Europe that had finally rebuilt after the Second World War and found it no longer had the ability to ascend ever higher riding on the economic headwinds of the Marshall Plan era.  Also, let us know forget the hideously proportioned leisure suit lapel widths and rash inducing textures of every polyester sport coat and trouser.

The 70’s for the Swiss watch industry meant something altogether different was coming down Disaster Pike.  The 70s meant the Quartz Crisis.  A quick browsing of Ebay and etsy will show any number of old Swiss watches.  Often with similar movements and price points as well as similar aesthetics and features.  A lot of them share movements with then (and still) big hitters such as Zodiac, Heuer, Rolex (not every movement was designed in house).  At the start of the 70s there was over 1600 watchmakers in Switzerland by the early 80s less than 600.  Switzerland is not that big and 1600 is an absolute over saturation.  Put into geographical context, Switzerland is about the size of two New Jerseys and while a Double Jersey could certainly house 1600 mediocre pizza joints, you can bet your bippy 1600 watch companies is a bit too much.

If you follow Timex, you’ll be aware of the relaunch of the Q line. It was their incredibly successful 70s quartz line up and its even more popular today.  It was in a lot of ways a snapshot of the industry at the time.  Here was an onslaught of new pieces featuring a technology that was accurate, easily maintained, and affordable.  Freed up resources allowed for cutting edge designs, new features such as digital lcd screens, multiple timers and stop watches.  Watch makers such as Seiko in the east and Timex in the west suddenly were at the front of the line while older steadfast makers were gutted and often left for dead.  Knowing that fast and cheap would not work, the bigger brands had to make it work on style and innovation like never before.

Exhibit A: The Rolex Cellini (all photos courtesy of Chrono24)

Approx. 1965:

 

 

Sure, its tasteful and elegant and I love it. It’s a perfectly handsome and reserved wristwatch I would wear any day of the week but by 1974:

 

 

Now that, that’s good. Its luxury, its fun. If it were able to be consumed, I would stick it right in my veins.  It says “Hello, this is luxury, I am beyond such simple trifles as taste and timidness.”

Example B: OMEGA

Omega as many are well aware are known for such timeless watches as the Seamaster and the Moonwatch. They are good solid watches I adore but look at this funky fabulousness:

1974 Omega Constellation

 

 

This just says chunky and funky and chic.  Its as disaster from a staid 50s Pie Pan model as you can get.

Here’s a 70s Omega Dynamic.  Its like a UFO for your wrist. I love it please give it to me posthaste:

 

 

Example C: Seiko

Even Quartz giant Seiko themselves, knowing that enthusiasts would cling to mechanical watches got all up in the funky stuff.  Take a gander at this:

The Pogue:

 

 

And The Bullhead:

 

 

Sure, the 70s had some rough bits but it also had some brilliant ones. Old brands found new life in a suddenly dynamic market.  Sports cars got smaller and more nimble and not quite so thirsty.  In France and Italy, the early to mid-70s saw a post war rebirth of elegance that put the aesthetic absurdity of America to shame.    If you’re watch tendencies are feeling a bit Pet Sounds and you want to take them up to Diamond Dogs, you owe it to yourself to leave the disco boots and leisure suit aesthetics of the era aside and check out some truly weird and funky pieces from our most maligned decade.

  • Charles Bellinger

27 Comments on "You Don’t Get Much Defense Of The 70’s In Here But This Is An Argument For."

  1. Stephen Polezonis | May 9, 2022 at 7:51 am | Reply

    Love watches from all eras, and certainly from the ‘70s! Omega Seamaster “Jedi”, Sears Heuer Chronograph to name just 2. Great article…thank you!

  2. whiskeydent | May 9, 2022 at 9:59 am | Reply

    “Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?”

  3. Philly Trad | May 9, 2022 at 10:06 am | Reply

    Were we able to find Ivy basics during the 70’s?
    Khakis? Rep stripe ties? grey flannel trousers? Weejuns? OCBDs? Harris tweed jackets? Navy blazers?
    Yes we were; they were readily available.
    That’s what counted for me, not those watches.

  4. Frederick J Johnson | May 9, 2022 at 11:14 am | Reply

    the only watch that has ever counted for me is the plain, ordinary, stainless steel, black face, large numeral, field watch. Several companies have made them but few remain.

  5. Bill Stephenson | May 9, 2022 at 1:46 pm | Reply

    Most will dismiss his out of hand. However, try it for a month. We no longer need a watch for its original purpose. The time is a close as our phone.

    We went through an unfortunate period when the man’s watch was a status symbol.

    The watch involves the need for minimization. Look at guys with a watch. The left cuff is all bunched up, and defeats the need for proper shirt sleeve length.

  6. Hardbopper | May 9, 2022 at 2:28 pm | Reply

    I’d rather wear a watch than carry a phone, and I do so because I can. So, sure, it’s a status symbol.

  7. Jesse Livermore | May 9, 2022 at 2:38 pm | Reply

    As I was walking down the street one day
    A man came up to me and asked me
    What the time was that was on my watch

  8. ..,and it prevents me from being late; not to where I have to be, but to where I want to be. I’d like to have another nice watch for variety, but I see they’ve about doubled in price over the last 10 years. On the other hand, (see what I did there) my daily wear watch takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Which watch to wear, where? See what I did there?

    Nicely done sir. – JB

  9. John Burton | May 9, 2022 at 2:53 pm | Reply

    There are a number of reasons to wear a watch and not carry a phone, ESPECIALLY if one is in a suit. Carrying a phone is… cumbersome. There’s a tech company out there that makes phones AND watches… wait, it’ll come to me… wait… oh yeah.

  10. Hardbopper | May 9, 2022 at 2:55 pm | Reply

    It’s about 6 to four…in Quebec.

  11. https://www.worldtimezone.com/wtz-map-military.html
    Q=Z-4. Quebec=Zulu minus four hours.

    When I say they’ve about doubled in price over the last 10 years, that’s on the second hand market. OK, I’m done.

  12. This is probably my favorite decade for watches. Lots of fun designs and great use of color, and no dinner-plate-on-the-wrist sizing. Theyre the horological equivalent of GTH pants. Sure, watches are unnecessary; that’s the point of wearing them.

  13. Ivy style is frozen in time (it just is; think about it— it is): early to mid/late 20th century. There are plenty of classic, handsome (understated) watches circa the 30s, 40s, and 50s. That was the Age of Elegance (and Anglophilia) in America, and notable gents of that era remain the paragon by which we measure everything(one) since.

    The Rolex 1016 (Explorer) is my favorite — frequently noticed, by the way, in certain social circles. Unlike, I note with a chuckle, a larger Submariner.

    Like clothes, a watch-as-accessory can speak volumes about the wearer. As status symbols go, because it’s ‘on’ you (your person), you’ll be much more closely connected/affiliated with it than, say, a car — or a house.

  14. * The car as status symbol is one of the more impressive bits of marketing/advertising trickery— ever. 99% of the people who see you (driving) in a car have no idea who you are. And who stops to behold you getting into (or out) of it?

    (When you wear something, it follows you (it’s quite literally on you), and the affiliation with you is repeated — reinforced. Yet another reason why clothes and accessories matter).

  15. AndrewK247 | May 9, 2022 at 4:19 pm | Reply

    There are times when it would look boorish to whip out your phone. When? – Concert, black tie affair, business meeting, funeral, church, dinner with people you care about. At those times, you might need a way to check what time it is. A watch also completes your appearance when you are “dressed up”.

    It’s a subtle way to express your style. I have a modest collection of 6 watches (each totally different), and usually only wear one on social occasions. Current favorite is a 1960’s vintage Waltham that I bought refurbished/serviced on Ebay. Smaller is better, and in that sense the pendulum is swinging correctly.

  16. AndrewK247 | May 9, 2022 at 4:35 pm | Reply

    There were many things wrong about the 1970’s, but it was the best decade by far for popular music.

  17. Hey all I appreciate the back and forth here and I really appreciate this site for letting a small time writer like me be featured.

    I would happily discuss cars and watches and tailoring till the cows come home!

  18. Hard pass. Not sure what any of the dreadfully ugly (sorry, “funky”) watches have to do with “Ivy Style” at all.

  19. Nutmeg Andy | May 9, 2022 at 11:39 pm | Reply

    In regards to the idea of just using a cellphone to tell time: I like simplicity, but a few things keep me firmly in the watch camp. Cell phones can run out of battery (so can quartz watches, but a mechanical won’t). When riding my bike, I use a handkerchief to fashion a shim and strap the watch to the handlebars so I don’t fumble with cuffs if I need the time. Lastly, not needing to pull out a phone can help with dangerous scenarios like robbery schemes. A common mugger tactic is to walk up to someone and ask for the time. When the person pulls out their their phone to read the time, BAM! Bye bye wallet, keys, phone, or all of the above. This happened a lot in New Haven a few years ago, people termed it ‘Apple Picking’.

  20. “Smaller is better, and in that sense the pendulum is swinging correctly.” – AndrewK247

    Yes, true.

  21. Apple Picking seems to come from a lack of situational awareness. Situational awareness is Ivy.

  22. Poison Ivy Leaguer | May 10, 2022 at 8:24 am | Reply

    @Philly Trad,
    In the 70’s the following were still alive: Jacob Reed, Wanamaker’s London Shop, Miller White, Morville’s trad department, LaSalle Neckwear (London 400), D’Alonzo-Lancaster, H.Freeman, Dimensions, and Jos.A.Bank was still a legitimate outlet store for a manufacturer in Baltimore.

  23. @Dennis,

    Re: “dreadfully ugly”.

    Always a pleasure to read an honest comment.

  24. Link to the throwback Rolex ad pic?

  25. nice post ! well done

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