Reissues, Recreations and Reimagining
In the 116 years since the first men’s wristwatch was produced, the industry has explored design, innovation, and craft to create hundreds of thousands of watches. Many of us simplify this range of options by following certain Brands. Brands simplify their options by sticking to certain styles or types of watches. There is however, a lot of overlap between brands as fashions come and go, and styles evolve.
This overlap is where things can get controversial. Can we ever say that brands copy each other directly? What does it really mean to say watch is just a copy of another brand’s model? This question has come up this month because of one new watch in particular; the new Breitling Datora Chronograph calendar.
Breitling's Chronograph History
Established by Leon Breitling in 1884, Breitling was a leader in the early years of wristwatches, being the first to sell a chronograph, or stop watch, with an independent button to control the timing feature. It repeated this success with a watch in 1934 that had two buttons, one to start and stop the timing, and one to reset it. This made it easier to use than previous chronographs, which were controlled using a button on the crown.
In the 1940s the company produced some beautiful chronographs, known as Breitling Premiers, and then introduced a fabulously complicated watch, the Breitling Datora Moonphase, in 1947. This watch combined the time keeping mechanism, an annual calendar, moon phase, and chronograph all in the same slim watch case. It was powered by the mighty Valjoux 88 movement, which is related to the Valjoux 72, which powered many of the most famous chronographs produced in the 20th century.
Vintage Breitling Datora
Is the Breitling Datora a Copy of the Patek Philippe 5270P?
To fast forward to the 2020s, Breitling is this year relaunching a Datora watch. Three years ago, the Breitling Premier was launched, and is a core part of the range for more “dress style” watches. The Datora is an extension of the line, and looks fantastic. The controversy begins here however, as they have decided to create a model with a steel case and copper, or “salmon pink” coloured dial.
This means it looks very similar to one of the most coveted, collectible, and costly watches on earth, the Patek Phillippe Reference 5270P. Upon seeing this launch, the watch community immediately accused Breitling of copying the Patek design.
The debate is all centred around the idea of a reissue, a recreation, or a homage. If a company reimagines an old watch in new colours, is that a copy? Breitling say it is not. Strong colours were used in the 1940s, including Salmon pink, and the Brand has a history of using colours across the last 80 years. The Datora clearly has numerals, the subdials and the moonphase in its original design, and does so today. The similarities to the Patek are obvious, and the today’s Patek calendar chronograph moonphase has itself evolved from a similar watch they also launched in the 1940s.
Patek Philippe 5270P
Both then and now, both brands are trying to design watches people want. Current fashion is for strongly coloured dials, as well as using Roman numerals on watch faces. Selling watches with many functions, or complications is also popular as it means they are at a higher price point for the Brand. Many watch lovers are cautious about buying vintage watches, and prefer the modern manufacturing standards, waterproofing, and warranty coverage. Reimagining and reissuing watches provides customers with great design with very high quality manufacturing, especially from brands such as Breitling and Patek Phillipe, where all the watches are chronometer certified.
Modern Breitling Toptime - A Reissue of a Vintage Model
We at The Watch Collectors’ Club do not think there is a scandal here. We think that we are all better off if customers have more choice, and that brands reimagining or reissuing past models is a great way to highlight their heritage and expertise. Creating high quality watches of similar styles is normal in the history of the industry, and often is done simply to cater to different price points. We expect this to continue, and we will continue to enjoy exploring and examining great looking watches whoever makes them.
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