Vintage-inspired watches are very popular today, and for a good reason. Vintage styles still popular today are designed with such timelessness, their track record reaches back over decades, often centuries.
So what design qualities determine if a watch is vintage or not? Naturally, the categorization is somewhat subjective and not set in stone. There are however certain design choices that carry a distinct vintage feel: the shape of the case that resembles an original inspiration (a good example of this is cushion-shaped cases that were very popular in the ‘60s and ‘70s), the size of the case (usually smaller than 40mm), or the domed crystal that also gives a watch that cool vintage look.
Now, the other element that can make a watch look vintage, is the patina. The most common example is when light color dials darken over time.
But in this article, our focus is something even more specific: we’re talking about a design that mimics the old lume as over time they turn yellow – a darker yellow, closer to a mustard yellow hue. This look brings a touch of class (in our opinion) as we love the interplay of the aged lume set against a crispy clean, new dial. Let’s take a close look at this cool effect.
The aged retro lume is achieved on purpose today, and it is called “faux patina”, or “fauxtina”. It became a popular design element, as the unique color imitating the natural aging of the radium or tritium used for the lume provides a certain warmth and character to the overall look. Since manufacturers look at discoloration as a failure, not a feature, they’re using materials nowadays that prevent discoloration over time. As a result, natural patina is not likely to occur, and is done purposely as a design element.
You’ll hear different opinions regarding the faux patina. “Purists” will say if you like the vintage look, go for an actual vintage watch.
In our opinion, it’s more complex than that. The main benefit of a watch with faux patina is not to be overlooked: you’ll get a vintage look with modern, durable materials, not to mention the newest technology when it comes to movement.
Here’s our take on the debate: if you like the design of a watch, that’s all that matters. We do not think new watches with faux patina (fauxtina) are trying to fake heritage for themselves. It’s a modern take on a look that happened accidentally due to aged lume, and the result was a surprisingly intriguing appearance with a warm color-tone. We love these vintage-inspired timepieces that are painting the hour and minute indices with a warmer color to create an aged look and feel.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the best faux-patina watches that have beautiful vintage lume to bring some warmth to your collection. We’ve collected watches across all different price categories to provide a comprehensive list of the available options.
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Benrus Sea Lord Diver
The Benrus Sea Lord Diver watch was one of the most popular Benrus watches back in the day, and deservedly so. Understated in its simplicity, the design highlights the classic features of a robust dive watch. The overall design makes this watch a versatile addition to a collection as it can easily be dressed up for more formal events, or down for more casual, sporty activities. In other words, it’s a great everyday go-to watch. The 39 mm case width makes it perfectly comfortable for all wrist sizes. The wide baton hour and minute hands pair well with the understated features of the watch, while the black dial and the faux patina for the hour markers counterbalances the ruggedness and brings a touch of elegance. The Benrus Sea Lord comes with the Soprod P024 Swiss automatic movement, providing a 38-hour power reserve.
Vaer A3 Tradition
Vaer watches are assembled in the USA, and the Vaer A3 blends class-leading durability with a combination of a rugged look and classic elements to display an evergreen field watch design. The 36 mm case width is on the smaller side (like the classic field watches), therefore it’s a great fit for smaller wrists as well. The classic syringe hour and minute hands give a touch of elegance to the VAER A3.
VAER D5 Pacific
Another options from VAER. the D5 is a very robust dive watch. Serrated bezel is combined with bold hour and minute indices on the dial with faux patina, making it the visual center of the watch. The width of the case is 39 mm, and the lug-to-lug distance is 48 mm, so we would say it’s a medium-sized timepiece. The VAER D5 comes with the Sellita SW200 automatic Swiss movement, providing a 40-hour power reserve.
Longines Legend Diver
The Longines Legend Diver is a modern interpretation of a classic 1960s diver watch that is part of the brand’s Heritage collection. It maintains the same design elements as the original timepiece, but has been updated with current technical features. This vintage-inspired timepiece with the mesh bracelet is perfect as an everyday watch, and would be an excellent addition to any collection!
Dan Henry 1975 Skin Diver
The Dan Henry 1975 is a ’70s inspired skin diving watch that can be your everyday go-to timepiece. The vintage elements of the dial are made a bit more dynamic with the bright orange second hand. The reliable Miyota 9015 automatic movement provides 42 hours of power reserve, and the case at 39 mm width makes this a perfect fit for all wrist sizes.
Spinnaker Fleuss Black
The Spinnaker Fleuss is built with a nostalgic nod to the golden age of the dive watch. It’s a tough, dependable timepiece that goes from beach to boardroom with ease, thanks to the best in watchmaking techniques. The deep, dark red tones come alive with a sunray treated dial, bringing boldness to your wrist.
Hamilton Khaki Field Murph – The Interstellar watch
We had to include this one from Hamilton. Not just any watch, mind you. This is the watch that saved the world in the movie ‘Interstellar’. The beautiful Hamilton classic that Coop (Matthew McConaughey) left for his daughter before departing on his mission to the stars. The watch was then used as a tool to communicate coordinates in Morse code from another dimension, enabling Murph Cooper (the daughter) to complete an equation and therefore save humanity from complete destruction. As a well-deserved nod to the movie, the word “Eureka” is printed on the seconds hand in Morse code in lacquer. A great watch with an awesome background story? YES please.
Omega Seamaster Railmaster
A functional yet stylish anti-magnetic watch, the original OMEGA Railmaster was created in 1957 for railroad employees, or anybody else who frequently came into contact with electrical fields. These days, its inventiveness and industrial spirit have been modernized for a contemporary collection.
The “blue denim” dial’s brushed stainless steel hands and recessed hour markers are all filled with light grey Super-LumiNova. The dial is vertically brushed. Additionally, the transferred “Railmaster” signal and beige center seconds hand add a vintage touch.
The Omega Seamaster Railmaster is often overlooked but it’s a wonderful timepiece with a very elegant look.
Bell & Ross BR V2-92 Steel Heritage
When it comes to Bell & Ross, we usually think of their iconic square case models. However, the brand has other equally impressive designs, and the BR V2-92 Steel Heritage is a great example. A classic design with black bezel and dial combined with the sand colored numerals as if aged by the patina of time. The case itself is using a mix if polished and satin-finished stainless steel to provide a very elegant look to counterbalance the retro dial.
Oris Divers Sixty-Five
The Oris Divers Sixty-Five is a retro-inspired watch that pays tribute to Oris’s first divers watches, particularly a model from 1965. Our favorite detail from the vintage-inspired design is the old-school crown that provides a timeless and elegant look, and makes this timepiece a great go-to watch for your everyday needs.
Certina DS PH200M
The Certina DS PH200M is a contemporary re-edition of a classic dive watch. With its characteristic domed ceramic bezel and vintage charm, this dive watch is definitely an attention-grabber and a statement piece. The watch is on the larger side of things with its 42.8 mm case width. The dark dial and black bezel is broken up by a silver ring between them, a very interesting and effective design solution to visually separate elements.
The serrated bezel and crown provide a dynamic look, which works as a great contrast with the more sophisticated Milanese mesh stainless steel bracelet. The outline of the minute and hour hands in rose gold color connects the dial with the bezel, as the bezel is using a brownish color for its markers, which obviously a nod towards vintage-style lume (sometimes referred to as “fauxtina”, a combination of “faux” and “patina’). While some people don’t like a forced vintage look, we think this Certina timepiece has created a very tasteful design, and it is more of embracing the heritage, than trying to look something from a different time period.
Baltic Aquascaphe Dual-Crown Blue
Baltic is quickly becoming a favorite among watch enthusiasts, and it’s easy to see why. The 39 mm wide case is a great size for all wrists, and the brushed stainless steel with the black dial color and the faux patina finish for the hour markers give an overall elegant look. The bezel’s minute markers have the same color to visually connect it to the dial. The Miyota 9039 caliber automatic Japanese movement is a reliable movement with 42 hours of power reserve.
Doxa SUB 200 Sharkhunter
Doxa introduced the SUB 200 Sharkhunter in 2019. This diver’s watch is a straight-to-the-point design, a three-hand movement classic look, with the windorwdial at the 3 o’clock position. With a diameter measuring 42 mm, the SUB 200 boasts a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal that is complemented by an anti-reflective coating and the classic curved shape reminiscent of the plexiglass used in the past. It is capable of withstanding water pressure up to 200 meters (20 ATM) and incorporates a unidirectional rotating bezel. All components essential for diving-related information, including the bezel, are coated with Super-LumiNova® for luminosity.
The YEMA Pearldiver was inspired by the 1970s, and there are some beautiful vintage elements: the dome crystal, the black coated hands with the white lollipop seconds hand, and of course the creamy hue of the hour markers and hands to resemble the retro feel.
The YEMA Pearldiver is equipped with YEMA’s in-house automatic movement, the YEMA2000, a 29-jewel caliber providing 42 hours of power reserve. The 38 mm case width is great for smaller wrists as well, while the 14 mm case height will make sure the watch won’t feel small on bigger wrists.