Feeling nostalgic? This may be right up your alley. In our new series Back in Time, we’ll be exploring each decade to see what types of luxury watch models made their debut during the era. For our first stop, we’re traveling back to the nineties, which is an often-overlooked period in the modern history of watches. Read on and you may be surprised at the list of luxury watches born in the 1990s.
1992 – Rolex Yacht-Master
In 1992, Rolex unveiled its first entirely new model in over a decade. It was the Yacht-Master, a nautical-inspired luxury sports watch. The Rolex Yacht-Master was practical thanks to details like a water-resistance rating of 100 meters, a bidirectional rotating timing, and a date window on the dial. Yet it was also ultra-luxurious due to its full yellow gold construction, from its 40mm Oyster case to its three-link Oyster bracelet.
Not only has this particular luxury watch born in the 1990s endured but Rolex has expanded the collection to become the most varied sports watch in its catalog. Available in an assortment of sizes and materials, the Yacht-Master has become a mainstay in Rolex’s lineup.
1993 – Omega Seamaster Diver 300M
While Omega had a long history of making diving watches, their most popular model today–the Seamaster Diver 300M–is less than three decades old. Omega launched the Seamster Diver 300M in 1993, first as a quartz only model and quickly followed by automatic versions. This particular Omega diving watch was decidedly dressier than past divers from the brand, sporting details like a scalloped bezel, sword-shaped hands, and a wave-patterned dial. The popularity of the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M really took off after it was worn by Pierce Brosnan in the 1995 James Bond film, GoldenEye. Ever since then, an Omega Seamaster has always graced 007’s wrist.
In true Omega fashion, the Seamaster Diver 300M is now a vast collection of models ranging from time and date models to chronographs to GMT editions. There are also plenty of material options, colorways, and case sizes to choose from, not to mention versions for men and ladies.
1993 – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore
The Royal Oak Offshore was launched in 1993 as a new iteration of the iconic Royal Oak (which of course was the Gerald Genta-designed Audemars Piguet sports watch first released in 1972.) Nicknamed “The Beast” because of its imposing 42mm size and design, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore took the fundamental silhouette of the Royal Oak but added a visible black gasket under the familiar octagonal bezel, made the links of the famous integrated bracelet curvier, and furnished the chronograph pushers and winding crown with silicon caps.
Although it was met with plenty of criticism during its launch, the Royal Oak Offshore chronograph is now an integral part of Audemars Piguet’s offering, available in plenty of style variations.
1994 – A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Walter Lange had a dream to bring back his family’s watchmaking business founded by his great grandfather, Ferdinand Adolph Lange, in 1845. Together with his partner Günter Blümlein, Walter Lange unveiled the first four watches of the revived A. Lange & Söhne brand. One of these four timepieces was the Lange 1, which has gone on to become the flagship watch model of the exclusive German watchmaker.
With its unique off-center dial layout comprising of an oversized date display, a power reserve indicator, running seconds subdial, and hour/minutes subdial, the A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 was a hit with fine watch connoisseurs from the start. Today, the Lange 1 collection has expanded to include models with additional complications such as moonphase, tourbillon, dual time, and more, yet the watch never strays from its distinct asymmetrical dial design.
1995 – Cartier Tank Française
Ever since the invention of the Tank watch in 1917, Cartier had always kept it fresh by continuously creating new versions of the famed timepiece. And in 1995, Cartier launched the Tank Française with a chain-link bracelet as its signature design trait. Developed for a younger, modern audience, the Tank Française collection soon welcomed full stainless steel editions to sit alongside the full gold and two-tone versions.
The stainless steel Cartier Tank Française went on to become the must-have luxury watch among the fashion-set in the nineties and its enduring popularity continues a quarter-of-a-century later.
1997 – Panerai Radiomir
Although the Radiomir name had been a part of Panerai’s lexicon since 1916, Radiomir referred to a radium-based luminescent material the company patented and not a watch model. The first Panerai Radiomir model was released in 1997, the same year the Vendome Group (now known as the Richemont Group) purchased the Panerai brand. Inspired by the Panerai prototypes given to the Royal Italian Navy in 1936, the inaugural Panerai Radiomir sported a massive 47mm case with a flared crown, wire lugs, and a stark black dial with highly luminescent hands and hour markers.
Not only was the first Panerai Radiomir in platinum and limited to just 60 pieces but it was also powered by vintage Rolex / Cortebert movement apparently found at the company’s premises after Vendome took over. The success of the first Radiomir model paved the way for the now expansive Panerai Radiomir collection.
1997 – Patek Philippe Aquanaut
The 1990s was a busy decade for Patek Philippe with the brand launching several models such as the Annual Calendar complication, the Twenty-4 ladies’ watch, and of course, the sporty Aquanaut. Envisioned as a pared-down version of the immensely popular Nautilus, the Aquanaut was positioned as a younger sports watch for a new generation. Like the Nautilus, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut also featured a rounded octagonal bezel, yet its case was simpler in construction and smaller in size. Furthermore, emphasizing its sportiness, the Aquanaut came equipped with a rubber “Tropical” strap, ultra-resistant to saltwater and UV rays–perfect for the beach. Plus, the matching checkered pattern of the strap and dial was an eye-catching design detail of the Aquanaut.
Although the Aquanaut was initially regarded as the Nautilus “lite,” the popularity of the younger Patek sports watch model has risen tremendously over recent years. These days, the Aquanaut collection, which has since been joined by plenty of different models, enjoys its own cult following and is now recognized as a highly collectible Patek Philippe watch.
Young by watch history standards yet already well-established models within watch enthusiast circles, these famous luxury watches born in the 1990s will no doubt carry on for decades to come. Stay tuned for the next installment of our Back in Time series, where we’ll be delving into the timepieces born in the 1980s.