6 Vintage Watches You Should Have In Your Collection

Image Credit: Dan Henry

Most watchmakers that bear the name of their founder exist because the person in question couldn’t find the watch they were looking for so decided to design their own. Dan Henry took a different tack. He had the watches – over 1,500 of them to be precise – and others wanted them too.

Dan Henry is a watch collector, one as enamoured with a watch’s aesthetic as he is with the stories they contain. This passion for collecting, which started at the age of 10 when he was given a Roskopf pocket watch, led first to documenting his finds on Instagram and then to creating timeline.watch. This site lists his collection chronologically alongside descriptions of the era in which they were designed, creating a connection between the watch and the historical and technological factors that culminated in its launch.

Unsurprisingly this garnered interest from vintage watch collectors as well as frustration that they couldn’t also get their hands on a particular model. Henry came up with the idea of creating his own line of collectable vintage-style watches, each one a representation of a moment in time and named after the year whose design inspired it.

Dan Henry vintage watches

All the watches are limited edition, with the run number dictated by the year the watch is inspired by. Once the run is sold out, another one isn’t made – a decision that creates a real impetus to buy and collect.

There’s also an element of customisation. Depending on the watch, you can choose case size, what colourway you’d like, which type of strap, whether to opt for a date or not, and even whether to have an automatic or quartz movement. Henry has cleverly chosen his incredibly well-priced collection to represent the quintessential types of watch that comprise a watch wardrobe – from diver to pilot, chronograph to steel bracelet.

These are the six styles we’d start with (and wouldn’t want to miss out on).

1937 – The Dress Chronograph

This just edged it over the 1939 because it is billed as a ‘dress chronograph’, a rather unusual beast in the watch world. The look is a tribute to the Art Deco look of 1930s New York and the lines and curves of buildings such as the Chrysler or the Empire State can be seen in the dial.

There is a lot of information on the dial, but it is perfectly balanced. The two sub-dials can either be positioned vertically or horizontally and there is also a tachymeter scale, should you want to do some distance calculations.

The case is a period-appropriate 38mm and on its back is engraved the profile of the legendary New York Central Hudson locomotive, first built in 1927. There are two leather straps on offer: a more daytime brown and an evening-attire black.

You have the option of two silver dials – one with blued and gold hands, the other all silver – a chocolate dial with gold hands and scale markings, and an onyx dial with silver hands and markings. There is a ‘date or no date’ decision to be made. The correct decision is always the latter.

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1945 – The WWII Chronograph

It is universally acknowledged that every watch collection must contain a pilot’s watch. This particularly muscular version is inspired by the cockpit instruments designed by UK-based Smiths and US manufacturer Bendix for Allied aircraft during WWII.

With its 41.5mm case, this certainly is a cockpit instrument for the wrist. The oversized pushers and crown – necessary for having to work your watch while wearing pilot’s gloves – add to its presence on the wrist.

With its telemeter, useful for predicting distance from luminous objects, tachymeter for calculating average speed over a distance of 1,000 units and chronograph, it could feasibly be used for in-air calculations. As is required for a pilot’s watch, this design has legible numerals on its coin-shaped bezel, which also has a GMT function and the red triangle at 12 o’clock for at-a-glance time recognition.

The numerals and centrally mounted hands are filled with green Super-LumiNova, the caseback is embossed with the RAF Spitfire and under it is a super-accurate Miyota quartz movement.

Depending on whether you opt for the all-black dial or the Evil Panda (black dial, white sub-dials) the easy-change retro-stitched strap will be black or brown leather, respectively, and you have to make that ‘date or no date’ call again. 

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1962 – The Racing Chronograph

Panda-dialled 1960s chronographs are catnip to collectors thanks to their retro-cool, automotive associations and monochrome palette. This 1962 embodies all these things.

It has the three sub-dials for elapsed time, hours and minutes, a pristine white dial (should you choose the classic panda) against which are black sub-dials, and subtle colour pops from the two red hands. Completing the vintage vibe is the perforated strap that comes with the true panda dial.

There are three other colourways available – Evil Panda, a dark chocolate shade called Gilt, and Blue with orange accents – but for our money you can’t beat the classic Panda.

As a nod to the race-driving associations with this design, the caseback is embossed with a Maserati Tipo 60 Birdcage. This watch is powered by a Seiko meca-quartz movement, a hybrid that uses a quartz movement to control the timekeeping functions whereas the chronograph’s stopwatch functions are recorded by a mechanical module. It gives the pushers the agricultural, tactile feel of a mechanical movement but with the lifespan and accuracy of quartz.

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1964 – Gran Turismo Chronograph

If the previous watch was for hooning it around Silverstone, or pretending to at least, this is for sweeping stylishly around the curving roads of the Italian Riviera. It’s elegant yet sporty and looks great with linen. In fact, it’s so 007 in Casino Royale it even has an Aston DB5 embossed on its caseback.

It comes in two dial layout options – bicompax and tricompax – and five colour variations: White Panda (white dial black subs), Silver Panda (silver dial, black subs), Evil Panda, Silver, and Slate Grey. All fabulous, but for our money, it’s the Slate Grey Bicompax that shows this design in its best light.

The case is 38mm and it comes on a stylish ‘grain of rice’ bracelet along with a stitched leather strap in a complementary shade. For instance, Slate Grey comes with one in a lovely light tan, which can be switched while on the move thanks to Dan Henry’s Easy Release system. Just don’t do it while driving, you’re not actually James Bond you know.

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1970 – The Automatic Diver

Along with a chronograph, the most useful watch in the world is a diving watch. Thanks to that water resistance, you literally never need to take it off. Luckily Dan Henry has two exceptional versions.

First up is the 1970. It features one of the most revolutionary, and also coolest to look at, advances in horological technology – the internal rotating bezel. Most brands opt for external rotating bezels, which add a reassuring heft to a dive watch, but an internal one brings sartorial sophistication and a sense of depth to the dial while losing nothing in the practicality stakes.

The indices and hands are large and LumiNova filled for easy viewing underwater and the strap is rubber. It has 200m water resistance and the caseback is screwed down and embossed with a Scaphtopus (octopus in a vintage dive helmet, apparently) 3D medal under which is an automatic Seiko movement.

Available in two substantial case sizes (40mm and 44mm), it’s one for those with the wrist to carry it off.

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1975 – The Skin Diver

If the 1970 is too much watch for you, then there is the 1975. It’s slimmer, smaller (37mm or 39mm case diameter) and more streamlined.

It still boasts an impressive 150m water resistance, rotating bezel (external this time) and lumed-up indices on dial, bezel and hands, but in a more compact form making it a ‘beach to bar’ transition piece and the perfect vacation watch.

There are lots of choices to be made with both models. You can pick between a high-beat automatic or a quartz movement; a tropic strap (i.e. rubber with cutouts), regular strap or bracelet; and four different dial colours with either steel or complementary shade bezel.

For us, a 39mm Orange automatic on a tropic strap with no date is the killer combination. But feel free to disagree.

Buy now at Dan Henry

Laura McCreddie-Doak

Mrs Laura McCreddie-Doak is one of the UK’s foremost horological journalists. And one half of the watch world’s most revered power couple, alongside fellow journalist (and husband) Alex Doak. Laura’s expertise range the entire spectrum from iconic to niche watches, and everyday timepieces in between.