close up of 1950s watch

1950s Watches: How Do 1950s Watches Differ From Modern Watches?

1950s watches were defined by modesty and minimalism; it was believed that less is more when it comes to watch designs. Having said that, the post-war economic boom allowed for a new market of luxury watches to open up. High-end brands such as Rolex and Omega were dominating the industry in this era.

Read on to learn all about the classic watches of the 50s and see five stunning examples.

Watch Movements

1950s white dial watch

1950s watches were mainly mechanical. This means they were high maintenance as they needed to be wound regularly. However, many watch enthusiasts enjoy this process of winding as it helps them connect with their timepiece.

Certain watches in the 1950s were automatic, particularly watches from luxury brands such as Breitling and Enicar. The public was beginning to see the appeal of automatic watches; they are self-winding and they last an impressively long time.

As for quartz, this wasn’t invented until 1969, so 1950 watches did not have the high precision that watches of 2021 boast.


1950s gold watch

Minimalism was all the rage in this era, so timepieces tended to be small and subtle. For example, the dials would be petite and either square or round shaped. It was believed that minimalist watches appeared more elegant.

On the other hand, some 1950s style watches were incredibly luxurious. High-end brands would produce watches with powerful black dials and plenty of jewels. These antique vintage watches were a status symbol for consumers of the 1950s.

Rolex Tool Watches

1950s Rolex oyster perpetual

When we think of 1950 wrist watches, we think of Rolex. While the general trends were minimalism and subtlety, Rolex changed the game by producing many advanced tool timepieces.

The Rolex Submariner was released in 1953. Even the advertisement, a clip of Swiss-born Auguste Piccard going underwater with his Submariner, was bold and extravagant. The watch itself featured a black dial that resembled many watches of the time. However, its sophisticated silver bracelet set it apart from the typical brown watch straps that dominated the industry.

Rolex also released the GMT-Master in the 1950s, the watch that featured in Goldfinger. It had an incredible water resistance of 50m as well as an alluring red and blue rotating bezel. The gold tone of this timepiece is symbolic of the 1950s as gold was a popular option for luxury watches.

How 1950s Watches Compare To The Watches Of Today

apple watch on wrist

Firstly, the trend of minimalism has not yet disappeared from today’s watchmaking industry. 1950s watches flaunted petite, simple dials and a block colour throughout. Nowadays, we still see many minimalist timepieces with modest colours and designs. The Uniform Wares collection is proof that minimalism is timeless.

Secondly, mechanical watches have not gone out of style. The retro wrist watch remains desirable to this day as it symbolises the rich history of the watchmaking industry. However, we are also spoilt with more automatic and quartz timepieces than ever before, whereas the 1950s was dominated by mechanical movements.

One differences between watches of the 1950s and today’s watches is the watch strap material. 1950s watch brands often used pig skin for their watch straps as it was textured and durable. In 2021, we tend to see more leather straps and metal bracelets as they are both sustainable and fashionable.

Another thing that distinguishes 1950s watches from 2020s watches is the invention of digital watches. The first digital watch was released in 1970. From then, we have been spoilt with advanced complications on our watches. The smartwatches of today appear incredibly futuristic compared to the simplistic antique style watches of the 1950s.

5 Watches From The 1950s

Check out our list of our 5 favourite watches from the 50’s and give your wardrobe a blast from the past!

5. Enicar, Sherpa Dive

Enicar sherpa dive watch

In the 1950s, classic antique watches from high-end brands sometimes boasted automatic movement. The Enicar Sherpa Drive is a classic example of this. Its robust black dial has an air of masculinity that is desirable even in men’s watches of 2021. What’s more, the rotating bezel adds a touch of luxury that only a brand as prestigious as Enicar could achieve.

4. Breitling, Navitimer

Breitling navitimer watch

This Breitling beauty is another great example of a 1950s vintage wrist watch. The chronograph feature has remained desirable throughout the ages, and it manages to produce a traditional look on this Navitimer product. In terms of practicality, this timepiece is made of robust stainless steel and is water resistant to an impressive 30m.

3. Omega, Constellation

Omega constellation watch

This 18k solid yellow gold timepiece shows us exactly why gold-toned watches were so popular in the 1950s; it could not appear more sophisticated. Inside this watch is a mechanical movement that proudly holds onto the history of watchmaking.

2. Rolex, GMT-Master

Rolex GMT Master watch

We couldn’t introduce you to 1950s style mens watches without including a Rolex design somewhere. Rolex truly changed the course of watchmaking with its tool watches such as this GMT-Master. The dual-toned rotating bezel and creatively shaped hour markers are brand-specific features we recognise even today.

1. Rolex, Submariner

Rolex Submariner watch

Finally, we have the wonderful Rolex Submariner, a prime example of Rolex’s quest for quality. Made of stainless steel, this timepiece withstands significant damage. The sapphire crystal dial only adds to its level of durability and successfully protects this luxury product from wear and tear.

Our Final Thoughts On Watches From The 1950s

Jaeger-LeCoultre automatic watch

Though the watch industry has come a long way since the 1950s, we can see that many of the trends still exist today. Minimalism and mechanical movements are not going anywhere soon.

If you would like to acquire a vintage style watch without the antique watch price, browse our watches for sale.

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