80s watches

80s Watches: How Do 1980s Watches Differ From Today?

The 80s was a decade of pure indulgence. It saw mass urbanisation as young people left their rural hometowns to live a vibrant city lifestyle. These bustling cities became hubs of creativity, with each individual on a quest to find their personal style. This high level of creativity is reflected in 80s watches, which were undoubtedly decadent. They flaunted bold colours, unique designs, and the perfect mix between modern and vintage features.

Watch connoisseurs, enjoy this guide on all things 80s watches, from their distinct aesthetics to their robust materials.

Watch Movements

watch movements

Overall, 80s watches were a combination of modern quartz and vintage mechanical.

Long after the invention of quartz watches in 1969, quartz was still reigning supreme in the 80s. As a result, the vast majority of watches you see from this era will be of the quartz variety.

Yet, some of the best watches of the 80s were not quartz. This era saw a return to mechanical timepieces as watch enthusiasts craved their vintage appeal.


watch aesthetics

As we all know, the colour palette of the 80s was neon galore.

This extended to the watch industry, where bold, bright colours dominated. Reds, yellows and blues featured heavily in iconic 80s watches.

Even in the simpler metallic-coloured watches, we saw innovative designs such as the two-toned timepiece. While two-toned watches are commonplace in 2021, they once served as a reminder of decadent living.

Finally, minimalism was completely absent in 80s watch trends, so you will notice that most watches from this era possess large, bulky cases, which were desirable in terms of durability.

How Do 80s Watches Compare To Modern Watches?

80s watches

The brand that is most associated with 1980s watches is Swatch. They provided a wide range of affordable watches with an abundance of vibrant colours and designs. Owing to the budget-friendly prices, Swatch products were accessible to all, so it was common to see people with a large Swatch collection.

On the other hand, the biggest names in the watch industry are now Rolex and Patek Philippe, amongst others. These brands sell high-end, luxury timepieces, which suggests that the watch industry has evolved to become more elitist. Rolex and Patek Philippe timepieces are treasured as keepsakes or held onto for resale, which differs greatly from the Swatch concept of hoarding as many as possible. What’s more, the best-selling points of these watches are their high quality and craftsmanship, rather than purely aesthetics.

Speaking of aesthetics, 80s watches were made to be seen. The distinct designs may be seen as excessive in today’s world, but they blended in with the overall ostentatious fashion of the 1980s.

This contrasts with the minimalist approach that pervades the modern watch industry. Many watch aficionados believe that less is more, so they seek out neutral watches with a few bold features.

Where Did People Buy Their Watches?

In terms of where people bought their watches, so much has changed. Evidently, consumers of the 80s could not order watches online, so the shopping experience was perhaps more intimate, allowing for a greater initial connection with each purchase. However, this also meant that there were less timepieces available as people couldn’t take charge of the ordering process and purchase a watch from overseas.

Nowadays, of course, we frequently use the Internet to purchase watches. This means that we are spoilt with an abundance of timepieces to choose from, including pre-owned vintage creations. Even on this website alone, you have an incredible selection of men’s and women’s watches, each with its own unique selling points.

Finally, something that 80s watches have in common with the watches of 2021 is the combination of vintage and modern features. As previously mentioned, watch enthusiasts appreciated the retro appearance of contemporary quartz watches in the 1980s. This desire for balance has not gone away, with modern consumers still purchasing charming pocket watches and mechanical wrist watches.

5 Watches From The 80s

Check out our list of our 5 favourite watches from the 80’s and give your wardrobe a blast from the past!

5. Swatch, GK103 – Turquoise Bay / AG1986

Swatch, GK103 – Turquoise Bay / AG1986

First up, we have a vintage swatch watch (80s) that is the epitome of 80s style.

The matching teal dial and watch strap is a bold choice that would be hard to find among the watches of today. However, it works incredibly well here, bringing a level of effervescence to the timepiece.

Typical of Swatch, this product is accessible to all. Not only is it made from affordable materials (plastic, resin and acrylic), but the 34mm case is suitable for both men and women.

4. Gucci, Ladies Model 3000L

Gucci, Ladies Model 3000L

Now for a more luxury 80s watch, here we have a stunning ladies design from Gucci.

This Swiss-made beauty possesses a level of craftmanship that can only be found in a brand with such a strong reputation.

In the middle of the 14mm leather strap, we have a 25.55mm gold plated case with a matching bezel, as well as a signed Gucci crown.

The icing on cake of this 80s Gucci watch is the mineral glass crystal that ensures incredible durability.

3. Casio, Unisex Vintage Casual Resin Strap Watch

Casio, Unisex Vintage Casual Resin Strap Watch 80s watches

The watch industry wouldn’t be the same without the boom of quartz watches in the 80s, so we couldn’t resist selecting a quartz watch for our list.

Digital watches were all the rage in the 80s, and this Casio 80s watch demonstrates exactly why. With an LED illuminating watch face, an alarm clock and a stopwatch all packed into the square dial, you have everything you need with this timepiece.

2. Casio, DBC611G-1D Gold & Black Digital Watch

 Casio, DBC611G-1D Gold & Black Digital Watch 80s watches

Calculator watches reached peak popularity in the 1980s, so Casio find represents 80s watch trends excellently.

While the black-and-gold colour palette is nothing out of the ordinary, the unique aspect is all in the design.

The petite dial flaunts world time, a daily alarm, and a countdown timer, all situated above the impressive 8-digit calculator.

If you’re after a typical 80s digital watch, this Casio creation could be the perfect fit.

1. Timex, Malibu 36mm Stainless Steel Expansion Band Watch

Timex, Malibu 36mm Stainless Steel Expansion Band Watch 80s watches

For our last example of 80s watches, we wanted to convey the unrivalled vivacity of this era.

Different shades of blue and pink are layered to produce a stripey design that emulates the beautiful beaches of Malibu. 

More than just a pretty face, this Timex find boasts domed acrylic crystal over the feminine dial, as well as classic stainless steel for the 36mm case and the matching bracelet.

Our Final Thoughts On 80s Watches

80s watches

To conclude, while the watches of today tend to be neutral and minimalist, we would not have the innovative designs we have today if it wasn’t for the bold experimentation of 80s’ watch designers.

Whether you’re after a Timex 80s digital watch or a vibrant Swatch design, we hope our list has left you feeling inspired.

Alternatively, if you’re glad we’ve moved away from 80s trends, we recommend browsing our website for the chance to see some stunning contemporary timepieces made from premium materials. Check out our watches for sale today.

If you enjoyed this article, why not check out some more on our blog? We recommend 70s Watches: How Do 1970s Watches Differ From Today? and 1960s Watches: How Do 60s Watches Differ From Today? to get you started!

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