Homage watches are modern watches that take inspiration from vintage models. They can be inspiration from their own range of watches, or from competitor brands.
Watch manufacturers love producing homages for many of the same reasons that movie companies pop out sequel after sequel… They want to ride on the coattails of previous successes so they can sell more watches/movies at low risk.
Watch collectors have been happy to fuel the demand. We may not be able to afford the scarce original, but perhaps we can afford a new model with some vintage throwbacks. Or, if we can't afford that, then there are most likely cheaper brands that also offer a model with some similarities.
An important distinction needs to be made between a homage watch and a replica. A replica is an exact copy, branding and all. You've probably seen some cheap 'Rolexes' at a market somewhere. These replicas are getting more difficult to tell apart from the original. But, no matter how close they come, they will never be the original.
It's easy for most genuine watch collectors to label this sort of activity as wrong and something to stay away from.
This is where a watch manufacturer takes inspiration from a competitor and incorporates it into their own watch. This is legal and happens in every industry. Think of Apple vs Samsung or the proliferation of SUVs that all look the same. So long as watches don't infringe upon a trademark they shouldn't have a legal worry.
Morally, some people have a problem with this. Their argument is based on principles like:
If you fall into this camp, that is perfectly okay. Competitor homage watches aren't for you.
These come under many different forms, but may include re-releases, limited editions, anniversary models etc. Basically a manufacturer has a success or identifies that certain watches are now collectible and decides to make more.
For example, Omega's 2019 release of a Speedmaster to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the moon landing pays tribute to their earlier Speedmaster- the 'Moonwatch'.
The new release on the left was manufactured by Omega to honor the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, where Buzz Aldrin's Speedmaster ST105.012 became the first watch to be worn on the moon.
Or, they'll take inspiration from specific element(s) in a previous watch and use these in a new model. Maybe it's a dial, seconds hand, crown, cushion case, indexes, movement or even a slide rule. Watchmakers are not re-inventing the wheel with each watch and nor should they be. Their goal might be to iterate with each new model, but it would be ludicrous to suggest they should start from scratch with each model.
It depends where on the spectrum you sit with this. But yes, I'd be comfortable arguing that every watch is indeed a homage to a predecessor. Even watches we consider iconic have started from a strong base.
For example, take the Panerai Radiomir - one of the most iconic of vintage watches. This started off with a partnership with Rolex - where a Rolex pocket watch movement was turned on its side and the highly visible (and radioactive) radiomir was added to the markings to allow visibility underwater. Panerai didn't need, nor want, to reinvent the entire watch. They just needed to re-apply Rolexe's movement to a new environment by adding some secret sauce.
This happens a lot today. You'll find many cheaper watches that use a good quality movement from a manufacturer like Seiko.
So if we're comfortable recognizing that watches have evolved over time, it flows that homage watches are a healthy part of the watchmaker ecosystem.
We've scoured the internet for what we consider to be some of the best homage watches for popular vintage models. Whether you're after that iconic Panerai Luminor homage or a Rolex Submariner alternative, you can find some homage watches here that won't break the bank.
Rolexes are undoubtedly the brand that has the most homages. The Rolex Submariner in particular has long been a source of inspiration for other watch makers. Heck, even Rolex created the Tudor brand to basically emulate Rolex in everything but the name.
We've previously included the following watches in our round-up of the best submariner homages:
Even though Panerai is a relative newcomer - they only started producing commercial watches in 1993 - their distinctive, vintage look has resulted in numerous manufacturers producing modern homages. In particular, watches that look like the Panerai Luminor have become popular. These include:
There's surprisingly few homage watches to the Panerai Radiomir, but we did find this Spinnaker Hull with a California dial:
Omega's success has also bred numerous homages from other watch makers. The Speedmaster in particular tends to spark a lot of interest from watch enthusiasts, which in turn, leads to more homage watches being produced.
We've also included our favorite Omega alternatives:
As you can probably tell, we do think homage watches have their place in the market. So long as they don't infringe on a manufacturer's intellectual property, we should be encouraging the sharing of innovations that allow the greatest number of people to also enjoy them.
Part of the appeal of owning a luxury watch is the prestige associated with the brand. This will be maintained, perhaps even strengthened, as more watchmakers try to emulate its success.
As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.