The good homage watch

While dismissed by many, I think there is a certain place for almost any type of homage watch. Let me explain.
Here are three "scenarios" (to some, those might be "hot takes", but I consider them to be merely lukewarm):

1. The straight up AliExpress-type of homage as a viable, safe and (mostly) legal way to get a feel for certain aspirational, contemporary references. If you want to find out whether, say, a Sub really is for you, whether it's worth the saving up involved etc. there aren't too many other options. Not everyone has that buddy who is willing to support your personal research with a 10k+ loaner for weeks and months. And the two-tone reference at your local AD that you tried on last week didn't tell you quite enough during the two minutes you had it on the wrist.
If you eventually do make up your mind in one way or the other, you can still hand it over to your nephew. Just don't fool yourself by mistaking the test balloon for the airship.

2. The timepiece that pays homage to very old and virtually unobtainable references. While there are still some chinese options (take the much loved San Martin SN004-G, for example), more reputable brands start joining the party, like Timefactors/Smiths with their rather obscure, yet beautiful Rolex Commando homage (see picture). To me, this is way less controversial than the first scenario, since reverse-engineering something that looks like it fell out of a Phillips catalogue with an estimate of six digits (that you wouldn't daily anyway, even if you could afford it) feels way more honorable, devoted and legit than any "PAGRNE DESIGN EXPLORER GMT SUBMASTER CERTIFIED SINCE 2019 YACHT".

3. Watches that pay homage to a certain era/general style of watches without copying one specific reference. For some this might not even qualify as an homage, for others it sums up everything a true homage (in the very sense of the word) should be. Take Lorier's transparency about how they mixed and matched design cues taken from different icons, or Vario's attention to detail revitalizing the WWI trench watch. In this case, a decision for this kind of watch is not a compromise out of necessity, but a deliberate choice.

Do you agree? Did I miss something?

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An example of sorts of the third kind on your list from the AliExpress world is that Parnis where I asked what it is an homage of. Because it looks like a Panerai, except there is no such Panerai - it is the design they should have made, because it places the powerreserve nicely on the dial, but they didn't.

I would add two more scenarios to the list.

  1. With military watches, the original design is sometimes not by a watch company but by a military force that made a spec, and let companies produce watches to that spec. Prime example are WW2 fliegers, designed by the Luftwaffe.  The spec of those watches left very little room for original design. In this sense, how much a modern version of those watches is an homage or an original depends IMHO more on how close they stick to the original spec now than on whether they produced this kind of watch way back then.  Either way no issue with legitimacy.
  2. Sometimes the original have serious QC issues, i.e. great design, not so great execution. Prime example is Panerai who charges $20,000 for watches with a QC that Filippo Loretti would be ashamed of. Lower down the pecking order, Seestern produces Doxa homages that (judging by youtube reviews, I own neither) are better quality than the originals. Seiko is norious for not lining up their hands properly to the indicators - if a homage brand can do better, good luck to them.
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uhrensohn

An example of sorts of the third kind on your list from the AliExpress world is that Parnis where I asked what it is an homage of. Because it looks like a Panerai, except there is no such Panerai - it is the design they should have made, because it places the powerreserve nicely on the dial, but they didn't.

I would add two more scenarios to the list.

  1. With military watches, the original design is sometimes not by a watch company but by a military force that made a spec, and let companies produce watches to that spec. Prime example are WW2 fliegers, designed by the Luftwaffe.  The spec of those watches left very little room for original design. In this sense, how much a modern version of those watches is an homage or an original depends IMHO more on how close they stick to the original spec now than on whether they produced this kind of watch way back then.  Either way no issue with legitimacy.
  2. Sometimes the original have serious QC issues, i.e. great design, not so great execution. Prime example is Panerai who charges $20,000 for watches with a QC that Filippo Loretti would be ashamed of. Lower down the pecking order, Seestern produces Doxa homages that (judging by youtube reviews, I own neither) are better quality than the originals. Seiko is norious for not lining up their hands properly to the indicators - if a homage brand can do better, good luck to them.

Very true! I own an A-Type Flieger made by San Martin and because of the points you made (military specification vs. original design), it doesn't feel less legit then other Fliegers. 👍

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I believe that we don't use the word homage in its true meaning. A homage pays respectful tribute to a model or era, as you pointed, but we need not to confuse this with direct design copies. We should be more honest with what a specific watch is, like the Smiths Everest, it's a direct design copy of the Rolex Explorer 1016. Just like the San Martin Explorer. I actually believe the San Martin is even more honest and straight to the point. 

I'm personally not against direct design copies of watches, but I also rather call them what they are. And I have had a few myself.

Lorier, Traska and even Christopher Ward have themselves some great homage watches. Even Seiko, Tudor, etc. do homage watches. They take cues, and pay tribute. You can tell the reasons those watches remind others and whole eras, but have somehow a unique specific own general design.

So most of the scenarios are design copies and we should not feel ashamed of that. Homages are clearly something different from current Smiths or Paganis which are, let's not fool ourselves, direct design copy watches.

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marioap

I believe that we don't use the word homage in its true meaning. A homage pays respectful tribute to a model or era, as you pointed, but we need not to confuse this with direct design copies. We should be more honest with what a specific watch is, like the Smiths Everest, it's a direct design copy of the Rolex Explorer 1016. Just like the San Martin Explorer. I actually believe the San Martin is even more honest and straight to the point. 

I'm personally not against direct design copies of watches, but I also rather call them what they are. And I have had a few myself.

Lorier, Traska and even Christopher Ward have themselves some great homage watches. Even Seiko, Tudor, etc. do homage watches. They take cues, and pay tribute. You can tell the reasons those watches remind others and whole eras, but have somehow a unique specific own general design.

So most of the scenarios are design copies and we should not feel ashamed of that. Homages are clearly something different from current Smiths or Paganis which are, let's not fool ourselves, direct design copy watches.

Very aptly put! I agree 100%.