Homage Watches: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

There isn’t a watch enthusiast in the world who’s not familiar with the term homage watch and homages are one of the most polarizing and divisive topics in an otherwise very well-intentioned, supportive and friendly hobby. Some people swear by them (there’s even some with collections comprised solely of homage watches), while others consider the mere mention of the H-word as a horological blasphemy. But why is that?

In my opinion, one of the main issues is the very broad definition of the word homage and the different meanings people attribute to it. So, what exactly does homage watch means?

What is a homage watch?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines homage as “something that shows respect or attests to the worth or influence of another”, which is more or less in line with the use of the word by the watch community. But I think that the meaning of homage in watch-terms can be roughly divided into 3 subcategories:

  • Watches inspired by a certain model: these are watches that use design elements from certain popular model (or a few different models), but are still different and original enough in order not to be considered carbon-copies of the model they drew their inspiration from.
  • Watches closely resembling a model with very limited availability: these are watches that look like models which have been out of production for a while, have been produced in very limited quantities, or are otherwise difficult to obtain.
  • Watches identical to models from other brands: these are watches that, save for a different brand name on the dial, are identical to models from other brands – most often, current production models, popular at the time of their making.

Now, let’s take a closer look at every one of these categories.

Watches inspired by a certain model

There are a lot of examples of this type of homage, but the first that comes to mind is the Canister Fieldmaster (a watch I’ve already written about in the past). While you can clearly see some Marathon influence in there, most of it is actually military watch design aesthetics, but also a case with slim lugs and straight lug ends, inspired by the skin divers of the ‘60s.

Source: www.canisterwatches.com, www.marathonwatch.com

Another great example is the Helm Vanuatu:

Source: www.helmwatches.com

An original design, but with distinct inspiration from the Tudor Pelagos and the Sinn U1 (for the shape of the hands).

Source: www.tudorwatch.com

Source: www.sinn.de

These two watches wouldn’t even be considered a homage by most watch enthusiasts, because they have a design that’s unique enough to make them their own things. And if we do indeed follow this logic, almost all watches on the market today could be called “homages”.

But if we consider the dictionary definition of the word homage, these ones fits it quite nicely – the owner of Canister, very openly and honestly, even recognized Marathon as one of the influences on the design of his Fieldmaster.

Ultimately, this is what an homage should really be – an inspiration for brands to make their own original products, while paying a tribute to the model that inspired them.

Watches closely resembling a model with very limited availability

This is perhaps my favorite category of homages and the one I see the most potential in, simply because it gives opportunity to people to own a watch that is otherwise incredibly hard to find or incredibly expensive to get (or both).

A prime example of this is the Megamatic from CREPAS, a Spanish microbrand that kinda specializes in this type of homage pieces. The watch in question is an homage of an Omega Seamaster.

Source: www.crepaswatches.com

Now, I know what you’re thinking – “Wait a minute, this doesn’t look like any Seamaster I know!” – and you’re completely right. That’s because CREPAS made an homage of this Omega:

Source: www.orologi.forumfree.it

The Seamaster 1000 Megaquartz. The reason you most probably never heard of it is because this funky ‘70s beast never made it past the prototype phase. Omega was experimenting with the new-at-the-time quartz technology for their ultra deep dive watches; however, they were unable to produce a working model. And so, the project was shelved and only a few prototype models were made.

And it’s a shame, because besides the Ploprof, there’s no other case quite so different in Omega’s catalog. So even if you could somehow afford to get your hands on one of the Megaquartz prototypes, it would still be a display piece or a collector’s item, rather than a functional watch. And the CREPAS Megamasater can give you just that – a watch that you can actually wear on your wrist and enjoy.

Another good example is the Evant Tropic Diver 300.

Source: www.evantwatches.com

This one is an homage of a dive watch produced by Breguet in 1965 – the Breguet no. 1646.

Source: www.ablogtowatch.com

Supposedly, its production run ended after only 60 pieces being made and the existence of this particular reference was practically unknown until a watch collection who had acquired one went through the laborious process to get it authenticated through Breguet in 2014.

Again, a watch that’s very limited and almost impossible to get.

And while the source of inspiration for Evant is clear, they’ve made a few different dial and case material options, so there’s something for everyone.

Source: www.watchintyme.com

My last example of this category is the Steinhart Vintage GMT which is an homage of the Rolex Explorer II 1655, which is out of production for almost 40 years.

Source: www.watchbandit.com

While the 1655 is nowhere near as rare as my other two examples, a specimen in good condition can set you back 50.000$ – not an inconsiderable amount of money for most watch enthusiasts. And even if you could afford one, a vintage piece of 30+ years would never give you the care-free experience of a modern, affordably-priced watch.

Watches identical to models from other brands

The final category is the one that’s the cause of contention for most watch enthusiasts. In my view, the use of the word homage is quite generous for most of these watches, since they’re 1:1 copies of other watches, the only difference being the brand on the dial. Clones or replicas would be more correct terms, but unfortunately those already have a different meaning and apply to counterfeit products.

Source: www.dreamchrono.com

There’s really not much else to be said about this category of homages – the watches they’re paying an homage to don’t have limited availability like the ones we’ve covered earlier – in fact, most of them are current production models.

Admittedly, Rolex sports models have a limited availability due to their sales model and some of these watches are off-limits to most of watch enthusiasts due to their high prices.

Source: www.watchgecko.com

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Now that we’ve covered the basics and the differences between homage watches, it’s time to take a look at their undeniable impact on watch brands and enthusiasts and collectors.

The Good

Homage watches have made it possible for almost anyone to own a watch with a particular design they like – and that has to be one of the biggest positives. Without homages, most of us would never been able to experience none of the watches I referenced throughout this text.

The increased interest in homages of vintage pieces in particular has caused a resurgence of vintage-inspired watches on the market. And I’m not just talking about microbrands – big brands have started rummaging through their back-catalogs and reissuing popular watches from their past. Essentially, reissues are the homages of big watch brands and we’ve seen a real renaissance of vintage-inspired models in the past few years.

Source: www.gearpatrol.com

The Bad

The biggest negative for me is the fact that some people buy homages of popular models dictated by the brand marketing, watch journalists and the community hype, just because they’re popular at the moment. It’s a cliché, but there are so many affordable and original designs by both big brands and microbrands and I can’t help but feel a bit sad when I see yet another Submariner homage in my Instagram feed.

Source: www.alibaba.com

The fact is, the availability of homage watches and the sheer scope of different homages is making us a bit lazy – when we’re deciding on what to buy next, instead of researching the potential options in our price range (and maybe discovering a hidden gem or something we’ll fall in love in the process), the much easier choice is to reach for a homage of a watch design we know and love already.

One other potential negative hasn’t happened yet, but there’s a real possibility of it becoming a reality. With homages and reissues of older models being so popular, most watch brands have zero interest in trying to come up with new designs. Designing a watch from scratch is a laborious and expensive process, with no guarantee for success. Reissuing a model your company made in the ‘60s or ‘70s on the other hand is not only easier and cheaper – it’s more or less a certain hit.

Source: www.breitling.com

Something tells me that it’ll become more and more difficult to see fresh designs in the years to come.

The Ugly

This one’s a no-brainer – homages bring out the worst in the watch community. And while the homage-haters are the bigger offenders, the homage-owners aren’t entirely without blame.

Here are some of the usual statements that get thrown around and my take on them.

Save a little more and buy the real thing

Some people are fortunate enough to own the OGs, the big shots, the icons that other people can only dream of owning. And that’s fine. Watch enthusiasts live in different countries, with different costs of living, work different jobs and have different incomes.

What’s affordable for some is unattainable for others. What some people can save up for a couple of years, others can’t in a lifetime. My point is – saving up for the real thing isn’t an option for everyone – don’t assume that people buying homages are just too lazy to save money.

Homage is just a fancy name for a fake

As we’ve already discussed, there’s much more to homages than copy-pasting a popular design and slapping a different name on the dial. Admittedly, some homages thread that fine line, but calling every homage watch a fake is ignorant and unfair.

Source: www.watchuseek.com

Homages cheapen the real thing

I suspect this is the biggest gripe owners of the originals have against homage watches. Some people can’t stand the fact that from a few feet away, their watch is indistinguishable from a homage costing 100 times less on someone else’s wrist.

Source: www.collectspace.com

But the fact is, luxury brands who are targeted by homage makers are doing better than ever – even with all these homages and counterfeits out there. And the fact that you know whether the watch on your wrist is an original (and not a homage) should be enough. After all, you’re not just wearing it to impress other people, are you?

People buying the original are stupid

This one is entirely on the pro-homage camp and it goes something like this: My (enter homage here) is as good as (enter big/luxury brand here) – which simply isn’t true. An argument could be made that luxury watches are overpriced for various reasons, as well as that homages offer a much better value for money, but saying they’re “as good as” is equally ignorant as calling all homages “fakes”.

Conclusion

My attitude towards homages has definitely softened through the years and now I understand the appeal – I even have a couple of them in my collection. In my opinion, the good outweighs the bad, but we could certainly do away with the ugly.

Homage watches are obviously here to stay, whether we like it or not. The bottom line is – buy what you like and enjoy it, but let other people enjoy what they like as well. 

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