Coolest watches of the decade: 1970s

The 1970s: funky and extravagant outfits, disco music… and some pretty cool watches.

We’ve discovered the coolest watches of the 80s in our previous article and it’s now time to run our time machine a little more. Play that old Bee Gees record, stretch your shirts’ collar: here are the 5 coolest wristwatches from the coolest of decades.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the 1970s.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

For many reasons, the seventies have been a crucial decade in watchmaking. Most importantly, they marked a shift in the common taste: smaller yellow gold dress watches, which were extremely popular up until the late sixties, were replaced by larger sports watches, mainly in steel. The watch that started this revolution is of course the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, which will turn fifty the next year but is just as iconic as it was in 1972 at the time of its launch!

To deepen your knowledge about its incredible history and modern iterations, don't miss our dedicated 2-parts article!

Piaget Polo

Born at the very end of the 1970s, the Piaget Polo represents a perfect summary of its decade.
Available both in yellow and white gold (also combined in two-tone) it was created by Piaget as a “luxury sports watch”. A task that was really felt at that time, like AP just shown.
The Polo surely is an extravagant solution, but if you’re looking for “rationality”, the 70s are not the right place.

Beautiful example of a very rare white gold Piaget Polo, from our friend

Although quickly forgotten, the Polo was an amazing hit. In all its variations, it accounted for one third of Piaget’s sales. Love it or hate it: the Polo is a cool watch. And we wish to see more of them around.

Wittnauer Futurama 1000

That’s kind of a connoisseurs’ deal: if you know, you know.
The Wittnauer Futurama 1000 is certainly not the most famous of pieces, but has a cult-like follow in its field. And some can’t stand it.
We get it: the funk is real.
A gold-plated asymmetrical D-shaped case houses a double retrograde mechanism, with a 48 mm lug-to-lug size. Conventional pieces? No, thanks: it’s the 70s.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. We are absolutely in love too.

Rolex “Texan" ref. 5100

The 70s wanted to share nothing with the previous “old” days. And mechanical watches were not exactly that “innovative”.

That’s why, together with other 20 brands, Rolex created a consortium to develop a new technology: quartz mechanisms.
The result? Beta-21: a milestone in horological history. This thick mechanism needed a chunkier case and Rolex went full-on funky with the ref. 5100 design.
All 1000 examples were sold in pre-order, and the lucky owner were invited to join the “Rolex Quartz Club”. This meant that, after buying a Rolex Texan, you got unlimited entry to Rolex’s headquarter in Geneva and a free tour of their factory.
If that’s not cool… 

Rolex Texan proudly displaying its "QUARTZ" print on the dial, courtesy of Monaco Legend Auction

Patek Philippe “Beta-21” ref. 3587

Among the many Swiss company in the Beta-21 consortium, we can find Patek Philippe.
The same problem that Rolex faced with the Texan, Patek Philippe solved with the thick case of the ref. 3587.

This funky, immense (43 mm!) yellow gold case is one of horologists’ most beloved silhouettes. Not the classic icon, like the Royal Oak, but we’ve all encountered the “Patek Beta-21”, and no one forgot. Even if just on instagram.

Oh, you can click here if you want to read the story of the Beta-21 caliber!

Patek Philippe ref. 3587, courtesy of Sotheby's

Bonus point: Zenith El Primero Flying Saucer

In 1969, Zenith paved the way to the automatic revolution of chronographs that was to come in the 1970s. The first version of the famous El Primero was housed in a rather traditional steel case; shortly after, though, a very funky, very Seventies version was added to the lineup, finally blessing Zenith's flagship chronograph as a true icon of the decade!

Here are the 5 coolest watches from the 1970s. We tried not to be predictable, in true 70s style.
Yes, we can hear you: seems like a few icons are missing. That’s not a lapsus, we remember the Nautilus. A lot of cool watches were born in this decade, and we decided to include some of the funkiest and more “distinctively 70s”.
Why the Royal Oak, then? Because it came first and introduced the revolutionary concept that lies behind the Nautilus as well. Take it more as a homage to the idea, not the watch itself.

If you're curious to continue the journey, you may like to take a look at our article about the coolest watches of the boxy and neon-lit 1980s here!

Do you agree with our list? What’s missing in your opinion?
Let us hear you in the comments!