Introducing the Dan Henry Collection, a Vintage-Watch Lover’s Affordable Take on New Vintage

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If you’re going to start designing and making watches, the best place to start is by collecting them. That’s where you begin to pick up on the incredible complexity behind the apparent simplicity of dial and case design. You begin to realize that to produce even a basic three-hand watch you need to have a real understanding of what makes a dial, hands, bezel and case work together.

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The new Dan Henry collection, a vintage-inspired range of affordable watches.

Dan Henry, 45, the man behind timeline.watch and now an eponymous collection of new watches, has been collecting since well before watch collecting was a thing. He explains, “Collecting has always been a big part of me as far as I can remember. The longing for the missing piece has been there. When I got a Roskopf on my seventh birthday, many nights were spent analyzing, polishing and admiring its mechanical engineering.”

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Timeline.watch, one of the coolest collector-oriented tomes on the web.

This first watch rapidly turned into a full-blown collecting obsession. Dan spent twenty years getting up at five in the morning and trawling the flea markets of São Paulo, where he’s picked up some remarkable pieces including extraordinarily rare Breguets and Rolexes, often for basically pocket change. He’s a fan of trawling online auctions, too, and has even developed an app to scan them for new listings.

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So what catalyzed the move from watch collector to watch maker?

For a start, he was getting disillusioned with buying and selling. Where he would pick up one or two watches a day from auction sites and flea markets, the tally was dropping to maybe a watch a week or even a month. A lot of collectors have felt the same way, one would suspect, even those not as prolific.

Then, two years ago he tracked down a watch he’d wanted for years—a completely original and unpolished Rolex 1530—and snaffled it for a boggling $1,200. He had it shipped to his New York apartment where one of his associates picked it up for safekeeping. And promptly lost it. Dan still has no idea how. Straws and camels, it was time for a change.

Left to right: 1947, 1963, 1968, and 1970.
Each variant has its own distinct case back design.

Talking to Dan, you quickly understand that he’s not a man to dawdle or let things like no-money-to-start-a-business-because-I’ve-spent-every-penny-on-collecting-watches get in the way. Along with watches, he’d been scouring São Paulo’s flea markets for objets de vertu (get him to tell you about his $300 Fabergé cigarette case). He raided the collection and auctioned a terrestrial globe he’d picked up, and used the cash to fund a brand new watch business. As you would.

Dan’s plan was to design and make a series of watches that picked up on the style of vintage classics and that someone could wear every day without fuss. He started by meeting a range of watchmakers at Baselworld, eventually finding one (a fellow collector, too) from Hong Kong with a factory in China. Post-Basel, he flew out to Hong Kong and spent time with the maker designing, prototyping and finally manufacturing.

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The 1970.

At this point, plenty of watchies will throw up their hands, exclaiming, “China?! That’s all wobbly dials and movement plates cut out of old tin cans!” Far from it.

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There are certainly some horror shows, but watchmaking in China is, and has always been, diverse. For example, Beijing Watch Factory may sound like an industrial stamp-‘em-out operation, but its craftsmen are producing beauties like the MRB1 movement, a minute-repeater tourbillon and the boggling Wu Ji bi-tourbillon.

Dan’s keen to dispel the idea that Chinese manufacture is low-grade and cheap. “Far from it,” he explains, “this is a high-end Chinese factory, managed from Hong Kong. In fact, I’m only paying around $10 per watch less than I would if they were made in Germany.”

dan_henry_1963_2The thinking behind the designs, like everything Dan does, is clear and unambiguous. “My mission with the brand is to make cool, modern vintage watches at an affordable price and give people the opportunity to wear a timeless watch with a historic meaning. I want to evoke the collecting thrill in more people and see vintage as a popular choice.”

Each of Dan’s watches is named after a year—1947, 1963, 1968 and 1970—using design cues from watches from each.

“My mission is to make cool vintage watches at an affordable price and give people the opportunity to wear something timeless.” – Dan Henry

He’s happy to explain the influences behind his four current watches. Each has a clear, vintage look and feel that’s entirely intentional. The idea is to have a vintage-style watch that you can wear everyday without worrying. This latter consideration is important to Dan. He lives in Brazil’s São Paulo, the 12th largest city in the world. He’s been held up—at gunpoint—for the watch on his wrist.

1947

1947, available in two variants.
Note the high-quality finishing on the dials.
At 40mm, the 1947 is larger than its historical counterparts, but it fits well on the wrist.

The first in the series, the 1947, is a 40mm, classical dress watch influenced by the Omega cal. 332 bumper automatics of the 1940s and ‘50s. It’s powered by Seiko’s bulletproof VD78 movement, so it should be pretty much bang-on accurate.

The case is pure Calatrava, and based on a Vacheron Constantin Dan spotted and snaffled from his watchmaker. Dan explains, “My watch guy turned up with this gorgeous VC Calatrava-cased dress watch. I had to have it!  He said, ‘You can have it for $2,000.’ I replied ‘I’ll take it for $3,000!’ I couldn’t give him that little for it!”

The case back, in particular, is worth a look. Dan’s had the usual water resistance ratings, maker’s name and “stainless steel” (it’s 316L, by the way) engraved on it but also added an engraved maze that adds a really different sort of visual interest.

The 1947 retails for $190.

1963

Both variants of the 1963 chronograph.

If you’d wear a 1947 with a suit (although it’ll dress down happily enough), the 1963 is altogether more Irvin jacket with its heavy aviation bias. Dan talks about how the design is drawn from a combination of the Breitling AVI 765 and 165CE Co-Pilots with the thin bezel and semi-syringe hands, and more modern Panerais. The bezel clearly picks up the Brietling theme and turns rather satisfyingly with 5 minute clicks.

Again, you get a quartz movement, this time a Miyota 6S20. It’s a chunky engine and certainly fills the 42.5mm case. There’s none of the slightly weedy feel of a tiny movement leaning on the help of a nasty plastic spacer to reach the edges.

This time, the case back is more plane than plain (sorry) with a Lockheed Blackbird rendered into the metal. But like all the other watches in the series, you can change your leather strap with the push of a fingernail as they carry the Easy Click System so there’s no need for a strap-changing tool.

The 1963 retails for $230.

1968

Both variants of the 1968, inspired by a supposed Speedmaster prototype that never was.
At 41mm, the 1968 is well-sized for a modern chronograph. Harris Tweed Watch Roll by worn&wound.

Jumping five years to the 1968, there’s a very different watch on offer. Perhaps the only one of the series where you might question its parentage, although not in any prejudicial sense.

Dan explains, “There’s been an urban legend for the last twenty years about an Omega Speedmaster that never made it into production. In fact, it never even made it to prototype, it was a photoshopped sketch. That’s the influence for the design of the 1968.”  Dan also talks about elements of the cal. 321 Speedmaster in the case as well as a shade of IWC’s more modern pilot watches.

There’s a choice of black or matte white dials with luminous hands powered by a Miyota 6S20 quartz movement.

The 1968 retails for $200.

1970

The 1970 is styled after EPSA Super Compressors from that era.
Note the crosshatch ends on the two crowns.
Despite being 44mm, the watch wears smaller on the wrist.

Finally, the compressor-style of the 1970 is clearly recognizable. It’s water-resistant to a proper 200m/660ft with a screw-down case featuring an octopus and diving helmet. And if you’ve ever seen an Exactus Excalibur (what do you mean, you haven’t?) you’ll know where the dial influences come from. Shades of the Aquamax too, perhaps? With the 1970, it’s a matte black dial with a date and an orange 60-minute internal bezel operable via the crown at two. The case is 44mm with a stonking-wide 24mm tropical strap. But it balances the rest of the watch a treat.

This one’s powered by a 24-jewel, automatic Seiko NH35. It’s a movement that even its friends would struggle to call pretty, but it beats along happily at 21,600bph, the oscillating weight runs on a proper ball race and like any other Seiko, it will carry on doing for years without fuss. If it’s good enough for the classic Seiko 5, it’s good enough for the 1970.

The 1970 retails for $250.

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The 1947 on the wrist. Diesel Boots in Natural Chromexcel by Grant Stone; Denim Jacket by Imogene + Willie.

So who’s going to buy one of these or the others that Dan already has lined up for launch?  They’re clearly not copies, but they’re not (with the exception of the 1968) originals either. Nor—you could argue—are they homages, at least not to a single watch.

Perhaps Dan himself sums the range up best. “My watches are affordable but with a rich feeling; they really feel and look expensive. My mission is to make cool vintage watches at an affordable price and give people the opportunity to wear something timeless.”

The full Dan Henry range can be purchased from the Dan Henry website.

Images from this post:
Mark developed a passion for watches at a young age. At 9, he was gifted an Omega Time Computer manual from a local watch maker and he finagled Rolex brochures from a local dealer. Today, residing in the Oxfordshire village of Bampton, Mark brings his technical expertise and robust watch knowledge to worn&wound.
markchristie mark_mcarthur_christie
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  • Nathan

    Really like all of these. I’m expecting some complaints about the quartz movements on some of the pieces, but it’s totally justifiable at the price. I like that they’re not homage watches, they just take influences from other pieces. Definitely tempted by the 1963 or 1970 down the line.

  • Eric

    The article mentions an app made by Dan for finding new listings on watch auctions. Does anyone have a link or more info on the app?

  • Jason

    The 1963 is absolutely gorgeous, such a shame its a quartz…Seagull can do the same price with manual chronograph movements…

    • The Deplorable Boogur T. Wang

      As I’m learning, Quartz complications vary in quality and acceptance factors. Don’t discount merely because its’ a Quartz motor.

  • David W

    How thick is the 1947? It looks a little chunky in the photos, but neither the review nor the Dan Henry website lists the actual dimension (that I can find).

  • slicksd

    If I had two things to say, it’s that I wish more watch case dimensions were given on the website for each model, and that maybe a tasteful, subtle black date window be placed on the 1963 dial. I love the way that piece looks. Pure bliss. But the movement already includes date functionality, and the slight change would increase utility value immensely. Thoughts?

  • slicksd

    Also, in reference to the 1963 bezel, what does the phrase “5 minute clicks” mean exactly? 60 click total bezel rotation? Thanks.

    • Hey,

      It’s a bi-drectional bezel that “locks” every 5-minutes with no clicks in between. It’s pretty cool actually.

  • That 1970 is calling to me…

  • Terrance Steiner

    The 1963 and 1970 are gorgeous.

  • howardbamber

    I’d love to see a GMT!

  • Никита

    Finally got tired from vintage-inspired watches. This idea got abused to the max already. Time to create new watch heritage.

  • Adi Lungu
    • Ivan Dimitrov

      Very good timepieces
      Also you can check Buzzufy.com store for vintage watches.
      He based in New York – US and Sofia – Bulgaria.
      You can find great timepiece – Omega, Zenith, Rolex, Chronographs

  • pjmasks

    These are surely made by Perpetual in Hong Kong, they look very similar.

  • sfpeanuts

    If it’s truly only $10 more to have it made in Germany than why support China’s poor labor practices AND lose the German made prestige for Chinese made. This makes no business sense unless the watches sell for $15.