This affordable chronograph is the easiest way to put a 60s racing watch on your wrist

If you have a passing interest in watches, you’re probably familiar with the freewheel stylings of the 1970s, an era that gave birth to Patek Philippe Nautilus and Vacheron Constantin 222among other things funky design. However, the decade just before that produced just as many iconic and equally coveted silhouettes, especially when it comes to the racing chronographs worn by guys like Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and the Apollo astronauts. Designed to precisely time sporting events like Formula 1 races or, in a pinch, help you land a lunar module, TAG Heuer Monaco, Omega Speedmaster, and the Rolex Daytona were just some of the most enduring drops of the decade. More than half a century later (thanks to MoonSwatch and Paul Newman’s infamous Rolex) these pieces are in higher demand than ever, and anyone looking to add one to their collection can expect to do some serious damage to their savings account. However, with its contemporary looks and $399 price tag, the new Vaer R1 is a lock for a podium position in your rotation at a fraction of the cost.

For those unfamiliar with Vaer, the California-based brand specializes in rugged sports watches with premium features like sapphire crystals and locking crowns, all assembled in the USA. Our introduction to Vaer was their limited edition A-12, a tribute to the so-called “Dirty Dozen” watches from WWII with a historically faithful design right down to the hand-cut Swiss movement. As the brand’s homage to the best chronographs of the ’60s and ’70s, the Vaer R1 is very much cut from the same cloth (so to speak), with period-correct details like a cushion-shaped case (available in both 38mm and 41mm sizes) , a domed sapphire crystal and an optional steel anniversary bracelet.

Just as alluring as the R1’s trio of minimalist dials, however, is what’s beneath them: a Seiko meca-quartz movement. Pioneered by luxury Swiss watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre in the 1980s and used by big names like IWC and Breitling in the 1990s, mecha-quartz movements rely on quartz technology for hours and minutes, with an additional mechanical module to power the chronograph function . With the same mechanical feel and sweeping seconds hand of an automatic chronograph, and the superior accuracy of quartz, a mecha-quartz movement is the best of both worlds, making the R1 more reliable, more durable and – most importantly – more affordable than its mechanical counterparts. It also makes the R1 a clear winner for anyone looking to get their hands on an affordable ’60s-style chronograph, no matter how far from the grid you are.

Vaer R1 USA racing chronograph watch

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