I Love The ’90s: The Decade’s Most Legendary Music Makers And Their Watches
From grunge to electronica, these tunes and timepieces are why we love the 1990s.
This summer, we can’t help but notice a lot of end-of-the-20th century nostalgia in pop culture. From Netflix’s Fear Street to Courtney Love accusing Olivia Rodrigo of copying the cover of Hole’s 1994 album Live Through This. Even Bennifer and Britney are making headlines again. But as long as Jonathan Taylor Thomas’ center-parted haircut doesn’t make a comeback, we are into it.
This moment has brought back fond memories of the music and the watches of the 1990s, so Watchonista thought we’d go back to the OG influencers to make a playlist of some unforgettable artists and their watches.
This British quartet spent the 1980s as a synth-pop band but reinvented itself as something deeper and darker with 1990’s Violator, an album that mixed electronic elements with grittier guitars. Lady Gaga, The Crystal Method, and Shakira have all cited Violator as a major influence on their music. The incomparable Johnny Cash even covered “Personal Jesus” in 2002.
They’re Hublot ambassadors now, but the members of Depeche Mode have always been fond of ground-breaking timepieces. In the ’90s, songwriter Martin Gore could be seen sporting a Citizen Aqualand Promaster, reference C0023. The Aqualand was also a techno pioneer as it was the first watch to incorporate a reliable electronic digital depth gauge.
Song: “Never Let Me Down Again” by Depeche Mode
With their cover of Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” in 1991, thrash metal band Anthrax opened the door for the nü metal acts like Korn, Linkin Park, and Papa Roach.
The man behind Anthrax’s signature guitar sound, Dan Spitz, quit the band in 1995 to pursue watchmaking, which had been his grandfather’s trade. In fact, under his grandfather’s watchful eye, Spitz had been taking apart Patek Philippes, Vacheron Constantins, and Cartiers since he was a kid. So, it turns out that after amassing many gold records, his biggest claim to fame might be restoring one of the rarest Rolexes – the infamous Zerograph.
Song: “Bring the Noise” by Anthrax
With the release of Nevermind in 1991, Nirvana redefined not just rock music but also fashion. You could even go so far as to call the band’s wardrobe anti-fashion as it consisted of mostly thrift shop finds.
According to friends and photos from around the time of the taping of their 1993 Unplugged album and video, lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain was partial to one watch and one watch only – a Hong Kong-manufactured piece with the face of Tom Peterson, a Seattle-area car dealer, on the dial.
Song: “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana
After grunge went mainstream, college music stations turned to Brit Pop to satisfy their alternative music needs. Manchester’s Oasis, fronted by brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher, became the defining artists of this new British Invasion with hits like “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova.”
The sibling’s constant sparring led to the band breaking up in 2009, but not before Alan McGee, the head of their label, Creation Records, gifted lead singer Liam with a vintage Rolex watch and Noel with a chocolate brown Rolls Royce. Noel said at the time, “Liam got a Rolex. I got a Rolls Royce. Which is brilliant because I can’t drive, and Liam can’t tell the time.”
Song: “Live Forever” by Oasis
One reason that the 1990s wields such influence in the 2020s is that musically it was so diverse. You had rough-edged riot grrrls like Babes in Toyland and L7 spreading their feminist punk message through the underground. There were boundary-breaking artists like Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim lighting up the charts and preaching sex-positive feminism with their lyrics. And, on the other end of the spectrum, there was polished pop of the Spice Girls. All of these acts promoted the concept of “girl power,” in one way or another, and upset outdated notions of what feminine was and wasn’t.
Of course, on the fashion front, these women were also style icons. For example, Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton wore a pink Baby-G, a scaled-down version of Casio’s rugged and bulky G-SHOCK. Fun Fact: Both the Baby-G and the Spice Girls debuted in 1994. And for many millennials, the friendship between the watch and the music has never ended.
Song: “Spice Up Your Life” by the Spice Girls
Rapper Nas’ 1994 record Illmatic is arguably one of the greatest records of the decade. Sonically, it encompasses every aspect of hip-hop culture, and its storytelling structure set the benchmark for almost every hip-hop artist who followed. At just 40 minutes long, it’s all killer, no filler.
Nas is also a lifelong watch fan. He has amassed a collection of incredible timepieces with a collection that also spans a wide range of brands and innovations. His watch safe includes such brands as Patek Philippe, Omega, Rolex, and Hublot. And according to the single “Nas Is Like,” the MC went from “Seiko to Rolex” in the 1990s.
In interviews, Nas has also said that his first favorite timepiece was a Casio Mickey Mouse watch. But since we can’t find a record of Casio making Mickeys, we’re going to hazard a guess that he’s talking about a Disney licensed quartz Seiko.
Song: “The World Is Yours” by Nas
Remember “new country”? For a while, crossover acts like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain had phenomenal success on mainstream radio. And the coolest of the country cats was Dwight Yoakam. He sold more than 30 million records and recorded five Billboard No. 1 albums, twelve gold albums, and nine platinum albums, including the triple-platinum This Time. The king of Hollywood Honky Tonk, Yoakam also had a respectable acting career and briefly dated Sharon Stone.
Yoakam’s popularity also led to a stint as a spokesperson for Ebel watches.
Song: “Fast as You” by Dwight Yoakam
Rap icon Tupac Shakur’s legacy was already secure before his untimely death in 1996. Style-wise, Shakur encapsulated a socially conscious kind of cool. His signature bucket hats, hoodies, and sports jerseys are still on trend today.
Shakur was also a big collector of timeless Rolex watches, favoring timeless pieces like this 18K gold and stainless steel, two-tone 40mm Rolex Submariner with a Jubilee bracelet over the more iced-out versions worn by his contemporaries. On the track “All Bout U,” he even rhymes: “Hold the set, I told Dramacy go in next/Colddiggin’, cold diggin’ a gold Rolex.”
Song: “California Love” by Tupac Shakur
By 1997, many had already written Radiohead off as a one-hit-wonder (thanks to the alternative chart-topping track “Creep”). But then the band released OK Computer. Since then, the experimental album has been hailed as one of the greatest records of all time.
Reviewers described the album as “anti-commercial,” “millennial,” and “futuristic.” That could also describe the wristwatch singer Thom Yorke was most often pictured wearing at the time, which appears to be a Casio Cognit Schema Calculator Watch.
Song: “Letdown” by Radiohead
Lopez not only popularized Latin music in the ’90s with her role in the movie Selena (1997) and her hit 1999 album On The 6, but she also became a fashion icon and a tabloid staple. She was the Elizabeth Taylor of the 1990s.
This spring, the world was captivated by the idea that Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck had reunited romantically. One of the sure signs that Bennifer was a thing again were pictures of Affleck wearing a Franck Muller Cintrée Curvex that J-Lo had gifted him back in the day.
Before Ben, Lopez was linked to Sean Combs, a.k.a. Puff Daddy, a.k.a. P. Diddy. And we found this picture of Lopez with Combs at the Vogue Fashion Awards in 1999, also wearing a Cintrée Curvex
Song: “Waiting for Tonight” by Jennifer Lopez
(Images sources mentioned)