Watch manufacturers are looking back in time – to the ’40s and ’50s – for inspiration for many time-pieces for fall ’90.

Resources stress modern watches with antique twists – such as mechanical operation or antique faces – are styles worth watching.

Tourneau, a watch company that retails both modern and vintage timepieces, is confident that mechanicals and quartz watches with antique faces will garner increased business. These styles conform with the retro influence in fashion, Jack Greiff, vice-president, Tourneau, said.

He pointed out that consumers develop “a sense of personal involvement with retro watches” because the life expectacy of these models is very long.

Greiff revealed at least one-third of Tourneau’s watch business involves retro looks this year, and he noted that percentage is increasing.

He noted antique-style watches “convey a sense of status and the finer things in life. They also are timely this year, no pun intended, because of the retro trend,” Greiff said. “Without the general mood in fashion, classic timepieces would not have been so popular.”

Chevignon, a resource that specializes in classic styles in everything from overcoats to accessories, will also feature antique-looking timepieces, said Joanna Hadjiyanis, vice-president of sales and marketing.

“I think retro has been growing and growing in importance because the trend toward timeless fashion is growing,” she stated.

Bernie Costelli, vice-president of sales for Perry Ellis Watches – a line that made its debut this spring – said three pieces in the 25-piece collection will convey a retro flavor. He added that the watch dial is stained rose, in keeping with the vintage look of the ’30s and ’40s.

“Buyers have gravitated to retro looks,” he said. “There is a feeling to antique-looking furnishings that tie in with what’s happening in fashion.”

Hamilton Watches, a company that has been making watches for nearly a century, now makes authentic reproductions of timepieces that debuted in 1927, according to Jim Marsh, president.

“The antique-looking watches have all the features of a modern watch with quartz movements that are built to last,” he said.

Marsh contends that vintage watches have been on the rise because today’s values lend themselves to “traditionalism” and “formalism.” These watches also echo what’s happening with retro fashion. “Mechanical watch reproductions are gaining some minor interest,” he explained, “because they are almost anti-statements to the high-tech society that we live in.”

Retailers, too, are citing some confidence about mechanical watches and antique-looking watches. The Rogue & Good Co. in Jackson, Miss., is carrying Chevignon, British Khaki and Ghurka watches that are reproductions of classic models, according to Rea Taylor, accessories buyer there.

He said that 95 percent of watches overall at the store bear the retro look – “We’ve been successful with them because they’re a great way to accessorize traditional looks.” He expects watches to make a comeback with traditional styles at the store.

At Town & Country, Woodbury, Long Island, authentic watches that date back to the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s are making their debut, according to Tom Miller, president. He predicted that although the watches are expensive and retail for $350 or more – they will find success this fall.

Miller said antiques are “interesting and timeless,” and that because fashion is becoming simpler and more elegant, refurbished Hamilton’s and revamped Rolex’s will fit right in. People also want to attach lasting value to their money these days. Miller said, rather than jumping on “flash-in-the-pan” fads.

The old-time look goes over well because it’s a good fashion statement not because it’s a retro look. These timepieces have a fashion feeling and elegance all their own.” he concluded.