Ergonomy / design Lugs: a sharp, edgy topic
They connect the case to the strap and that is no ordinary role. Lugs are an authentic design feature that plays a key role in the ergonomics of a watch.
Why the devil should one take an interest in lugs? Because the devil is in the details and lugs – also known as horns and referring to the attachments that jut out from the case to secure it to the wristband – are a very important detail. They determine the comfortable feel of a watch as well as significantly contributing to its appearance.
These ergonomic appendices thus represent the interface between case and bracelet, between the body of a watch and what holds it in place. The shape, length and slope of these connecting elements trace the curve of the strap and thus the way in which it wraps itself around the wrist. If they are too long, lugs stick out beyond the wrist and create a gap between the skin and the metal. If they are too straight, they prevent the case-back from adhering closely to the wearer. Conversely, if they create a pincer effect, if they frame the wrist bones, they enable small-framed individuals to enjoy large-sized cases – an art that brands specializing in oversize formats have clearly understood.
That is indeed precisely why Richard Mille and or HYT have opted for short lugs on cases measuring 45mm or more, because they create a sheer vertical drop of the strap. De Bethune uses an incomparably comfortable system based on articulated or “floating” lugs that mould the shape of the wrist. Since they are attached as close as possible to the case-back, they single-handedly create a sense of continuity between the skin, the lugs and the watch.
A recent model particularly highlighted the importance of lugs. While the Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes de Vache 1955 admittedly bears an unromantic name (literally meaning cow’s horns), the very fact that its lugs serve to identify it is a token of the proud historical heritage of this brand. More than any other, this Manufacture has experimented with shapes, geometry and curves throughout its history, and has made the lug a signature feature. There have been butterfly, drop- or tear-shaped variations and many more – because when a lug is distinctive, it makes the entire watch design stand out from the crowd. If there are three of them, connoisseurs will identify a Roger Dubuis Excalibur. When there is only one, that would be a Pierre Arpels by Van Cleef & Arpels, a Bovet Amadeo® or a Grande Classique by Longines. And when there are two… well, it all depends on their shape.
The Radiomir by Panerai has no classic lugs as such, but instead a kind of wire-lug device shaped like a broad U that frames the bracelet. It is even detachable from the case for adjustment, an impractical arrangement that is nonetheless a Panerai signature. Those produced by Breguet are shaped like a bishop’s cross, welded to the case and adorned with a fluted motif. To modernise the design of some models such as its reference 5208, Patek Philippe has introduced cut-out lugs, an option normally typical of sportier watches intended to achieve a lighter feel and also attuned to their design.
Last but not least comes the special case of watches designed for a metal bracelet: some of them, such as the Nautilus by Patek Philippe or the North Flag by Tudor don’t really have any lugs as such. The seamless integration of case and bracelet makes them vanish: in the former instance half swallowed up the case, and in the latter absorbed by the bracelet links. Cartier goes a step further, since its Crash Skeleton watch has none whatsoever. But with a case featuring such powerful and unclassifiable lines, it was better for them to disappear so as to let the watch shape itself do all the talking.
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