Shaped Watches Everything but Round – Long Live Shaped Watches
Where round watches can often be boring, shaped watches stand out with their almost boundless geometry. Why not try something a little less conventional on the wrist for an eye-catching look?
Here’s a question – even if it isn’t existential – it is horological: Do you know why watches are predominantly round? There is no need to try and calculate the square of a circle, it is the standard and historical round shape used for measuring instruments with counters. Moreover, this shape is perfect for following the circular passage of hands – even though getting a circle to fit in a square is not so complicated for watchmakers! Especially since a “shaped watch” doesn’t necessarily mean a “shaped movement”, which is a whole other thing entirely!
Shaking up the traditional circle
The first wristwatches (made between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century) were round, just like their big sisters, the pocket watches. However, the desire for fantasy or elegant variations, especially on the part of jewelers, quickly gave rise to watches of all shapes. In 1906, Cartier introduced a barrel-shaped wristwatch with a curved case that fit the wrist perfectly.
Santos © Cartier
Five years later, it came out with a square model, the Santos. And in 1967, the brand presented one of the most daring shapes in watchmaking called the Crash that was inspired by Dali’s melting watch.
Crash © Cartier
Taming angles with rectangles
The rectangular watch debuted in the Art Deco period with its elegant and slender form that wasn’t too crazy. One example is the Reverso by Jaeger-LeCoultre that was created in 1931 and has endured to this day.
Reverso © Jaeger-LeCoultre
Other contemporary models include the Alacria by Carl F. Bucherer and the Toccata Ladies by Raymond Weil, which both play on the refinement of the rectangle, curved for the former and all geometric softness for the latter.
Alacria © Carl F. Bucherer
Other famous angular shapes in watchmaking include the square shape of the TAG Heuer Monaco – the first water-resistant watch in 1969 – and the famous octagons of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Gerald Genta Octo.
Toccata Ladies © Raymond Weil
Smooth lines to make life easy
Watchmakers love nothing more than to imagine voluptuous variations along the theme of curves, especially for women’s wrists. Breguet showed an incredible amount of creativity when it designed its Reine de Naples around the shape of an egg. In 2021, it went one step further by creating retractable hands in the form of a heart that followed the shape of the Reine de Naples’ oval dial. At Bulgari, the face of the Serpenti collection is reminiscent of a (very luxurious) reptile head. With the Cat’s Eye, Girard-Perregaux also plays with this opal shape, but positions it widthwise this time. It comes with a large choice of gem-settings, materials, and finishes including guilloché, mother-of-pearl, and aventurine.
Cat's Eye © Girard-Perregaux
The inventor of the craziest shape is...
But what if the most daring shapes were inspired by the lines of objects, interpreted in a horological way? Examples include a "porthole" at Patek Philippe, with the Nautilus, and spaceships at Urwerk with futuristic shapes reminiscent of space shuttles. Parmigiani’s Bugatti found inspiration in the racy lines of the Bugatti motorcar and MB&F had particular fun creating cases that resemble frogs! For Ralph Lauren, the Stirrup, in the shape of a stirrup, makes you want to go for a triple gallop.
Stirrup © Ralph Lauren
So, in this multiform watchmaking, what is the shape of your dreams?
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