Hip To Be Square
You probably do not need to be told this, but by its very nature, a watch face is circular. In its most basic form, it operates by two hands making a revolution around a circle: the short one takes twelve hours and the longer one takes sixty minutes. For this reason, most internal components of a watch are designed to spin around an axis and the cases are circular.
Many watchmakers, however, have created iconic designs by bucking the cycloidal trend in favour of a square or rectangular case. It is thought that a reasonable depth rating is harder to achieve on a square watch, but there are also myriad benefits. A square case often sits better on the wrist as it aligns more comfortably with the strap. It creates more surface area, which can give a watchmaker even more room for functional features or design quirks. But most importantly of all, a watch case with corners can look fantastic.
Here is a selection of some of the finest square and rectangular timepieces available at The Watch Gallery…
TAG HEUER MONACO
Originally founded in 1860 amid the rolling hills of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, TAG Heuer has a history steeped in motorsport. Much like the wheels on the racing machines for which they created dashboard chronographs in the early twentieth century, most of their watches are round. Their most iconic design, however, is square.
In the 1971 film Le Mans, Steve McQueen wore a Heuer Monaco, powered by their superlative Calibre 11 movement. It had a blue dial with chronograph displays, much like the Calibre 12 model that is available today (pictured). The faithful tribute features a 39mm polished fine-brushed steel case, a blue alligator leather strap and a clear caseback so you can see the “engine under the hood.”
Other notable models in the Monaco collection include this retro piece with a Calibre 11 movement, nostalgic ‘Heuer’ signage and a motorsport-inspired racing stripe. There’s also the beautiful ACM black edition, which pays tribute to the Automobile Club de Monaco.
BELL & ROSS AVIATION COLLECTION
The luxury marque’s Marine and Vintage collections may boast round designs, but the acclaimed watchmaker is most famous for its Aviation collection, which features a round dial within a chunky square case.
Inspired by the instrument display of a cockpit, the popular Aviation BR 03 range typically features 42mm cases, highly legible dials and hard-wearing rubber straps. Notable models include the BR 03-51 GMT-TWG (pictured), created exclusively for The Watch Gallery and limited to 50 pieces. It boasts a large date display, an ancillary dial capable of displaying a second time zone, and is distinguished from the regular GMT Carbon model by the blue highlights on both hour hands. There’s also the subtle BR03-94 Commando edition, whose grey dial and matte finish are perfect for those who prefer unobtrusive wristwear.
Bell & Ross also offer the BR 01 model, which is an oversized 46mm version of their famous square piece. The BR01-92 Heading Indicator and limited-edition BR01-92 Horizon are both distinctive and unusual takes on traditional watch aesthetics.
Those who prefer smaller watches should take note of the BR S range, which offers a more understated 39mm case size.
Luxury Swiss brand Longines carved their reputation in the field of aviation, producing sophisticated pieces with chronographs, moon face dials and various complications to help with air travel calculations.
The timing providers for the first modern day Olympics in 1892 also produce a vast range of lifestyle pieces, such as the discerning rectangular-cased DolceVita collection. First launched in 1997, Longines describe these pieces as an “ode to contemporary elegance,” that embody the easy-going Italian way of life (hence “la dolce vita”).
This unfussy men’s piece (pictured) features a 32.1mm x 26.3mm polished steel case, black Roman numeral index markers and a seconds sub dial. It is also available with a matching polished steel bracelet.
The DolceVita collection also offers myriad choices for ladies: this Bi-Colour Diamond model features a rose gold and steel strap, and a mother of pearl dial beneath unusual blue hands. This feminine edition, meanwhile, offers a pink mother of pearl dial with diamond hour markers. Note the sparkling heart-shaped cluster of diamonds at the 12 o’clock position.
Founded in a small Swiss workshop in the heart of the Vallée de Joux in 1833, luxury brand Jaeger-LeCoultre has been pushing the boundaries of watchmaking since its inception. The prestigious manufacture is responsible for hundreds of inventions, and has produced over a thousand calibres.
Their contribution to right-angled cases is the Reverso collection, which first appeared in 1931. Its unique selling point is a reversible case: the watch case can be flipped over in order to provide protection from shocks and a surface for personal engraving. There are many art deco-inspired designs available, including the Classique, which features a beautiful two-tone silvered dial, baton blue hands and a fetching beige alligator strap. The Squadra Hometime model (pictured), meanwhile, offers Jaeger-LeCoultre’s superb 977 movement, a square 35mm steel case and a sapphire crystal caseback so you may view the marvellous interior mechanics.
The pièce de résistance, however, is surely the Reverso Grande GMT, which is actually two watches in one. Flip over the silvered guilloche dial with patented large date display and day/night indicator, and you will find a black dial with second time zone display and power reserve indicator. Incredibly, both sides are powered by the same single Calibre Jaeger-LeCoultre 878 mechanical movement.
BAUME & MERCIER HAMPTON
The group of villages that make up the affluent Hamptons region of New York’s Long Island are anything but square, but the Baume & Mercier collection named in its honour boast some beguiling square and rectangular designs.
The luxury watchmaker, founded in 1830 in the Swiss Jura region, has produced a range of pieces for those who appreciate the kind of discreet splendour that is found at the opulent American seaside resort. This classic Hampton piece (pictured) features a Swiss-made automatic movement beneath a 32mm x 45mm polished stainless steel case. The art deco silver dial boasts a small seconds display, vivid blue sword hands and striking Arabic numerals.
Elsewhere in the collection, the outstanding Hampton chronograph is powered by Baume & Mercier’s ETA 2894 automatic chronograph movement. The black dial benefits from a quirky 6 o’clock date display and red-tipped sub dials, which are protected by scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass.
CARTIER TANK SOLO
While a great proportion of luxury watches are inspired by the field of aviation, Cartier’s enduringly popular Tank collection is based on a military mode of transport with a few more straight lines and corners: the tank.
First introduced in 1917, the Tank was influenced by the combat vehicles Louis Carter witnessed during the First World War. Even its metal bracelet is intended to mimic the caterpillar tread that was indented on European battlefields.
Cartier currently offers five variations of the Tank, but the Solo is notable for its combination of classic traits with a contemporary edge. The Solo Extra Large, for example, features paradigmatic numerals and a black alligator strap, teamed with modern touches such as a generous 31mm x 40.85mm case and a synthetic spinel cabochon set crown that matches its blue hands. This Cartier Tank Solo Mens Quartz Watch features the same blue hands and crown along with a case that is just 5.5 mm thick.
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