In today’s climate, watchmakers can easily struggle to differentiate themselves from their counterparts. At both SIHH and Baselworld, we spotted many brands attempting to showcase the unique nature of their watches’ designs by adopting a ‘montres de forme’ mantra, proving that perfectly spherical frames aren’t the only way to excite watchistas. And while the twisted oval shape of Cartier and the Octo design of Bulgari both have fashionable qualities, the alternative style of horological casing that seems to have had the biggest impact this year is the square.
Whether you’re a Modern Muse, Suave Gentleman, Glamourpuss or Style Maven, a delicious timepiece adorning the wrist is a must. And what better way to show off your exceptional style than with a square-faced watch – particularly when the likes of Nomos and Bell & Ross are integrating the design technique into their brand’s DNA. Remember, in many ways the roots of square-faced watches are entangled with the world of luxury haute culture – taking into account the work of Parisian watchmaker and diplomat Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, who in 1755 created a ring timepiece with a rectangular casing for Madame de Pompadour.
For wristwatches, the square design rose in popularity in the early to mid-twentieth century, when Longines, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Cartier and TAG Heuer created instantly iconic, square-faced wristwatches. The most famous of all was arguably TAG Heuer’s Monaco (although some may dispute that Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso Squadra collection has more reputable timepieces), which took centre-stage on the wrist of Steve McQueen in the 1971 film Le Mans, putting the watch firmly in the history books.
While the growing popularisation of sport watches during the 90s meant that the square design did start to dwindle, it is now regaining relevance with a new market of modern fashionistas who are often looking for smarter alternatives. As demonstrated through search engine activity on Google Trends, interest has been slowly growing year-on-year, and fashion-orientated brands like Hermès have adopted the style for luxurious timepieces such as the Cape Cod; the square-faced watch is now regaining its status as one of the most prominent styles in horology.
While for watch designers, the use of a square case isn’t always the easiest of exercises – as it is anti-natural to have hands that go round in a square – it is still a wonderful and creative exercise that truly gets the watch community ticking. Here are five square-faced watches that have been getting online watchistas talking in 2016.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso ‘Christian Louboutin’
Joining forces with luxury shoe designer Christian Louboutin, Jaeger-LeCoultre launched a new line of uber-feminine wristwatches in their Reverso collection.
Nomos Tetra Neomatik
It doesn’t get more perfectly square than Nomos’s new entry to their Tetra line, the Neomatik. Launched at this year’s Baselworld, the Tetra Neomatik is slightly larger than previous Nomos models at 33mm, and is available with either a black or white dial.
Bell & Ross BR-X1 Hyperstellar
Arguably one of the brand’s most innovative models, the BR-X1 Hyperstellar is a robust, ultra-lightweight timepiece that has been designed specifically as a navigation tool for space missions.
TAG Heuer Monaco Calibre 11
The Monaco Calibre 11 is one of the world’s most iconic timepieces ever. Since 1997, when TAG Heuer revived the model, it has seen regular updates and revamps yet maintained the design DNA of the ‘Steve McQueen’ blue dial model.
When it comes to Chanel you’d expect fine design, and that’s exactly what the French fashion house delivers with this slim, feminine timepiece, with a diamond-encrusted bezel and crisp white dial.