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The Shape of Time to Come – Six Striking Watches That Aren’t Round

Cartier Santos Dumont W2sa0017 At Cortina Watch Featured

While round watches are timeless classics, non-round varieties introduce a different perspective on displaying time and offer a unique aesthetic that stands out like no other.

Have you ever wondered why the majority of watches sport a circular shape? The answer is more straightforward than you might expect. It has little to do with grand design philosophies; rather, it’s rooted in functional and practical considerations. The gears and mechanisms within a watch are naturally round, and the watch hands move in a circular fashion.

The origins of this design can be traced back to pocket watches, the predecessors of wristwatches. They were intentionally crafted to be flat and round, devoid of any sharp edges. This design allowed them to rest comfortably in the palm of one’s hand while easily slipping in and out of pockets without snagging any fabric. Creating round pocket and wristwatches was an intuitive and logical choice.

While round watches may be the norm, many non-round watches have also made an indelible mark in the history of watchmaking, bringing diversity and pushing watchmakers and designers beyond their conventional boundaries. In the realm of horology, the umbrella terms for these “non-round creations” are “shaped” or “form” watches.

While the 1950s and 1960s are frequently regarded as the golden age of shaped watches in the last millennium, watch case designs have significantly evolved and reached new heights thanks to technological advancements in recent decades. Looking ahead, the case shapes that will emerge in the world of watchmaking will likely be as captivating and innovative as our imagination allows.

Below, we introduce some of our favourite shaped luxury watches that are currently much loved by collectors and enthusiasts.

Cartier_Santos Dumont_W2SA0017_Cortina Watch

Cartier Santos-Dumont

Cartier‘s storied legacy in shaped watches is exemplified by the Cartier Santos-Dumont, which was first designed in 1904 by Louis Cartier for his close friend, aviation pioneer and style icon, Alberto Santos-Dumont. This watch is not only renowned as the first pilot’s watch but also as one of the earliest men’s wristwatches with a non-round case. Following its initial creation, Cartier introduced this model commercially. Over the years, it has undergone subtle updates while retaining its timeless appeal as a watchmaking icon that has transcended for more than a century.

The two-tone, extra-large model boasts a substantial 46.6mm-wide case crafted from steel and rose gold, adorned with elegant sword-shaped hands. It features Cartier’s signature Roman numerals and a distinctive spinel cabochon-set crown. Powering this watch is the brand’s own manual-winding Cal. 430 MC mechanical movement.

Franck Muller_Vanguard Rose Skeleton Black Diamonds_Cortina Watch

Franck Muller Vanguard Rose Skeleton

Mention Franck Muller, and the first thing that comes to mind is its unmistakable tonneau-shaped cases. Specifically created with discerning and stylish female watch enthusiasts in mind, the Vanguard Rose Skeleton is a mechanical timepiece encased in an ergonomically designed Cintrée Curvex case that wears comfortably even on slender wrists. Beyond the surface of this bold timepiece, there is much more to discover. The roses and leaves have been seamlessly integrated into the structure of this specially constructed movement, meticulously skeletonized and decorated by the master craftsmen at Franck Muller. Captivating aesthetics aside, this in-house movement is fitted with a twin barrel system capable of providing an impressive 4-day power reserve, a rarity among ladies’ timepieces.

Singer Reimagined_TRACK1_Emirates Edition_Cortina Watch

Singer Reimagined Track1 Emirate Edition

Featuring a case that is cross between the round and barrel shape, the case of Singer Reimagined’s Track1 collection is heavily inspired by chronograph watches from the 1960s and 1970s. This model pays homage to the UAE and combines distinct blend of luxury and sportiness. The case displays a captivating juxtaposition of light and dark, featuring a matte black ceramic-aluminium case contrasted with golden accents crafted out of ZrN finished titanium. The deep khaki green that adorns the dial is a favourite colour of the brand’s co-founder Marco Borraccino, and complements perfectly the black and gold details, as well as the striking orange hands. Time is displayed through rotating hour and minute discs, while strategically placed start-stop pushers and integrated crown combine form and function.

Powering this refreshing interpretation of the chronograph watch, is the Singer Reimagined 6361 self-winding mechanical movement that incorporates a column-wheel chronograph and the revolutionary AgenGraphe that centralises all functions and improves legibility.

TAG Heuer_Monaco Gulf_CBL2115FC6494_Cortina Watch

TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf

TAG Heuer’s new and enhanced Monaco Gulf Edition features its in-house Heuer 02 movement within a finely brushed and polished steel case. This edition captivates with its design, maintaining the iconic Gulf colours of dark blue, turquoise, and orange but interpreting them in a contemporary manner. A departure from its predecessor launched in 2007, the minute sub-counters of this updated iteration now showcase all three Gulf colours together for the first time, and the Gulf logo on the dial adopts a pristine white appearance. The opaline sunray-finished dial adds an intriguing aesthetic dimension, while a polished, rhodium-plated number “60” replaces the 12 o’clock index as a fitting homage to Porsche Gulf racing cars. The watch’s sporty yet sophisticated appearance extends to its perforated blue calfskin leather strap with an orange lining, reminiscent of the 1970s Monaco models. This is also the first Gulf-series of Monaco model that houses the Heuer 02 self-winding movement, which offers 80 hours of power reserve.

Corum_Golden Bridge Classic Rose Gold Diamonds_Cortina Watch

Corum Golden Bridge Classic Rose Gold Diamonds

Launched in 1980, Corum’s Golden Bridge remains as one of the most unique, revolutionary and coveted creations in horological history. It not only features a shaped case, but also a form (non-round) movement – an accidental creation of watchmaker Vincent Calabrese, who is also known to be an expert in constructing form (i.e. non-round) movements. Over the years, the Golden Bridge has evolved to cater to the times, mostly in terms of aesthetics and material use. While the Golden Bridge has adapted to changing times, particularly in aesthetics and materials, its fundamental design has remained unchanged. Available in versions tailored for both men and women, the Golden Bridge embodies elegance and versatility. This particular model showcases a diamond-adorned rose gold case, offering a truly exceptional opportunity to admire the inner workings of a mechanical watch.

Zenith DEFY Skyline Sapphire

Featuring a 41mm steel octagonal case, this variation of the DEFY Skyline has been adorned with 45 baguette-cut sapphires, complemented by a matching sunburst-patterned dial that pays tribute to the brand’s iconic four-pointed star motif. The angular case is complemented by a 12-sided bezel, and its tapered bracelet adds an elegant touch to the otherwise sporty design. It is driven by the El Primero 3620 high-frequency movement that can be admired through its transparent caseback. On the dial side, the sub-dial at 9 o’clock is the first instance of a 1/10th of a second indicator being integrated into a watch dial. Besides a beautifully finished steel bracelet, this watch also comes with interchangeable, blue-patterned rubber straps.

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