Huey Lewis and the News had it right when they declared it "Hip To Be Square". Although square and rectangular watches have always been in the minority compared to their round cousins, their appeal endures.
The shape is both modern and pleasingly retro, at once classic and contemporary. Try a square watch if you're in the market for something slightly unusual, but still versatile and wearable. Ten favourites are below.
Cartier Santos 100
In 1904, after winning the Deutsch Prize for piloting the first machine to fly from the Parc Saint Cloud to the Eiffel Tower and back in less than 30 minutes, Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont lodged a complaint with his friend Louis Cartier. He found it difficult to check his pocket watch during flight in order to time his performance, and asked Cartier to devise an alternative. The result was dubbed the Santos watch, which celebrated its centenary this year with a new steel edition of the iconic square timepiece.
Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Matte Black
An aviation watch designed for professionals, the BR 03-92 is a 42mm diameter alternative to the larger BR 01. Bell & Ross gave the watch an update for 2014 in the form of a new protective layer of skin: a ceramic matte black case. As it was inspired by aeronautical instrumentation, the BR 03-92 brings its A-game in terms of readability, reliability and performance – thanks to a black dial with large white numerals and hands (all treated with Super-LumiNova luminescent coating), and an automatic ETA 2892 movement.
Glashütte Sixties Square Chronograph
The design of the Glashütte Original Sixties collection takes its cues from the Swingin' 60s. Amongst the many defining characteristics of the era was an appreciation of geometric forms, which was expressed across the fields of art, fashion and design. The squared cushion shape was popular at the time, hence the eye-catching design of the Sixties Square Chronograph. The black and white dial, with totalizers positioned at 3 and 9 o'clock, is simple, well-balanced and elegant inside the stainless steel case. Altogether, it makes for a distinctive and stylish chronograph.
Longines Heritage 1973
Longines combines the original beauty of its most remarkable early timepieces with cutting-edge watchmaking technology in the Heritage collection. The Longines Heritage 1973 is based on a historic Longines watch produced, of course, in 1973 with a mechanical chronograph movement, Caliber 30CH. The updated watch contains the Longines Calibre L688, produced exclusively for Longines by ETA, inside a 40mm period-appropriate curved case made of stainless steel and topped off with a black alligator leather strap.
TAG Heuer Monaco Calibre 12 Chronograph
Avid fans of classic sports cars and watches will find a lot to love about the TAG Heuer Monaco watch models. The original debuted in 1969, and the newer Monaco Calibre 12 Chronograph retains its classic square case design. What it updates is what's under the hood: the Swiss-made TAG Heuer Calibre 12, which you can see in action through the sapphire crystal caseback. On the front side you'll find two square counters at 3 and 9 o'clock that measure small seconds and chrono minutes, as well as a small date window at 6 o'clock.
IWC Da Vinci Chronograph
In 2007 IWC released the Da Vinci Chronograph, featuring an IWC-manufactured movement from the 89000-calibre family in an innovative tonneau-shaped case with a glass back cover. The watch records seconds with the large central chronograph hand but displays longer periods of time with two analogue hands on a single subdial. This innovation, based on an extremely sophisticated movement design, means stopped hours and minutes can be read off immediately because they are not viewed in separate counters and added together.
Nomos Glashutte Lux Weissgold
The Lux Weissgold from NOMOS Glashütte achieves maximum style with minimal effort. The blue and white dial is made up entirely of unobtrusive colours and small lines, with not a number in sight, which is striking without being over the top. Also striking is the extravagant calibre at its heart: DUW 2002, a beautifully shaped movement from Deutsche Uhrenwerke NOMOS Glashütte with twin mainspring barrels, a hand-engraved balance cock, a three-quarter plate with fine sunbeam polishing and 23 jewels, five of them in gold chatons.
Briston Clubmaster Chronograph
Chic, sporty and just the right amount of preppy, Briston bears an English name, was founded by a Frenchman and is brimming with Swiss watchmaking tradition. Confusing? Maybe a little, but it makes for beautiful watches that blend the classical style of traditional watchmaking, advanced technologies and a slightly offbeat aesthetic. Try the Briston Clubmaster Chronograph, a nostalgic-yet-modern piece that features a stainless steel case, interchangeable NATO canvas straps and a Japanese quartz movement.
Baume & Mercier Hampton Chronograph
Baume & Mercier taps into the discreet luxury lifestyle of the New York Hamptons for the Hampton Chronograph, an Art Deco-inspired watch defined by dynamic lines and well-balanced proportions. The rectangular steel case is dramatic and encloses a Swiss-made mechanical self-winding movement, visible through a transparent sapphire crystal caseback. The dial also does drama well, with two square subdials (a 30 minute counter and a small seconds dial) at 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock and a date window at 6.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Grand Reverso Ultra Thin 1948
Launched in the early 1930s, the Reverso was originally designed as a sports watch. Its unique reversible case design allowed the wearer to protect the dial while wearing it on the polo field. Since then, the Reverso has taken on many guises and become a classic of the Art Deco movement. The Grand Reverso Ultra Thin 1948 pays tribute to one of its incarnations with a beautifully slender shape, a bright white dial with blue hands, and the manually-wound Calibre 822/2.
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