A watch is a functional object, but more than anything it is an expression of personal style. In addition to the usual circular case, there are some alternative forms that provide more unusual looks. Here are ten of the most iconic unusually-shaped watches.
1. Cartier Crash Skeleton
It looks like a Dalí soft watch, but in actual fact its bizarre design dates back to 1967, when, according to legend, a customer brought a Cartier watch that had been damaged in a car crash to the London branch, hoping to have it repaired. Jean-Jacques Cartier, at the time head of Cartier London, was fascinated by the curves of the wrecked case and thought it would look good as an original new design. The result was a watch whose mood fitted the joyous atmosphere of swinging London and over the next decade it became a collector’s piece.
Crash remains a very rare watch, available only occasionally in limited editions. The Crash Skeleton is deliciously quirky, and the only regular things about it are the central position of the hands, and the crown that provides an important visual reference for telling the time. The openwork dial is based on Roman numerals, but these are just vaguely suggested and incomplete. Not only is the case curved from the top, it is also arched in profile, and the Calibre 9618 manually-wound movement is specially designed to fit into this complex curved shape. See more at the Cartier website.
2. Hamilton Ventura
The Hamilton Ventura was introduced on 3 January 1957. It was designed by Richard Arbib and it was the first electrical, battery-powered watch in the world. It was initially named the Hamilton Electric 500 before becoming the Ventura. It reached world-wide fame when Elvis Presley wore it during the film Blue Hawaii in 1961, and it later appeared in the Men in Black movies. Its distinctive, slightly sci-fi appearance makes it immediately recognizable, a truly unique timepiece. The version shown here has a mechanical movement and a design that creates an immediate link to Elvis. Read more on the Hamilton website.
You may also like:
Top ten chronograph watches
3. Tiffany East West
Tiffany East West is a rectangular watch with a case at 90° with respect to the usual orientation, a feature that makes it distinctive and easy to read while you are working at a computer or driving. The case has an attractive curving profile and watchglass, in a design based on a Tiffany 1940s travel clock. The version shown here has a self-winding movement, the Sellita SW1000, with a 40-hour power reserve. Read more on the Tiffany website.
4. Chopard L.U.C Heritage Grand Cru
Tonneau cases are a classic in watchmaking, a hallmark of brands such as Franck Muller and Richard Mille. The L.U.C Heritage Grand Cru by Chopard is a little different from most tonneau watches, as it is almost as wide as it is high, presumably inspired – judging from the watch’s name – by the shape of wine barrels. The rose gold case is a perfect match for the hand-sewn brown alligator leather strap, and the antique style of the dial. Inside, the 97.01-L calibre is made in-house by Chopard, with two mainspring barrels providing 65 hours power reserve. The movement is precision-certified by COSC, and the overall quality is guaranteed by the quality mark Poinçon de Genève. Read more on the Chopard website.
5. Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic
The Reverso story began in winter 1930-31, when Swiss businessman César de Trey was travelling in India, and saw a watch damaged during a direct hit from the ball in a polo match being played by British army officers. During conversation after the match, the player suggested that de Trey, with all his contacts in the watch industry, could devise a watch offering a system of protection. The result was the Reverso, with its slide-and-flip case patented in 1931. With its Art Deco cases and its unique functionality, it has become one of the most famous and distinctive timepieces of all. Read more on the Jaeger-LeCoultre website.
6. Parmigiani Fleurier Ovale Pantographe Edition Or
The Ovale Pantographe by Parmigiani Fleurier is a watch unique in the world. With an oval case and dial, its hands change in length as they progress around the dial. Brand founder Michel Parmigiani was asked to restore a 1790 pocket watch that had this feature, created by London watchmakers Stedman & Vardon, and he developed the idea to create this wristwatch version in 2011, with the version shown here presented in 2017. It is powered by the hand-wound Parmigiani PF111 calibre, which has the exceptional power reserve of 8 days, or 192 hours. More at the Parmigiani Fleurier website.
7. Omega Seamaster Bullhead
The Seamaster Bullhead is one of the most unusual watches by Omega, with its chronograph pushers – whose position gives the watch its name – and crown on the top, and a second crown at 6 o’clock, used to adjust the internal rotating bezel. It is powered by the Omega Co-Axial Calibre 3113, a prestigious chronograph movement with column wheel. More on the Omega website.
8. MB&F Horological Machine No. 7 Aquapod
HM7 by MB&F has a distinctly nautical inspiration, with a profile that resembles a jellyfish, an external rotating bezel that looks like a lifebuoy as well as the bezel on a diver’s watch, and an oscillating weight that suggests a sea anemone, visible through the sapphire caseback. Most watches have a horizontally-developed movement to reduce the thickness of the final watch, but in this case, the movement is built vertically, so that energy is transferred from the rotor on the bottom, up through progressive layers until it reaches the flying tourbillon at the top. The hours and minutes are shown by two rings, with numerals coated in luminescent paint for an attractive appearance in the dark. In every respect, this is more a wrist-borne kinetic sculpture than a simple timepiece. More at the MB&F website.
You may also like:
Top ten unusually shaped watches
9. Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde
The Grande Seconde series of watches by Jaquet Droz is based on a pocket watch that brand founder Pierre Jaquet-Droz completed in 1784, with two intersecting dials, the larger subdial below for the seconds. It was a brilliant and quirky piece of design, and it is not clear why Pierre made the seconds dial so large – perhaps it was something that doctors could find useful, or perhaps he felt that the user should be able to see easily that the watch is running. A superb touch is the way in which the Roman numerals on the top dial switch to Arabic in the intersection with the large seconds subdial. It’s a conventional round watch, but the dial design makes it absolutely unique. More at the Jaquet Droz website.
10. TAG Heuer Monaco
The TAG Heuer Monaco was the first self-winding chronograph to be put onto the market, in 1969. The new calibre was used in several case designs, but the Monaco was the most iconic, with its futuristic square shape used for the case and subdials, and and the unusual hour markers. It was brought to worldwide fame by Steve McQueen who wore it in the 1971 film LeMans. The version in the photo continues the basic design of the Monaco, with its large 39mm case, chronograph pushers on the right, and crown on the left, adding the orange and blue stripes of Gulf Oil International that sponsored McQueen in the film. More at the TAG Heuer website.