The Ultimate Guide to Watch Case Shapes
Learn the different types of watch case shapes and see the finest examples of each.
While round watches are undoubtedly the most popular shape today, watch cases come in many shapes and sizes. This guide to watch case shapes explores nine different shapes you might see in the market. Don’t be afraid to go beyond classic round watches and wear something different.
There are many reasons why most watches are round. It’s easy to read the time in a circular way because watch hands move in a circle. The gears and wheels that power the movement are round, so they easily nestle in a round shape. Also, wristwatches are miniature pocket watches, which are miniature clocks that historically were round. Patek Philippe makes many of the most classic round watches.
Rectangular watches are also quite popular. While many people first think of the Tank watch, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is my favorite example due to the sharp shape of the case.
Tonneau watches are also called barrel watches. They have a rectangular shape with rounded vertical edges. Richard Mille is a master of tonneau watches.
As the name suggests, these watches have cases with eight sides. First popularized by Audemar Piguet’s Royal Oak, octagonal watches are practically a category unto themselves these days. Other examples include Bulgari’s Octo and Girard-Perregaux’s Laureato collections.
Breguet’s Reine de Naples watch is one of the first — if not the first — wristwatches ever created. The oval shape is slightly irregular, but it’s a beautiful example.
The Tag Heuer Monaco is one of the most recognizable watches ever, partly because square watches are so unusual.
There are many types of asymmetrical watches, and some are more pronounced than others. Bulgari’s Serpenti watches are an iconic asymmetrical watch; the shape is reminiscent of a snake’s head. Other, more subtle, asymmetrical watches are thicker on one side for additional protection, like in certain chronographs. Some of Greubel Forsey’s watches have asymmetrical cases because they contain too many complications to include in a round case.
East-West watches can be any elongated shape, like a rectangle or an oval, that is set horizontally instead of vertically. Girard-Perregaux’s Cat’s Eye watch is a great example. The watch becomes more unusual and eye-catching simply by rotating the case 90 degrees.
Cushion-shaped cases are square with rounded edges and take their names from pillows. They aren’t very common today, but I find they are much more elegant than a classic square watch. The rounded edges soften the sharpness of the square and make the watch look more refined. Laurent Ferrier has made cushion-shaped watches a signature of his brand, like this Galet Square watch.
Unique Case Shapes
Some watches are instantly recognizable from their case shape because they are completely unique, like Cartier’s iconic Crash watches. These Surrealism-inspired watches are produced in extremely limited quantities and have become some of the hottest watches in the vintage market today.