Reinventing the Wheel

Collectors have made their voices heard repeatedly over the last year or two, and the answer is simple — the watch world deserves something different. The same way bright colours are more popular than ever, the watch world has also been leaning into a change of the guard in terms of case design. Traditional case architecture — notably round cases with clear protruding lugs — will never really go away, but in the same breath there are more contenders using a variety of different shapes these days. Whether barrelled, lugless, square, oblong, or otherwise circularly non-conforming, the list is healthy. We’ve narrowed down some of our favourites in the category below.

Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M Co-Axial Master Chronometer

Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M Co-Axial Master Chronometer

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Among the most famous watch case designs in history, the Ploprof (short for “plongeur professionel”) is an odd duck, but one that has captured the imagination of generations of watch lovers nonetheless. Designed for professional divers in the late 1960s, the Ploprof retains its unique shape (the result of a special bezel locking mechanism) but now sports a titanium case and a COSC-certified chronometer movement, too. ($15,400)

Hamilton Ventura XXL Skeleton Auto

Hamilton Ventura XXL Skeleton Auto

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Conceived in the era of tailfins and famously worn onscreen by Elvis Presley, Hamilton’s Ventura looked like nothing else in its day — or any day since. Designed by Richard Arbib, a former car designer and occasional sci-fi illustrator, its avant-garde asymmetrical case still carries all the space-age optimism of the era. While the original version in gold remains a classic, this new steel model — which features a black cutaway dial, an oversized case, and a Swiss automatic movement — adds another level of sleek modernity to the design. ($2,300)

Accutron Legacy

Accutron Legacy

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In the 1960s, Accutron was a name associated with high-tech timekeeping and avant-garde design thanks to the recently introduced Accutron Spaceview, a futuristic watch with an electric movement. The Legacy is a throwback to another classic 1960s timepiece, the “521” model, whose gold-toned, off-centre case was a perfect fit for the era’s exuberant architecture and fashion. Re-released in the 2020s in a 600-piece limited edition, this version is upgraded to feature a 26-jewel automatic movement and a see-through case back. ($1,875)

Rado True Square Automatic High-Tech Ceramic Open Heart

Rado True Square Automatic High-Tech Ceramic Open Heart

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The shape of this watch may be distinctive, but that’s not the only thing separating it from the pack. Finished in a subtle matte sheen, a case and bracelet made of hightech ceramic keep the True Square light, scratch-resistant, and hypoallergenic, too. A gold-accented cut-out dial, meanwhile, frames the Swiss automatic movement like the work of art it is. ($3,100)

TAG Heuer Monaco × Gulf

TAG Heuer Monaco × Gulf

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The square case of this iconic chronograph was designed to be noticed, and more than 50 years after its creation, it still does the job. Released in 1969 and immortalized onscreen by Steve McQueen in 1971’s Le Mans, the Monaco was the world’s first square, water-resistant automatic chronograph. Like the original, this version features the crown on the left-hand side, placed there as a testament to the advanced movement within — one that (impressively for the time) did not require winding. Presented in the same Gulf livery as McQueen’s Le Mans Porsche race car, this version provides a direct link to those bygone days. ($8,800)

Longines Ultra-Chron

Longines Ultra-Chron

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The late 1960s was a golden age for watch design, and the coolest case shape of the era by far was the tonneau — a squared circle. The Longines Ultra-Chron, which takes inspiration from a 1968 design for a high-frequency dive watch, retains the retro-modern aesthetics of the era while adding a new ultra-accurate movement. ($4,500)

Cartier Tank Must

Cartier Tank Must

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The simple rectangular design of this icon dates to Paris in 1917, when Louis Cartier set out to create an elegant wristwatch using the fewest lines possible. The result has weathered the changing fashions of the 20th and 21st centuries with remarkable grace, remaining among the most popular timepiece designs on the planet. After more than 100 years, who can argue with that? ($5,250)

Grand Seiko Elegance Collection SBGY007

Grand Seiko Elegance Collection SBGY007

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Like many of the most coveted Grand Seiko models, this one combines a standout dial and high-end Spring Drive movement with a rounded tonneau case shape. Inspired by the frozen ridges of Lake Suwa near Grand Seiko’s Shinshu Watch Studio, the dial features a uniquely textured surface in a pale, ice-blue hue. ($10,800)

Glashütte Original Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date 40 mm

Glashütte Original Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date 40 mm

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A descendent of the “TV screen watches” of the 1970s (so called because their square cases and convex crystals resembled the TV sets of the era), the Chronograph Panorama Date is a distinctive piece from a brand known for striking designs. In addition to its unique rounded square case shape and Glashütte Original’s signature Panorama Date window, the newest version of this watch comes with a handsome green dial that subtly fades from light to dark. ($18,000)

Citizen Promaster Dive

Citizen Promaster Dive

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In 1982, Citizen created a new dive watch that could withstand depths of up to 1,300 metres thanks in part to a rounded four-corner case design. Forty years later, Citizen is revisiting this achievement with the new Promaster Dive, a similarly distinctive-looking piece with a case in sandblasted Super Titanium and a dial that mimics the mottled effect of light underwater. ($725)

Photography: Michael Kazimierczuk (Impossible Studios)

Set Design: Zach Noftall

Styling: Haley Dach

Photography Assistant: Levi Hodson