There was a time, in the not-too-distant past when wearing a rectangular or square watch was seen as bit daring and a curved rectangular watch-clad wrist was only seen once in a blue moon. Now watches such as the Cartier Tank Cintree or Patek Ellipse are highly sought-after watches with high-profile collectors curating entire collections of such pieces. As the prices of classic Oyster watches and vintage chronographs reach ever new heights and social media is awash with pictures of handfuls of “rare” watches, collectors are looking for something different. Look a little further afield and there is a world of unusual, almost odd-ball watches from the world’s finest watch brands. Today we want to share some watches with you that we believe are cool, understated and pieces that you are unlikely to find another person in the room wearing at your next get-together. And of you thought the Cartier Crash was left-field, we have some watches here that might just blow your mind!
Protection is Paramount
Watches with interesting ways to protect the glass are nothing new. The most famous example is the Jaeger-le-Coultre Reverso that was designed for polo players and allowed them to rotate the mid-case of the watch through 180 degrees to protect the delicate glass from stray balls and swinging mallets. There have been a number of other interesting riffs on this standard including the Cartier Basculante, which we wrote about here, and who could ever forget the Corum Rolls Royce watch with glass-protector grill that you can see here.
One of our favourite pieces in this category is the Patek Philippe Gondolo Cabriolet. You haven’t heard of it? No, didn’t think so but it is certainly one of our favourite finds of recent months. Reference 5099RG-001 is a rose gold watch with a white gold striped cover over the main case – think Tiger Stripe Rolex Prince with its bi-colour gold case. Under the ‘hood’ of the case is the concealed face of the watch, which can be viewed by pressing two buttons on the bottom lugs of the case. Like your favourite cabriolet car, the hood comes back to reveal the interior and you can truly feel that Patek quality when you operate the mechanism – such awesome quality! And what a face to behold – the dial is rose gold with what looks like a frosted effect with painted black Breguet numerals and small seconds.
Another interesting design that we love is the Vacheron Constantin Jalousie. This example that we found is again in rose gold and has the Art Deco styling one would expect in a watch that takes its inspiration from an original design that dates back to the 1930s. The beautifully executed rectangular case has a curved caseback that allows it to sit nicely on the wrist and features decorative engravings down the sides of the case. The cream dial with delicate blued steel hands is hidden behind shutters that are operated by a blue sapphire cabochon button on the front of the watch. The wearer can simply press this button and the shutters simultaneously make a 90 degree turn to give a clean view of the dial.
Like may professional applications, Rolex has done a pretty good job of creating dual and triple time zone watches in the shape of the iconic GMT-Master. Whether you are a commercial pilot, business traveller, holiday maker or working within a company that operates in different time zones, it is handy to be able to check the times at a glance. Maybe the most epic example of such a true multi time zone watch to surface over the years is the Chopard Quad Timer that we wrote about here. This four-time-zone watch in yellow gold is as big as it is unusual, the watch was a bespoke piece that combined two reference 2030s and allowed the wearer to monitor four USA time zones marked as Eastern, Pacific, Mountain and Central.
Another fascinating watch is the Royce Dual Time. Unlike a GMT watch that features a 24-hour bezel and 24-hour hand, many dual time zone watches actually house two independent movemets, hence the need for a winding crown on each side of the case to adjust and wind each face on the dial. These watches are so different and interesting and will certainly be a talking point with friends and collectors.
A Step In Time
The step case waterproof steel chronographs are now amongst some of the collectible wristwatches in the market. Stepped cases are also prominently used in dress watches, as gold is relatively easy to work with due to its softness and so many brands used the king of metals to experiment with designs and shapes. One brand that has produced arguably more experimental case designs than anybody is Cartier. As we mentioned at the beginning of this piece, one of the most interesting cases is the Crash which is also now one of the most recognised case shapes ever! Off the beaten track, however are some other odd ball case designs that are less known and yet equally fascinating.
One such watch is the Gondole Jumbo Horizontal Grand ‘TV’, which is believed to have been made in only fifteen pieces in the horizontal form. The large size case has a step, which adds an interesting element to the watch’s eye-catching proportions. The attention to detail on the PARIS-signed dial has always been a key ingredient in the Cartier recipe of success and this watch is no exception, with the Roman numerals having been designed to perfectly fit and flow around the dial.
From two steps on the case to three, with the Cartier Crystallor. This watch is a rectangular form case with squared off corners, technically making it eight-sided. The case is triple-stepped, which gives the case an exaggerated height and looks utterly 1970s, but also manages that Cartier timelessness. These pieces have a clean presence on the wrist due to the fact that the lugs are hidden and so the case seemingly sits on the leather strap elegantly. The size is also impressive with a cool 35 x 28mm case with a very slim 6mm height. It is watches such as these that make Cartier such a fun brand to collect and research, as there are a number of short-run pieces in interesting shapes and sizes. The Ceinture is another lesser-seen model from the brand. Named after the French word for belt, the watch was designed in the form of a belt buckle including the winding crown that sits within a slot on the right side of the case.
One thing is for sure, there is always something new and interesting to discover.
Whether you want to go out of this world with a Zenith UFO, with its incredible oversized 40mm yellow gold case with hammered outer rim, or enjoy an Art Deco aesthetic with a classic steel rectangular case but stylised lug covers from Ulysse Nardin, there is no right or wrong. Just go with what you love and don’t be afraid to step off the well-trodden path; there may be some unexpected treats to enjoy out there!