Watch Shapes: A summary of historical and style evolution

Watch Shapes: A summary of historical and style evolution

Posted by Woodrow Jewelers Team on 21st Mar 2018

Quick reference for watch shapes:

- Square

- Cushion 

- Circle

- Tonneou

- Rectangle

Let’s say you’re in the market for a new watch or looking for a ‘timeless’ piece to give your loved one. Where do you start? Usually brand recognition gets your attention, so brands like Michele watches, BreitlingBaume and Mercier, Omega, Raymond Weil, Patek Philippe, or Luminox may be your starting point. But have you ever tried to research your purchase starting with the watch shape?

Different shapes offer different style choices to their customers: modern, classic, and elegant shapes and watch cases can lend to your personal style. Historically, there have been 5 classic shapes that have been the most commonly produced by watch manufacturers and the most revered by enthusiasts.

5 most common watch shapes are:

5 most common watch shapes circle, square, rectangle, cushion, and tonneau


Baume and Mercier Capeland Watch with Circular or Round shape

First on the scene as a pocket watch, the circular shape was recognized and worn on the wrist in the 19th century by the early pioneers of the wristwatch world, the Europeans, who embraced it. In fact, The New York Times printed an article in July of 1916 that questioned the trend by their friends across the pond. Soon after the release of the article the practicality and usefulness of the watch migrating from the pocket to the wrist was obvious. The circle shape was the very first watch shape to be worn on the wrists of military men and aristocratic elites alike.


Baume and Mercier Hampton Watch with Rectangular Shape

Over a century has passed since the rectangular watch was first introduced by Louis Cartier, and since then, brands like Rolex and Vacheron Constantin adopted their own spin on the unique shape.


Hermes Square shape womens watch

The square shape watch was actually introduced historically before the rectangle, and was accepted by fashion-forward wearers around the same time as the tonneau.


Hermes Tonneau shape women's watch

Once a shape introduced by Vacheron Constantin in 1912, the historical significance of the tonneau shape cannot be lost. With mass appeal, the unique shape was embraced and celebrated by the brand over 100 years ago and continues to be an iconic and easily recognizable piece.


Shinola Brakeman mens watch with cushion shape

An experimentation and adaptation of the rounded shapes, the cushion shape adds to the style of the case while augmenting the look of the timepiece. Early designers of the cushion shape include Cartier and Patek Philippe.

The faces of the watch may include roman numerals or simple tick marks, but along with keeping time and date, watches offer so much more than just that. Traditionally, pocket watches were worn but tucked within pockets without being part of an individual’s personality or style. Now, watch designers like Louis Cartier and Bulova are making watch parts that build upon each other with sapphire crystals or mineral crystals and gold plates, touting water resistance and durability.

Further choices on style are decided upon by watch band types: leather, metals like stainless steel, gold, silver, etc., and silicone. The most common watch bands in the USA are leather, but silicone has been making an impact on those looking for rugged, everyday wearers.

So whether you choose a watch as a gift for yourself or your loved one, always keep in mind the impact of the watch face on the wearer’s style and personality, and always look to your friends at Woodrow Jewelers in Rye, NY for all your watch needs.