Forget the Trump-Kim how-did-the-orange-guy-get-played-so-badly-non-summit, the biggest news of the past few weeks has been the seismic change in the world of pancakes. American restaurant chain International House of Pancakes (Ihop) changed its name to International House of Burgers (Ihob). OK, I can see it was a marketing stunt, but, boy, did it work!
All this messing with a tried-and-tested formula got me thinking about square watches. The round case is your typical, classical, boringly familiar shape and has been since wristwatches were introduced in the 16th century (they were called arm watches then and were primarily worn by women). Square watches, on the other hand, are an acquired taste, just like burgers at Ihop. If you like to be “different” in a conformist way, however, there are some rather spiffy square watches out there.
A nod to Nomos’ Tetra and the Hermès Carré H, both of which are worth a look, but we begin our deep dive with the alpha papa of square watches, the Tag Heuer Monaco. The iconic tribute-to-racing watch, which, to me at least, looks bizarre, made its debut in the 1971 film Le Mans, starring Tag Heuer devotee Steve McQueen.
The latest model retains that 1970s design, which was disruptive for its time and gives more room for the chronograph subdials. Tag Heuer didn’t change much but a nice retro flourish is the old Heuer logo on the dial with the legend Monaco above it. The pictured watch is the Calibre 11, as identified by the crown on the left side of the 39mm by 39mm steel case. The watch, which comes with a perforated calfskin strap, is priced at about HK$41,500.
Bell & Rossis a brand that has dabbled with round cases but it is the square variety for which it is famed. And watches such as the BR 03-92 reinforce that reputation. I love this watch even though I’m not too enamoured with Bell & Ross’ oeuvre (skinny wrists, you see).
A square dive watch is a novelty and works well from a looks point of view. The steel case on this bad boy measures 42mm by 42mm, which doesn’t sound big but looks huge on the wrist thanks to the shape and strap width. The movement is nothing special but the watch has 300 metres of water resistance as well as a unidirectional bezel. The BR 03-92 comes in a variety of colours and they are all great but the all-black version is my favourite. It is priced at about HK$28,000.
Finally, something classy, the Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921. OK, this is a “soft” square but, as an added bonus for the rebels out there, it has an off-centre dial layout, with 12 o’clock in the top right corner, and the crown also sits in an unorthodox position.
The name and design of the watch pay tribute to the Vacheron Constantin driver’s watch, which was introduced to the American market in the 20s (the odd angle makes it easier to tell the time while driving). The modern version has a 4400 AS calibre movement inside, with 65 hours of power reserve, and comes with a 36.5mm by 36.5mm case in pink gold. All this loveliness doesn’t come cheap; the watch is priced at HK$247,000.