Art Deco Timepieces Take Shape
by roberta naas
While the refinement of a round watch and the square symmetry of a tank certainly have classic cachet, the unusually shaped timepieces being unveiled by top Swiss watch brands bring a modern yet vintage twist to time. Many watchmakers look to their past for inspiration—wishing to offer a blend of history and forward-thinking vision. As such, we are witnessing a renewed interest in the unusual geometric case shapes of the Art Deco era, but in updated designs.
“We are building a watch that is forever—for the future, for the past, and for now. It is a timeless piece that encompasses both tradition and philosophy,” says Hugues de Pins, president of Vacheron Constantin, North America. For that reason, Vacheron Constantin went back to its archives to create this year’s newest geometric tonneau-shaped ladies’ Malte watch, based on a piece from 1912 and taking its name from the Maltese Cross that is Vacheron Constantin’s symbol.
Though some may call these shaped watches new classics, they are really a blend of heritage and innovation. These timepieces—with their daring, unusual shapes—embody a certain élan and individuality. Generally these watch cases are very difficult to make, with certain new forms proving so challenging that they are never brought to fruition.
Introducing a truly unique shape to the market requires years of research and development, new tooling, and multiple extra steps in its production, often translating to an additional six months or longer (as compared to a round case) before it becomes a reality. What’s more, new dials and crystals also need to be created to fit the case shape. For these reasons, such beguiling beauties usually command a slightly higher retail price than their round counterparts, and are often created in limited numbers. That may well be why so many brands adorn these special pieces with diamonds and gemstones—adding to their timeless appeal.
photography by Jeff gale; styling by terry lewis