Creative case shapes have enjoyed a longstanding popularity with sophisticated watch lovers and are currently receiving renewed attention in the market. Breathtaking and unusual, these unconventional shapes are true statements of individuality, spirited adventure, and artistic allure that appeal to the haute-couture Miami woman. That’s why creative watch brands are now offering a vast array of bewitching silhouettes—sometimes sprinkled lightly with diamonds and other times bedecked in gems. More often than not, design inspiration comes from brand archives, but in some instances, the muse is a brand’s jewelry collection or its fashion and style DNA.

In the case of Ralph Lauren, the iconic theme of the Stirrup watch stems from the brand’s inherent equestrian influences. Similarly, H.Stern, in its development of the Diane von Furstenberg line of jewelry and watches, created a geometric case shape that emulates the designer’s jewelry inspirations and her dynamic personality. “A watch should be designed for the woman with a powerful and feminine spirit,” says Roberto Stern, president and creative director of H.Stern.

Watch brands began creating unique case shapes as early as the 1920s, with many being inspired by the floral forms of Art Nouveau. Suddenly, round wristwatches gave way to bejeweled beauties in the shapes of flowers, leaves, or ribbons and bows. Not even a decade later, a new genre of shaped watches emerged—shimmering pieces that were oversize rectangular, marquis, or triangular shapes that followed the architectural and geometrical nature of Art Deco. After World War II, a renewed interest in flora and fauna led to a rise in animal-inspired watches. Later, bolder styles contradicted this move, with many brands unveiling rectangular-, oval-, and tonneau- (barrel) shaped cases with sleeker profiles and a slightly more classic design.

Today, smart watch brands offer both the hard-edged geometrical cases, as well as softly curved cases, depending on their inspirational source. The venerable house of Cartier drew from its exquisite jewelry designs to turn shape into time on the wrist with its Délices collection of femininely curved timepieces. Its elongated, fluid form is both whimsical and ultrafeminine. In contrast, Vacheron Constantin’s 1972 has a feminine yet bold asymmetrical form that is based on an archival timepiece from 40 years ago. In fact, this brand—the oldest continually operated Swiss watchmaker still in existence—unveiled its first tonneau-shaped watch 100 years ago, in 1912, and has never deviated from looking to its rich past for design inspiration.

“With watches such as our 1972 collection—enjoying its 40th anniversary this year—we pay tribute to our history while celebrating the values of classic, elegant design and technical mastery,” says Hugues de Pins, president of Vacheron Constantin in North America. With that in mind, it should be noted that imagining a stunning case shape doesn’t necessarily mean it can be brought to fruition. Generally, according to several watch brand executives, bringing a truly unique shape to the market requires further research and development, new tooling, and multiple more steps in the production and making—often translating to an additional six months or longer (as compared to a round case) before it becomes a reality. What’s more, newly shaped dials and crystals also need to be created for the case shape. For these reasons, such beguiling beauties generally command a slightly higher retail price than their round counterparts, but are well worth it for their abstract, timeless appeal.

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